Advocacy group that promotes terrorist William Ayers will train Miss. school teachers on Civil Rights Movement

 

 

 

by Christopher Paslay

 

Last spring, as part of my master’s degree in education at Eastern University, I took a course called Multicultural Education.  I enrolled because I wanted to learn new methodologies that would broaden my teaching repertoire and help me better educate students from a wide variety of cultural backgrounds.  Granted, I grew up in Philadelphia (and still currently live in the city), but I hoped a course on diversity would fill in some of the gaps. 

 

In particular, I hoped to learn about the various learning styles of different cultures—which groups prefer cooperative over independent work; which groups are kinesthetic learners as opposed to auditory learners; etc.  I also wanted a crash course on world culture, and some supplementary materials I could use to help diversify my lesson plans.        

 

Surprisingly, I received almost none of this.  What I did get was politics—one-sided, left-leaning ideologies that had little to do with education or teaching strategies. 

 

Here was the required reading for the course:

         

1.  Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? by Beverly Daniel Tatum.  The underlying premise of this book is that all whites in America have a “privilege” that is systematically denied all blacks.  In addition, the text talks about “Institutional Racism,” and how ALL whites are guilty of this simply because they exist inside a “privileged” society.  The book also lobbies for Affirmative Action, and suggests that anyone who opposes it is a racist by default.              

         

2.  A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America by Ronald Takaki.  This book was quite interesting, but was also quite selective.  The author chooses only to include information that exposes America’s sinful past—all the ways society and government mistreated immigrants and people of color.   

         

3.  We Can’t Teach What We Don’t Know: White Teachers, Multicultural Schools by Gary R. Howard.  This book is all about “Western White Dominance” and how to put an end to it through education.  It suggests, among other things, that the racial achievement gap in America is the fault of white teachers who don’t embrace or strive to understand their students of color.    

         

4.  Cultural Diversity and Education: Foundations, Curriculum, and Teaching by James A. Banks.  This book is the most objective of the four.  It gives a history of multicultural education and thoroughly explains the movement’s principles, ideologies and foundations. 

 

Needless to say, I was taken aback when I began the reading.  What disappointed me wasn’t that the course was dripping in politics and had little to do with practical, hands-on teaching strategies or methodologies.  The frustrating part was that the course was so one-sided

 

Once during class, after watching the PBS documentary, Race: The Power of an Illusion, I questioned the idea that the G.I. Bill was the primary reason why so many of America’s big cities are filled with poor blacks.  I admitted that the G.I. Bill was part of the problem, but tried to explore other causes in an effort to find a solution.

 

“What percentage of the problem has to do with personal responsibility?” I  asked the professor, who was an African American woman.  “I agree that the G.I. Bill had an impact, but what about trying to find solutions from within the community?  What percentage of urban blight is brought on by bad personal decisions?”

 

The professor looked at me like I had five heads.  “What are you saying, Chris?”

 

I repeated my question in a very respectful manner, and explained that I was simply trying to look at all sides of the issue and think outside the box.

 

“We’re not going to talk about that, Chris,” she said with a tone.  “We’re focusing on the G.I. Bill.”  And that was it.  End of conversation.  She moved to the next topic, never bothering to answer my question. 

 

Unfortunately, my experience at Eastern is not an isolated case.  After talking to fellow educators and graduate students—and after researching reading lists at other universities—I’ve come to realize that multicultural education courses are often more about politics than education.  There is real indoctrination going on in America’s colleges—professors are forcing their personal politics on their students (while holding them hostage with their grade) and pawning it off as free thought.        

 

Tragically, this indoctrination disguised as “free thinking” is starting to trickle down into America’s K to 12 public school system.  Recently I read an article in Teacher Magazine headlined Miss. Making Civil Rights Part of K-12 Instruction that I found rather curious. 

 

So far, four school systems have asked to be part of a pilot effort to test the curriculum in high schools, the article explained. In September, the Mississippi Department of Education will name the systems that have been approved for the pilot. By the 2010-2011 school year, the program should be in place at all grade levels as part of social studies courses.          

 

Advocacy groups such as the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation and Washington-based Teaching for Change are preparing to train Mississippi teachers to tell the “untold story” of the civil rights struggle to the nearly half million students in the state’s public schools.

 

I took a closer look at Mississippi’s effort to teach its public school children the “untold story” of the civil rights struggle and found something very interesting.  The Washington-based Teaching for Change, one of the advocacy groups that will be training Mississippi public school teachers, is a lot like the multicultural education course I took at Eastern University.  On the surface, the group claims to provide “teachers and parents with the tools to transform schools into centers of justice where students learn to read, write and change the world.” 

