Oregon’s new K-12 instructional mandates will erode quality education

Oregon’s already underfunded and overwhelmed K-12 teachers are getting ready to deal with the addition of  more labor-intensive, complicated and questionable  instructional mandates imposed on them by politicians.

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It began with the passage of legislation in the last session requiring all Oregon school districts to teach about the Holocaust and genocide beginning with the 2020-2021 school year.

Claire Sarnowski, a freshman at Lake Oswego’s Lakeridge High School, came up with the idea of mandating Holocaust instruction after hearing Holocaust survivor Alter Wiener tell his story. Sarnowski approached state Sen. Rob Wagner, who agreed to introduce a bill.

It all sounded so simple and straightforward at the outset, but the final legislation was a classic example of mission creep.

The legislation went far beyond mandating that students be taught about the Holocaust and genocide. Employing the coercive power of government, teachers are going to be required to address a slew of  social justice topics: the immorality of mass violence; respect for cultural diversity; the obligation to combat wrongdoing through resistance, including protest; and the value of restorative justice.

Do we really need teachers encouraging a hodgepodge of demands from children, resistance to authority and protest by K-12 students rather than learning and dialog, particularly when adults are using students as part of a cynical political strategy?

Tom Nichols, author of The Death of Expertise, wrote in The Atlantic  that too often faculty and administrators are engaged in “a shameless dereliction of duty” when they embrace student activism.

“Student activism can be an important part of education, but it is in the nature of students, especially among the young, to take moral differences to their natural extreme, because it is often their first excursion into the territory of an examined and conscious belief system, ” Nichols wrote. “Faculty (and administrators), both as interlocutors and mentors, should pull students back from the precipice of moral purity and work with them to acquire the skills and values that not only imbue tolerance, but provide for the rational discussion of opposing, and even hateful, views.”

Oregon teachers probably aren’t too enthused about another little – known new classroom instruction mandate either.

Starting this year, Oregon schools are required to teach tribal history and the Native American experience in class.

Senate Bill (SB) 13, enacted in the 2017 legislative session, called upon the Oregon Department of Education (ODE) to develop a statewide curriculum relating to the Native American experience in Oregon, including tribal history, tribal sovereignty, culture, treaty rights, government, socioeconomic experiences, and current events.

“When Governor Brown proposed SB 13 during the 2017 legislative session and subsequently signed it into law, it was because she deeply values the preservation of tribal cultural integrity and believes that honoring the history of Oregon’s tribal communities is critically important to our state as a whole, and to future generations of students,” said Colt Gill, Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction.

The legislation stated that the required curriculum must be:

(a) For students in kindergarten through grade 12;  (b) Related to the Native American experience in Oregon, including tribal history, sovereignty issues, culture, treaty rights, government, socioeconomic experiences and current events; and (c) Historically accurate, culturally relevant, community-based, contemporary and developmentally appropriate.”

Sounds admirable, but like the Holocaust legislation, it’s a classic example of mission creep.

First, the curriculum won’t be a limited add-on to current lesson plans. Instead, it will roll out as an extensive, complex set of 45 lessons in five subject areas, including English, social studies, math and science, for fourth, eighth and 10th grade classrooms.

It’s also a new responsibility for the Oregon Department of Education, which has never before been responsible for creating curriculum, and one more subject matter mandate imposed on already overloaded Oregon teachers.

Furthermore, it has the potential to become a tool for indoctrinating students in progressive social justice trends du jour.

According to OPB, The South Umpqua School District, which serves 1,500 students from Myrtle Creek, Tri-City and Canyonville, is already planning multiple days of teacher training sessions that will “expand beyond the tribal history and culture lessons to delve into racially sensitive topics, such as cultural appropriation, implicit bias and microaggressions.”

The basic idea of cultural appropriation is that a particular group, nationality or ethnicity who developed a practice should be the only ones allowed to practice it. Others insult the originating group if they practice it as well.

Too many Oregon adults have already disrupted lives by screaming cultural appropriation. This is not what we should want Oregon children to embrace.

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Two white women were forced to close down their Portland pop-up burrito shop, Kook’s Burritos, in  2017 after being accused of cultural; appropriation.

“…the worst aspect of cultural appropriation is that it is inconsistent with the cultural development and enrichment that a free society promotes,” wrote Mike Rappaport in Law & Liberty. “In a free society, people from different cultures bring their practices to the wider society and they are followed by others in that society, making possible a richer and improved culture.”

Author Cathy Young made a similar point in the Washington Post, arguing that cultural appropriation protests ignore history, chill artistic expression and hurt diversity.  “Appropriation is not a crime,” she wrote.  “It’s a way to breathe new life into culture. Peoples have borrowed, adopted, taken, infiltrated and reinvented from time immemorial.”

Filling the heads of Oregon children with the frightening specter that they are burdened with implicit bias would be unwise, too.

Implicit, or unconscious, bias is the idea that the assumptions, stereotypes, and unintentional actions we make towards others are based on identity labels like race, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, or ability. Because our implicit associations are stored in our subconscious, we may act on our biases without even realizing it.

The problem is that the implicit bias concept is of questionable validity, based on unproven suppositions and oversold as a solution to diversity issues. But buying into the concept of implicit bias is easy because it feels open-minded and progressive.

However, “almost everything about implicit bias is controversial in scientific circles,” Lee Jussim, a professor of social psychology at Rutgers University, wrote in Psychology Today. “It is not clear what most implicit methods actually measure; their ability to predict discrimination is modest at best, their reliability is low; early claims about their power and immutability have proven unjustified.”

