Article: Why the real story of the Irish Famine is not taught in U.S. schools –

Teaching is never neutral. Every educator brings his or her perspective to the material. A “lack of viewpoint” is, in itself, a viewpoint.

And when we’re teaching material that should provoke our students to mourn or at least wrestle with difficult truths about our broken world—like the causes of the Irish Potato Famine and ensuing suffering—we might be failing our students if we don’t bring them face to face with these questions.

This article outlines the problem. The tone of the piece may be a little harsh, but the point is well made: mainstream textbooks tend to skip some of the most important material students should be learning.

“Uniformly, social studies textbooks fail to allow the Irish to speak for themselves, to narrate their own horror.”

The school curriculum could and should ask students to reflect on the contradiction of starvation amidst plenty, on the ethics of food exports amidst famine. And it should ask why these patterns persist into our own time.

More than a century and a half after the “Great Famine,” we live with similar, perhaps even more glaring contradictions. Raj Patel opens his book, Stuffed and Starved: Markets, Power and the Hidden Battle for the World’s Food System: “Today, when we produce more food than ever before, more than one in ten people on Earth are hungry. The hunger of 800 million happens at the same time as another historical first: that they are outnumbered by the one billion people on this planet who are overweight.”

via Why the real story of the Irish Famine is not taught in U.S. schools –


Testing, Common Core, and Classroom Creativity

a telling quote from a teacher in a Common Core state: 

Sad reality in an assessment-driven culture


The article as a whole discusses the fact that teachers in Common Core states, launched with little aligned curriculum yet responsible to meet the standards, have been writing a lot of their own curriculum. 

Common Core’s unintended consequence

Wish List: Piecing Together an Ideal School From the Ground Up | MindShift

Wish List: Piecing Together an Ideal School From the Ground Up | MindShift.

Couldn’t have said it better myself! This is a great, short piece at Mind/Shift about inquiry learning, interdisciplinary teaching, trusting students as active participants in their learning process, assessing through multiple means, investing in teachers through professional development, and not locking in too quickly on how to use technology in a classroom.


Game Design influencing School / Curriculum Design

Enjoyed this perspective on how technological innovation should be changing schools, rather than just digging up fancy toys for students and teachers:

What Happens when School Design looks like Game Design (Mind|Shift)

The thing about tools is that their strength is usually derived from the way they approach a problem rather than in the particularity of the solution they offer….

In the current world, our schools should be focused on teaching both linear and non-linear ways of knowing. We need to remember that the goal of technology is ultimately to help us mentor our youth so that they become familiar with the many ways of knowing that humanity has discovered. It’s not just to develop proficiency with today’s tools while maintaining yesterday’s predominant thinking.”

Link: We Will Never Be Truly Standardized

“We have to teach specifically to our students. We cannot plow our way through scripted curriculum and not stop when a child doesn’t understand or we see an opportunity for further investigation. If we do, then we are not doing our job as teachers. The very nature of what we do and who we do it with prevents true standardization even if politicians think they can test us into submission and sameness.”

We must recognize that all good teaching happens in the context of a relationship. In fact, I’d say it’s impossible to achieve GOOD teaching without building that bridge to every individual student.
And once you’ve built the bridge, you can no longer ignore the individuality of the learners who populate your classroom. 
I don’t have as negative an opinion of the Common Core standards that this blogger does — I found the reading & writing core to be helpful and thoughtful.  But no matter how “standardized” our curriculum could become, education rests on the backs of individual TEACHERS.  
And any teacher worth his/her paycheck knows that you cannot standardize wonderful, difficult creatures we know as humans.  It’s part of the imago Dei.

Social & Emotional Learning

There’s more to education than learning facts or even academic skills.

You’d think we’d all agree on that, but “agreement” doesn’t equal actually changing the curriculum or school day to make time for hard-to-measure aspects like emotional maturity, behavioral change, or wisdom.

John Bridgeland recently wrote an article for Huffington Post about emotional and social maturity.
The Missing Piece: How Social and Emotional Learning Can Empower Children and Transform Schools

OK, so the title does seem a bit too ambitious. LOL

But hear what Bridgeland is saying: Kids do much better in life when they learn vital emotional and social skills like sticking with hard tasks even when it’s tough (“grit”), handle stress without breaking down, and treating classmates with compassion even when that isn’t natural. In fact, taking time to discuss and practice such skills helps students overall, even though these skills are rarely referenced in curriculum standards.

The article discusses recent research evidence that suggests these social and emotional skills actually improve classroom/academic performance for many students.  The fact that researchers are obsessed with finding evidence that what all of us know is a good thing for children (strong emotional & social skills) attests to the “science-crazed” state of education practice today — a perfect illustration of the current trend to choose only the “researched” innovation.

So – why value social and emotional health within the curriculum?

  • Good education demands recognizing the full humanity of learners. In other words, if we try to reduce children to data, numbers, and results (usually test results), we risk emphasizing only part of what is needed for a good education. Humans need social interaction, emotional health, creative thinking, and challenges to solve — and none of those can really be “tested” in the artificial environment of the classroom.
  • It doesn’t matter what we *say* is important. Educators (and policy makers) show their real values by what they choose to devote time to in the classroom.  People talk all the time about wanting kids to succeed “in real life,” but many kids recognize that their classroom education is rarely relevant to the “real world” they already encounter.  This need for social & emotional well-being becomes acute during middle and high school, when academic pursuit takes a deep back seat to the drama of the hallways.
  • Information divorced from social/emotional/real world context loses a lot of its value to the life of a learner. But wise teachers are able to connect their learning experiences to more than just the intellectual: social and emotional skills are part of everyday life, so they deserve to be recognized as a necessary and “normal” part of the curriculum.
I’d like to see education policy makers break away from the tyranny of the quantitative research model and recognize the value of the qualitative and hard-to-quantify. 
And a word to parents:  Emotional maturity includes “grit,” the drive to stick with something even when it’s hard. 
This is one area where parents trump teachers. Don’t let your kid out of the hard moments in life. And don’t give in to a kid’s emotional manipulation on that score to preserve your own “peace of mind.” 
Get in there and plow alongside your child until you comprehend for yourself whether your kid is in over his head (and needs an escape route) or whether they’re just bucking against expending the effort to overcome an obstacle (and therefore need to stay with it, no matter how much they whine).
Don’t be afraid of failure. Be afraid of removing your child’s drive and motivation to overcome failure.