Sunday, September 27, 2015

"Honest to God": The Pilgrims Lack of Progress

Paul Bunyan, The Pilgrim's Progress (1678).
N.B.: Noah Webster did not include an "e"
in the word "country" when he published
his dictionary.
One of the roles of a teacher is to seek improvement in the profession. Sadly, there has been a lot of criticism and griping about the Common Core, which I largely find satisfactory and headed in the right direction. On the other hand, Vermont has its own standards for history and social studies. They are in a document format that is difficult to use (.rtf), making them less accessible than if they were in MSWord or a Google Doc. To say that they are not ready for prime time is an understatement. What follows is just one example.

The Vermont Department of Education's History & Social Studies Standards has a standard that asks students to "show understanding of past, present, and future time by...explaining why certain key events remain the historic consciousness [sic, a preposition is needed prior to the preceding three words (i.e., "in")] and others do not (e.g., the role of the Pilgrims in 1628)." Aside from the flawed prose, it is clear that the people responsible for promulgating these "standards" don't know that the date that remains in people's consciousness is 1620, not 1628!  If I give them the benefit of the doubt, they have offered us a date that does not remain in the public consciousness as an attempt at humor.

Let me offer a re-write: show understanding of past, present, and future time by...explaining why certain key events remain in the historic consciousness (e.g., the role of the Pilgrims in 1620) and others do not (e.g., the role of Ned Ludd and the Luddites in 1779 and 1811-16, respectively)."

This may seem like a nit-picky post, but these standards are intended to be reviewed and implemented by every History & Social Studies teacher at a public school in Vermont. More scrutiny is needed.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

My Job: A Daily Reflection

My job is not only to make sure high school is not the worst part of your life, but also to make sure that high school is not the best part of your life. I want you to have success and happiness beyond these years. Work with me to get the tools you need for an interesting and meaningful life.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Kentucky is the New Alabama

While it will probably be unnecessary to bring in the National Guard to remove her, because I suspect even the local police know she is in contempt of court, the footage of this headstrong clerk in Kentucky reminded me a lot of Governor Wallace's stand-off with the federal government about which our students learned today. It will be interesting to see how this plays out. I have some sympathy for a person who does not personally want to sanction something they don't believe in. The cruel line of questioning about the clerk's own failed relationships does not endear the interrogator to me, though I understand his rhetorical point. A clerk is by definition clerical and not political so townspeople who pay taxes should expect employees to perform their assigned and mandated duties, another point the angry man seeking a marriage license delivered powerfully.

A friend of mine with whom I will break bread on Friday night has asked a much deeper question. Why will a priest refuse to marry someone in a religious ceremony if they are unwilling to get a license from the state? Doesn't this make the state superior to the Church? Is his refusal mandated by canon law or state law?