Research suggests that implicit bias training can raise awareness, but there’s not much evidence it actually changes behavior. As John Amaechi, a psychologist and organizational consultant, puts it, the implicit bias concept has become “a ‘get-out-of-jail-free’ card for too many.” Implicit bias training, he says, is too often a “simply a way that organizations can achieve a level of plausible deniability” that they are addressing diversity issues.

And then there are microaggressions, well-intentioned comments or minor slights a speaker may not perceive as negative.

Several years ago, University of California President Janet Napolitano went so far as to tell faculty that saying “America is the land of opportunity” or “Everyone can succeed in this society, if they work hard enough” or even  “America is a melting pot” were microaggressions. That’s because they delivered an inaccurate message that the playing field is even or that people of color are lazy and/or incompetent and need to work harder.

Teaching Oregon children about the horrors of microaggressions will turn them into perpetual victims hypersensitive to casual remarks. In other words, into carbon copies of a lot of today’s misguided college students.

What might be better would be to require that students spend 9/11 every year watching the videos recorded on that terrible day in New York City. Hours of it, the scenes on the street, the footage inside the buildings, and the aftermath. Then, a discussion about the heroism of the average American and the fact we have enemies who want to destroy us.

 

Renaming Portland’s Lynch Schools: the abandonment of reason

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It’s not right. It’s not wise.

It’s just not fair to the students at Lynch Meadows, Lynch Wood and Lynch View elementary schools in Portland’s Centennial District.

The three schools are set to lose the “Lynch” in their names before the next school year because the District decided the name “Lynch” is an epithet.  Many newer families coming into the district associate the name with America’s violent racial history, Centennial Superintendent Paul Coakley told The Oregonian.

This is (supposedly) adult educators gone mad.

What’s next? Renaming public buildings with names such as White ( lacks tolerance of diversity), Young (implies ageism), Jackson (he owned slaves,, you know), Wilson (a president who re-segregated the federal civil service) or Johnson (President Andrew Johnson obstructed political and civil rights for blacks after the Civil War, contributing to failure of Reconstruction.)

The overly censorious policing of language in order to spare sensitive young minds does the children no good. Instead of protecting the delicate young souls, it lays the foundation for later insistence on trigger warnings, objections to micro-aggressions, the shouting down of controversial speakers, and the unfortunate spread of presentism, the tendency to interpret past events in terms of modern values and concepts.

The correct response by the Centennial School District was not to cater to misconceptions about the word by abolishing its use, but to educate the schoolchildren about the historical roots of the use of the Lynch name at the schools and the philanthropic spirit of the Lynch family, and, yes, that the word “lynch” in America is also associated with the killing of black people, often by racist organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan.

As Jeremy Montgomery, whose son attends Lynch View Elementary School, told KATU, education would be a better solution. “See, I didn’t even know that (the schools were named after a charitable family). If people were more open to that and knew that, I couldn’t see it being a problem at all,” he said.

Tom Singerhouse, who went to Lynch View more than 50 years ago, expressed a similar view to KATU, saying teachers should be teaching their students about the significance of the Lynch family.

Lynch Wood Elementary’s website already provides a history lesson about the school’s name. Take a look (below). It’s fascinating reading and would be a good basis for a valuable history lesson with the schools’ students. They’d certainly learn a lot more than they would from deleting “Lynch” from their school’s name.

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                        A History of Lynch Schools

A booklet produced by the Civic Leadership Class of 1964

The name “Lynch School” dates back to 1900 when a one room school was built on the present site of the Lynch School at S.E. 162nd Avenue and Division Street, says a website a reprint of a booklet produced by the Civic Leadership Class of 1964.

According to the booklet, on March 13, 1900, Patrick and Catherine Lynch donated one acre of ground located at Section Line Road (Division) and Barker Road (162nd Ave.) on which was built a new one room school pictured on the front of this booklet.

This is the origin of the name “Lynch.” The Lynch farm originally consisted of 160.3 acres granted to Patrick and Catherine Lynch on August 1, 1874, under the Homestead Act passed by Congress in 1862. The original deed granted the land to the Lynch family and was signed by Ulysses S. Grant, President of the United States. Although the property included land on both sides of Section Line Road, the farm home was located across Division Street in the vicinity of The Hut, a restaurant now situated at 167th and Division.

The deed to the property donated to the Lynch School District in 1900 describes the location of the survey markers marking the boundary of the property as being located three inches below the wheel ruts in the adjoining roads. The stone markers had chiseled grooves on the top side for identification purposes. The stone marking the corner of the property at S.E. Division 10″ x 15″ x 22″ set flat side down 3″ below surface of gravel in the north wheel rut of graveled Section Line Road and tamped firmly in place”.

The area around the Lynch School was entirely devoted to agriculture in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Threshing was a community undertaking and many boys missed school because they were needed at harvest time.

The original one room Lynch School which started with fifteen to twenty students increased in number until in 1914 there were about fifty students in the one room school. Some say there were as many as sixty for the one and only teacher. Some of the former students of those “good old days” say that the only way the teacher could handle all eight grades was to divide up her time so each class had a recitation period. She would start in the morning with the first grade, and would by afternoon, finally get around to the eighth grade.

Meanwhile, the rest of the classes were working on assigned work. Of course, some activities and classes were jointly carried on together, such as music, writing practice, and practicing for school plays. In 1915 a large multiple purpose room, which served as an auditorium and meeting place for community functions was built onto the existing one room school. Folding doors were extended during the day making it into two classrooms giving the school a grand total of three rooms.

The Lynch P.T.A. was first organized in 1917 and undertook as its main project, the serving of hot soup and chocolate at lunch time. Residents who remember those days, say it was prepared at the W.B. Steel home where the Big Dollar Shopping Center is now located. Several of the boys would be asked to go over and carry back the kettles of soup and cocoa along with a pail or two of water before lunch.