The Thirty Minute Blogger

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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

If Knowledge Is Power, U.S. Students Being Denied Its Strength

Let's begin with a figure: 33.5 percent of the population of the United States goes on to college. Roughly 59 percent of the freshmen who enter will graduate. The remainder of the population, unless compelled to read widely on their own, will be sadly misinformed about many aspects of life, from history to science, given the state of high school textbooks. Much of the history of our nation is either left on the proverbial chopping block to make good citizens or skewed by bias in one direction or another. See the PBS article here on the Texas School Board's decisions as one egregious example: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/need-to-know/culture/texas-school-board-approves-controversial-textbook-changes/954/  There is no hope of your student learning about one of the great foundational theories of science, evolution, below the college level here ... even though it is crucial to much of what science does.

Students in the Denver area in 2014 protested conservative changes proposed for their history books, emphasizing "...topics that promote citizenship, patriotism and respect for authority, [the students responded] in a show of civil disobedience that the new standards would aim to downplay" according to the AP: http://www.syracuse.com/news/index.ssf/2014/09/denver_area_students_walk_out_of_school_to_protest_censored_history_curriculum.html Rightly so. Being misinformed about any aspect of life can be dangerous. It leads to bad decisions down the road and knee jerk reactions against challenging ideas, ideas often necessary to confront an increasingly challenging future.

Take a look around you. Review recent history and ask yourself if some of our decisions have not been based, biased, or skewed by such tailor made education that denies many of the facts needed to choose differently. We need to do better. Our students deserve better, as the protesting students in Denver reminded us all.

Some other time, we'll have to explore why school boards who set agendas and work on curriculum tend not to be education professionals. As one school district wrote, "The school board consists of lay representatives – people who live in the community and are selected by the community (or, if it's an appointed school board, selected by either the mayor or county freeholders). They're your neighbors: parents, grandparents, local business owners, retirees – ordinary citizens. They are non-partisan and they receive no pay or benefits for their public service." Does that seem to be a poor decision to anyone else? Is this another byproduct of insufficiently honest and open education? For more, you can see: http://www.oldbridgeadmin.org/board_education.cfm?subpage=1149520

So, if knowledge is power, our students are being denied that power purposefully and to the detriment of us all. Many will never learn more and will make decisions based on limited, not-entirely-accurate information.The consequences are dire. These are the kinds of things that concern me every time elections roll around or major decisions concerning everyone and the future have to be made. It seems to me we are reaping the whirlwind.

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