 

But upon further inspection of their website, I found Teaching for Change promotes a very controversial individual named William Ayers.  It’s ironic that an organization dedicated to training educators how to denounce the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church promotes the work of a domestic terrorist who bombed New York City’s Police Headquarters in 1970, the Capitol building in 1971, and the Pentagon in 1972.  It’s true.  Go check their website.  What kind of “untold story” will Teaching for Change train Mississippi educators to tell our children? 

 

Teaching for Change also endorses Ronald Takaki, author of the glass-is-half-empty, victim-centered multicultural historical text A Different Mirror, which I came in contact with during my class at Eastern and summarized above. 

 

As free-thinking Americans, we must scrutinize the curriculum being taught to our children.  We must strive to analyze all sides of an issue, and make sure our education system is truly a platform for free discussion. 

 

We must also be aware of trendy buzz words such as “change” and “social justice”.  Sometimes “social justice” isn’t justice at all, and sometimes “change” isn’t about equal rights but rather a shift in power, where the victim becomes the perpetrator and vise-versa. 

 

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7 Comments

Filed under Achievement Gap, Free Speech, Multiculturalism

7 responses to “Advocacy group that promotes terrorist William Ayers will train Miss. school teachers on Civil Rights Movement

  1. Kathy

    Paslay states:

    As free-thinking Americans, we must scrutinize the curriculum being taught to our children. We must strive to analyze all sides of an issue, and make sure our education system is truly a platform for free discussion.

    I agree 100% and your blog describes exactly what goes on in the reading instruction curriculum in all of our colleges.

    The whole language reading instruction theories first developed Ken and Yetta Goodman in the early 70′s, still drive much of our reading instruction in colleges today. Even though the theories were debunked by the National Reading Panel commissioned by the NICHD in 1997, and further discredited by multiple empirical findings in medical, linguistic and cognitive science research they remain in college reading courses today.

    The Goodmans believed that children learn to read in the same way they learn to speak—by simply being exposed to words. They believed using sounds to decode words was a distraction from a “natural” process of learning to read. This theory is found today in the District’s reading instruction used in all our schools during guided reading groups.

    Did you ever hear a teacher tell a child to skip a word he does know how to read? The child is then to read to the end of the sentence and try to guess at the word using context? Did you ever hear a teacher tell a child to look at the picture and try to “read” the word by guessing using the first letter of the word and the picture? These techniques are from the theories of whole language and proven not to be effective.

    The college professors now teaching in our colleges were all young graduate students in colleges while these theories were taught. These theories still influences what they teach to all our new teachers today.

    Getting professors to introduce new ideas or even old ideas that contradict the theories behind whole language, now called balanced literacy, is not happening.

    Project Follow Through was the largest US federally funded research project devoted solely to reading instruction. Findings proved that direct, explicit instruction was the most effective way to teach children to read. This contradicts most of the reading instruction taught in colleges today. Ask any recent graduate from any college if they heard about this project in any college reading course.

    Ask them if they heard about the Southwest Regional Laboratory which conducted a large federally funded project on reading instruction which produced the same results as Project Follow Through.

    Ask them if they discussed in any college reading course the Clackmannanshire seven year reading study conducted in England which also had the same results. Ask them if they discussed the current work now going on in England on synthetic phonics.

    Ask them if they have discussed the work of Zig Engelmann and Direct Instruction?

    Ask them how they would help a child sound out any of the following words: awry, night, elbow, they, said, straight, want, father, mother, though, thought, through. If taught with explicit reading instruction students can easily sound out all of these words.

    I could go on and on but why. You ran into the same brick wall I have been running into when I try to get teachers to look at a different way to teach students to read. Bring up any of these projects or explicit reading instruction in a reading graduate course and see what the professor has to say.

    I use the materials produced by the Southwest Regional Laboratory research. I found them on the Internet, not in any graduate reading course I took. They have a 1978 copyright date. They work extremely well with all my students.

    Kathy

  2. Kathy

    Paslay states:

    “In particular, I hoped to learn about the various learning styles of different cultures—which groups prefer cooperative over independent work; which groups are kinesthetic learners as opposed to auditory learners; etc. ”

    You might be interested in Dan Willingham’s short video on learning styles.

    or his article in American Educator:

    http://www.aft.org/pubs-reports/american_educator/issues/summer2005/cogsci.htm

  3. Mary Louise Brooks

    I went to a small Catholic college for my ESOL certification. Very PC, very white. I knew to just agree and kiss a$$. One day a former co-worker told me she was taking ESOL classes at this college; I told her to go with the flow. Does she? Of course not! She questions the professor about Ebonics. The professor says to realize where our students are coming from and to accommodate them. For example, when testing students with DRAs, realize they will drop the -ing endings. That’s okay. WTF? Now she’s teaching ESOL in my school and considers these professors’ words as law! She’ll test a student and they’ll be reading on grade level. I’ll test the same student and mark them wrong because of the dropped endings. She insists we consider their backgrounds. I tell her our job is to teach them proper English. She fails to realize that reading and writing is different. Students write the way they speak. Most Asian languages do not have plurals so when they write, they do not add plurals. It frustrates me because these professors are trying to be so PC that they’re sending the wrong messages. Instead of evaluating us teachers, the DoE should go to these teacher colleges and evaluate the instructors. Remember sh** flows down but it has to come from somewhere … up!

