It is for reasons like this that Boards of Education, Superintendents and the general public need to weigh carefully comments and the underlying intentions like those of Mrs. Kathleen Tucker very carefully. While no one doubts their passion or the sincerity of their criticism-- likewise such critiques can only be viewed as misinformed, naive, ignorant, and void of any productive discourse.
As someone who worked on the Social Studies Curriculum, I find Kathleen Tucker’s letter on 3/21 to be insulting and unfounded. Mrs. Tucker, if what you read was “vague, with only samples and generalities,” it does not surprise me. It was clearly entitled “Curriculum Overview for Social Studies,” and came from a PDF file named “Narratives and Samples of Curriculum Work.” Had you put in the time to read the actual, full curriculum, you would have found specifics. While there is no unit entitled “Blindly Wave the American Flag,” you can be assured that it is not un-American. True, we desire that our students think in global, universal terms, just as we seek to produce individuals who can actually formulate opinions.
Now, I never taught, as your niece explained, that “Thomas Jefferson is a good president but he was a fake,” yet if one of my students said that, I would be curious about the thought process that led him or her to that conclusion. We agree that students “must understand their identity and responsibility as Americans.” On the very first page (grade one, unit one), one of the established goals state: “students will be able to identify characteristics of good citizenship.” That refers to the classroom; as their education progresses, students will learn of their role and responsibilities as Hobokenites, New Jerseyans, Americans, and members of the global community, respectively. Your assertion that parents need you to make sure “details are available so that [they] can know exactly what their children are learning” is laughable. Every teacher in the district has the curriculum visible in their classroom. Besides having two yearly parents’ nights, teachers are always available to speak with parents, and many have websites displaying exactly what their students are learning.
What I find interesting is the timing of your epiphany about what the students of New Jersey are learning—last December, as in three months ago. Our curriculum was contributed to by people who have dedicated their lives (some for over thirty years) to caring about what our kids are learning. And their work was in no way cryptic. The public was invited, even encouraged, to stop by at any stage of the process to observe, comment, and make suggestions. Too bad you were unconcerned back then.
What qualifies you to “take a hard look” at our curriculum? Do you have expert knowledge of all subjects, a background in pedagogy, or training in IB, MYP, and UBD? No, you would have mentioned those things. Could it be your work with German exchange students or the fact that you have a niece? How about your job as an “interaction designer”? I know. It is your self-righteousness and ability to condemn things about which you know little. Did I mention political ambition? Only the least thoughtful of our residents could believe you are running for the BOE to save our children from learning the wrong things. As a student in my class might say, Mrs. Tucker, “keep it real.”
Citizen and teacher