Re: History Sequences -- And Classroom Realities
- Subject: Re: History Sequences -- And Classroom Realities
- From: kceh <kceh@AIRMAIL.NET>
- Date: Wed, 14 Jun 2000 07:51:57 -0500
- Reply-to: Assessment Reform Network Mailing List <ARN-L@LISTS.CUA.EDU>
- Sender: Assessment Reform Network Mailing List <ARN-L@LISTS.CUA.EDU>
Do you know what kind of "history" projects my 4th-grade Eric has done
this year? For black history month the only "project" he brought home
was a TAAS-formatted reading worksheet about David Robinson. Mind you,
he seems to be a decent human being, but still...Granted, Eric did read
a Rosa Parks biography at school, but to forgo history and geography for
test prep garbage is unacceptable. Thank God my other half is a history
buff. We also watch the history channel, PBS, discovery.com channels and
we all like to read.
I still don't know what we're going to do come August 3, when school
starts. He's been placed in a program similar to gifted and talented, so
maybe I should give that a chance during the fall, but come springtime
he'll do test prep like everybody else. Four months of choosing and
bubbling the correct answer.
The good news is that my "partner in crime" Cyndi and I have been
invited to speak to some students at a couple of University of Houston
satellite campuses this month. Yeah! I got that information and the new
issue of "Substance" yesterday and have been grinning like a jackass
eating cactus ever since.
Parents Against TAAS Testing
George N. Schmidt wrote:
> In a message dated 6/13/00 12:08:59 PM, ArthurH@TANGIS.COM writes:
> << Is there such thing as a standard sequence for history like there
> is for math, or does pretty much anything go? >>
> June 14, 2000
> Hello Arthur and Friends:
> One of the neat things about "standards" is that we're getting fewer and
> fewer old fashioned curriculums (curricula?) and more nonsense and jargon.
> Anyone who ever did a critique of the old history and geography textbooks
> (bad as they were) might be longing for them before the Era of Test Prep has
> ended. A look at our "standards" here joined to a look at our "structured
> lessons" coupled with a look at one of the CASE tests (Whoops! Those are TOP
> SECRET) will show you that the whole silly structure is very much trivial
> pursuit, but...
> Specifically, though, your question asks about "history" as currently
> preached (it's one of our most important "standards" -- just as our Public
> Relations department) and, then, as it's actually practiced in our
> classrooms, where the children are.
> First know that when you ask what we have here in Chicago, you will receive
> more information than you could imagine wanting to know. This year, Chicago
> introduced what is being called the "Structured Curriculum Handbooks", which
> actually pretend to give a day-to-day script for every grade in every class.
> You can find them on the CPS Website (www.cps.K12.il.us) with a little
> searching. If you have a large enough hard drive, you can download some of
> the stuff. (Warning: the entire thing stretches to the horizons and is more
> than 20,000 pages long when printed out).
> Then there is what actually gets done with real kids in real classrooms in
> real schools where the average class size is 30 or more.
> 1. Elementary "History" in Chicago today
> History! What a great idea. Chicago loves history. Officially, we're all for
> it and we do some of it every day in every year. If you don't believe me,
> check with "CPS."
> I don't know much about the elementary "history" curriculum at this point
> (I've downloaded it, and it's strange). In reality, in most Chicago
> elementary schools we have six months of Iowa Tests of Basic Skills test prep
> (reading and math) followed by six weeks of twitching and wiggling
> ("end-of-the-year enrichment activities"). Instead of a curriculum now,
> Chicago has "academic standards" plus those scripted lessons. You'll have to
> try and locate them and figure out what they mean once you've located them if
> you want the current answer to your question, but...
> At one level, the elementary history taught been satisfying enough for me.
> Fortunately for my 5th grade son Danny (but unfortunately for our ability to
> connect to most Chicago elementary schools), he's in a "Regional Gifted
> Center". Because everyone in the school knows that all the "gifted" kids will
> "pass" the Iowa tests, that means he and his colleagues get what used to be
> the regular elementary school curriculum. They actually do some history,
> instead of mind numbing test prep.
> Last year the 5th graders did a lot of stuff from ancient history and ended up
> in the Middle Ages (or a bit beyond).
> last winter, Danny spent a week with some friends designing a carboard
> chariot and preparing for gladiatorial combat.
> A bit later, it was the design of castles and fortifications, most of which
> seemed to be European and date from between 500 and 1500 A.D.
> By April, he was writing about whether Ben Franklin was a heretic.
> Two weeks ago, we saw "Gladiator" and got to talk about it, in part, in
> relation to what he knew about history. Danny was miffed by several things in
> the movie, including the elaborate armor worn by everyone (including most of
> the Roman infantry in the opening scene). He claimed that was an anachronism,
> that few soldiers wore that much metal back in those days, that it was a
> later invention. I didn't know and didn't check. He also thought there was
> too much violence. We discussed the violence in the contexts of empires
> usually floating atop rivers of blood such as flowed throughout the movie,
> but especially in the early scenes in "Germania."
> [We also discussed the origins of the Romanian language, since his mother (my
> ex-wife) is Romanian. This discussion took place in the car without visual
> aids. He obviously has a fairly clear picture in his mind of the map of
> Europe, both "ancient" (the extent of the Roman Empire at its height) and
> contemporary. I really don't know when and where he got that, but it's there
> so that when we discuss how odd it is that Romanian is a Romance language he
> knows that the languages of the surrounding nations are not on the same
> Part of the history sequences Danny had overlapped with his Latin class. They
> take Latin, too, in that program.
> I'll look around to see what they actually claim the sequence is for
> "history" in elementary school nowadays, if you really need something.
> See what you can find from Chicago's school board Website (www.cps.K12.il.us).
> 2. High School "History" (and other "social studies") in Chicago today
> Back in the Bad Old Days before we all got sent to Reform School, I mean
> before we got "School Reform", here in Chicago the main high school courses
> taught in the social studies departments were:
> Early World and Ancient Histoy
> United States History (required)
> Modern History (this was sometimes divided into one semester of "early
> modern" and one semester of "contemporary")
> Electives I've seen have included
> African American History
> History of the Americas
> Asian American History
> Women's History
> Advanced Placement courses offered in Chicago in those areas included:
> United States History
> European History
> Since "Reform" we've gotten rid of Geography and reduced the requirements in
> history to the United States variety, plus one or two other social studies
> courses. Teachers who once taught geography and only had that certificate are
> now either retired or in other lines of work.
> Right now, everyone takes a thing called "World Studies" and another thingy
> called "United States History."
> One of the reasons we got sued 18 months ago was that we published the January
> 1999 CASE (Chicago Academic Standards Examinations) final examinations for
> first semester of those two courses. (Most people here know that we published
> the stupid things one week after the kids had taken them in their classes, if
> that's still relevant).
> "World Studies" in Chicago nowadays features Europe and Africa first semester
> and Asian and the Western Hemisphere second semester. All 9th graders are
> supposedly taking it as part of our "standards."
> "United States History" in Chicago nowadays features through Reconstruction
> (to 1877") first semester (there is still some debate about this) and Post
> Reconstruction through today second semester.
> A fun project is to contact the Chicago Public Schools through its unbeatable
> Website (www.cps.K12.il.us) and try to locate an answer to your question that
> has more detail and less jargon than what I just offered.
> Remember: www.cps.K12.il.us.
> George N. Schmidt
> Editor, Substance
> 5132 W. Berteau
> Chicago, IL 60641
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