    • phillystyle71

      Mary,

      You bring up an excellent example of the disconnect between college professors and the reality of urban classrooms. Young teachers are getting mixed–and often times erroneous–messages.

      So much of the trendy educational theory that gets developed by social scientists in antiseptic academic labratories is impractical and doesn’t translate well in real life. This is not surprising, being that the majority of these academicians have never taught in an elementary or high school setting.

      When it comes to communication skills–reading, writing and speaking, there is no shortcut. Students must pay their dues and put in the time to properly learn the language (and teachers must put in THEIR time and teach properly). You cannot differentiate grammar–a comma is a comma, and a noun is a noun, and the subject and the verb must always agree. The PSSAs are not differentiated. If students drop endings on the writing tests, they are scored Below Basic, and who gets the blame? The teachers and principals, NOT the professors.

      That’s the irony of public education. Although there are a dozen parts that make up the whole, accountability begins and ends with the teacher.

      –Chris Paslay

  4. Kathy

    Students drop endings when they read because of the faulty reading instruction not because of where they come from.

    If a child is dropping the endings look to the instruction not the child.

    kathy

  5. urbanteach

    You will be interested in black educator Lisa Delpit’s book, “Other People’s Children.” She takes issue with white liberals’ attitude towards minority kids which consists in making excuses for them and by not teaching them the skills they need, thus condemning them to ongoing underachievement, poverty and powerlessness.

    By all means find out about other cultures, but don’t waste your time on “learning styles.” They have been thoroughly discredited as empirical constructs by cognitive science. Individuals, of course, have selected strategies that help them learn specific things, but these do not translate into generalized “learning styles.”

    You might find it useful to learn phone numbers by writing them down, or by associating them with dates; however, you will use a different strategy to master a backhand in tennis or parallel parking when learning to drive. Strategies (and hence “learning styles”) are task-specific.

    Cultural groups have specific cognitive and/or artistic and creative strengths, but what applies to the group may or may not apply to the individual. One minority group in my school community has a strong oral tradition of poetry, music and storytelling. Not all individuals in that group are necessarily gifted in this area howe
    ever, and not all have an “auditory” so-called “learning style.” Some much prefer visual arts, science or mathematics. “Learning styles” are easily morphed into new forms of sterotyping. After all, a “kinesthetic learner” can never master algebra or particle physics. Typecasting a student as a particular “style”is apt to lead to lower expectations nad learned helplessness.

    This article gives an overview of the learning styles issue:
    http://www.aft.org/pubs-reports/american_educator/issues/summer2005/cogsci.htm

    but the research evidence is overwhelming and goes back about 30 years. Like a bad check, learning styles keep on bouncing back. Those who don’t know history are condemned to repeat it. For an example, google “Frostig” and “Kephart” –big names in “learning styles” in the 70′s. Big money makers, too. All discredited now.

    • phillystyle71

      Urbanteach,

      You make some good points here. There is definitely a condescending attitude toward minorities when it comes to multicultural education, and this attitude is counterproductive; it is treating certain groups like handicapped people, and thus perpetuating stereotypes and the idea of inferiority.

      The big push in education is to talk about race—to measure everything by ethnic and cultural background so we can see trends. Ultimately I think we all need to become color blind, stop obsessing on race and racism. This in my opinion is moving us backwards, polarizing the country.

      I also agree with you on “learning styles” but only to a certain extent. There are without a doubt cultural differences between groups that have an impact on the way they interact socially, academically, intellectually. Not everyone in each group is the same obviously, but there are commonalities. Strong and weak points—areas that need more attention and improvement. I look at my students as individuals, not groups.

      But I can tell you right now, after teaching in Philadelphia for 12 years, that my African American students on a whole are more boisterous and energetic, and at times more creative (and sometimes more fun). On the other hand, my Asian students are more reserved and quiet—sometimes withdrawn—but very organized, analytical, and respectful. This is not a stereotype (or the result of some study); this is a fact. And it affects the way I present my lessons, and the tests I give, and the projects.

      Again—I look at my students as individuals—not groups. And not every student fits neatly into a “group”. But understanding how to interact with a diverse group of learners might provide some depth to a lesson.

      One day we’ll all move past race—and our national obsession with it. And the world—and all of our classrooms—will be a better place.

      –Chris Paslay

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