Monday, January 05, 2009

California History Textbooks

Happy New Year to readers.
Once social change begins, it cannot be reversed. You cannot un-educate the person who has learned to read. You cannot humiliate the person who feels pride. You cannot oppress the people who are not afraid anymore.
Cesar Chavez. Nov.9, 1984.

In 2009, the California Board of Education will adopt a new History Social Science Framework for California’s public schools. The present Framework was adopted in 1987 and only marginally changed since then.
The Framework, along with the standards, provides the guidelines for what is to be taught and what is to be included in the history and social science textbooks in California. The current Framework, written in 1987, has virtually no inclusion of Chicano/Mexican/Latino history and little inclusion of Asian American history.
It is urgent that the History-Social Science Framework be revised to provide an accurate history of the contributions of Mexicans, Mexican Americans, Latinos and Asians to the history of the state and of the nation. The current Framework reflects the historiography of the 1950’s. It is substantially out of date. There was a major struggle over this framework in 1987 and progressive forces lost.

Quality schools are an issue of civil rights. Our public schools should provide all students with a high-quality education. At present, they often do not (Kozol, 2005, Moses and Cobb, 2001). Receiving a quality education is necessary for economic opportunity, economic survival, and the development of a democratic community.
Multicultural education is part of a movement of school reform whose aim is to provide quality education for all and to make schools more democratically inclusive. Its intellectual roots lie in the civil rights struggles of the 1960s, the ethnic studies movements of the 1970s, and the struggles for bilingual education (Banks, 2008).
Someone makes the decisions to plan the curriculum. A committee selects goals, objectives, materials, learning strategies, and the processes for student evaluation. Then the teacher in the classroom makes decisions on how the curriculum is delivered.
A curriculum is developed based upon the writers values and views of goals for the society. It is adopted based upon the decisions of state or district decision makers. It is taught based upon the values and views of the teachers and relevant learning theories. Even today, in the period of standards and testing, the teacher in the classroom makes significant curriculum decisions each day.
The curriculum has often been the battleground for U.S. education. Advocacy groups, business groups, religious reformers, teachers and their unions and elected officials have sought to use the curriculum to define and to direct schooling. Multicultural education enters into the conflict over the curriculum because a multicultural social justice perspective most often reveals a conflict between the promises of education for a democracy and the view of the society taught as accurate and complete in the existing courses taught in the schools.
Curriculum change or improvement can be pursued as a means of trying to move a school from one level of achievement to another. In the decades since 1990, testing has become an increased component of schooling. The testing emphasis drove many schools in low-income areas to eliminate the arts, science and social studies in an effort to focus on improving reading and math scores. Since 2001 school districts, usually in a drive to respond to demands of the NCLB act and those of state education departments, have increasingly decided to adopt packaged curriculum and materials from commercial publishers who promise to raise test scores in reading and math . The alternative would be for districts to engage their own teachers in development of materials for the students in local schools.
Curriculum change involves choices. A major emphasis of the 1980s and 1990s was to upgrade the high school curriculum for college preparation. A result of this emphasis was the sharp reduction—almost elimination—of vocational education programs in some states such as California. Yet fully 80 percent of all high school students will not graduate from college. It was an ideological choice to decide that we should design the high school curriculum as if all students were going to college.

The development of multicultural education calls for a re-analysis of curriculum basics and a revision of the textbooks and curriculum experiences where appropriate. We need to recognize that many curriculum decisions are based on ideological choices. . From a critical theory point of view, knowledge is not neutral. Knowledge is power. Those who control the access to knowledge , including publishers, bureaucracies, teachers and the curriculum, control a source of power in our society.
A part of the effort of multicultural education is to rewrite the curriculum and textbooks so that all students—members of the United States’s diverse communities—recognize their own role in building our society and economy. Multicultural advocates choose to rewrite the curriculum so that all students experience a school that serves as an engine of democracy and opportunity.
Curriculum content, usually expressed in textbooks, is very important. These materials often direct and shape what students read and often outline the teaching strategies to be employed. Among other things curriculum decisions determine Whose knowledge is of most worth?
James Banks described the new multicultural curriculum efforts emerging as a transformative curriculum of empowerment. He argued that in addition to the above goals a curriculum should:
1. Empower the students, especially the victimized and marginalized.
2. Develop the knowledge and skills necessary to critically examine the current political and economic structure.
3. Teach critical thinking skills and decision making skills including the analysis of the way in which knowledge is constructed. (Banks, Multiethnic Education, 4rd. edit. 2008)
James Banks, a lifetime leader in multicultural education and a former president of both the National Council for the Social Studies and the American Educational Research Association, describes the balancing forces in An Introduction to Multicultural Education. ( 4th. Edition, 2008)
“Citizenship education must be transformed in the 21st.century because of the deepening racial, ethnic, cultural, language and religious diversity in nation-states around the world. Citizens in a diverse democratic society should b e able to maintain attachments to their cultural communities as well as participate effectively in the shared national culture. Unity without diversity results in cultural repression and hegemony. Diversity without unity leads to Balkanization and the fracturing of the nation-state. Diversity and unity should coexist in a delicate balance in democratic multicultural nation-states.” (Banks, 2008)

I applied to get on the framework committee for this revision but I was not successful. Even though I have a doctorate in the field and 35 years of experience, the State Board selected others. Of course you can not tell only from the names, but it looks as if 1 of the 18 people may be Mexican or Latino. I had strong letters of support etc.
This post begins a series on how and why the California State Framework should be changed.
I encourage all readers and policy advocates interested in justice to participate. The first meeting of the History/Social Science Revision Committee will be on Feb.4.

Duane Campbell


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