We’re in the middle of summer, but I’ve been thinking about school. I attended public school for 12 years. I received an acceptable education and had both excellent and poor teachers. I suspect I owe my writing skills to a string of above-average English teachers. However, except for my math and science classes (hated geometry, actually like algebra), expectations were set so low that I easily fulfilled assignments and barely remember studying for tests. School was easy, but it was boring.
During the six hours or so of classroom time, I was usually bored for five. The focus was on getting the majority through the subjects, not challenging the minority. For all the current arguments over testing and failing schools, one solution that fails to gain traction is demanding more of students, teachers, and schools. And I’m not talking about higher test scores. Anyone with half a brain can be taught memorization techniques, but do we really want to define memorization as learning?
Over on Escape from Cubicle Nation, Pam Slim brought to light the recent decision in Arizona to kill an international studies program. I’m flabbergasted by the utter ignorance of legislators who defend their decision by suggesting:
…the bill was un-American and part of a slippery slope to a U.N. takeover and the end of U.S. sovereignty.
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Mark Anderson, R-Mesa, would have put three K-12 schools in the northern, central and southern parts of the state, where kids would begin a second language in kindergarten, and set up new international programs at seven high schools. Big business and universities pledged to partner with the schools. (link)
A U.N. takeover? The U.N. can barely run itself let alone take over American schools. But that’s not what Senator Ron Gould believes:
“There’s a lot of us here who are not internationalists. These schools actually have kind of a United Nations flavor to them, and we’re actually into educating Americans into Americanism, not internationalism.” (link)
But here’s my favorite excerpt:
Sen. Karen Johnson, a Mesa Republican and chairwoman of the K-12 Education Committee, never let the proposal out of committee. Johnson instead brought in a professor from Bethany Lutheran College in Mankato, Minn., to educate lawmakers on the dangers of a popular international studies program, the International Baccalaureate. The 37-year-old high school program offers rigorous courses and diploma programs in schools worldwide, including 759 in the United States and 12 in Arizona. Its goals are intercultural understanding, community service and preparation for university work.
“The International Baccalaureate is un-American,” Allen Quist, who served in the Minnesota Legislature in the 1980s and ran for Minnesota governor as a Republican in 1994, said in a phone interview. He said that International Baccalaureate’s links to the United Nations are disturbing and that its sense of right and wrong is ambiguous.
It teaches students to see the American system of government as one of many, not as the only one that protects universal and God-given rights to property, to bear arms and free speech, Quist said. (link)
Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t the American system of government one of many that offers protection for individual rights? Yes, you may quibble of the level of protection, but do the British, the French, the Germans, the Italians, hell, most people living in democratic countries, enjoy a certain level of individual rights?
The attitude that adopting anything not birthed in America as un-American is fascinating given the roots of our democracy in Greece. You don’t have to teach one perspective to instill a sense of patriotism for a country. You want a populace that actually understands the role of its nation on the international level.
We are no longer separated by oceans. In less than a day, we can travel to areas so distant that they took months to reach in previous centuries. The Arizona legislators and others who share their views have purposefully turned their heads against the reality facing today’s modern schoolchildren.
Fine. You didn’t like the bill. It smacked too much of internationalism. Great. Figure out an alternative. Be bold. Find a way to show children about the world they live in and will one day run. Don’t settle for the status quo or kid yourselves that your children will succeed if they grow up only learning about America and American history.
The world is a giant puzzle, and America is only one, albeit large, piece of the puzzle. What’s going to happen in 50 years if the business world decides its more convenient to conduct its affairs in Mandarin to adequately meet the needs of over a billion customers in China? Ignoring reality doesn’t make it go away. Consequences, both good and bad follow every action. I hope those elected officials in Arizona are still alive when they find out how wrong they were.