Feeling History

Eighth graders at a Sacramento middle school will remember that U.S. history teacher Emilio Moran announced fees on homework (10 cents), hall passes ($1) and tardiness (10 cents per minute).

But will they understand the American colonists' resistance to "taxation without representation?"

"Ultimately, we got the outrage and upset we wanted," (Moran) said.

"Part of the problem with teaching history is that it is hard to get kids into the proper mindframe. I could tell them what happened 200 years ago, but my colleagues and I believe that if students remember anything, they will remember the fraudulent classroom rules."

Yes, but remembering fraud is not the point, is it?

Feeling history  is all the rage, Education Gadfly points out.

The Detroit News, for example, recently praised a teacher who built a life-size replica of a  World War I trench with his students to help give them "a realistic feeling of being a [Word War I] soldier."

Sixteen-year-old Jessica Harbin, faithfully parroting the party line, told the News that once students see the trench, "there will be a great impact in their understanding and knowledge of war." No word on whether rats, mud, influenza, dead bodies and post-war mental problems are part of the lesson.

Actually, the paper trench does come equipped with model rats. But it doesn't seem all that authentic. Perhaps the teacher should arrange for a few students to be shot each day. Or the class could go "over the top" to attack a trench in another classroom. Extra credit for creative use of the bayonet.

If students know history well, they may be able to understand the emotions of people in the past. But the knowledge comes first. Trying to learn by feeling is a dubious proposition.

It gets even worse when getting students to feel the approved way is the goal, not the means to an end. Cincinnati students who sleep in cardboard shacks will feel compassion for the homeless. They won't question how housing will solve the problems of people who are homeless due to addiction or mental illness.

No-sided History

Iraq's new history books eliminate Saddamite propaganda -- and controversial subjects. That means the books skip huge chunks of Iraqi history, including the Iran-Iraq war, the 1991 Gulf War and "all references to Israelis, Americans or Kurds."

"Entire swaths of 20th-century history have been deleted," says Bill Evers, a US Defense Department employee, and one of three American advisers to the Ministry of Education.

. . . While US advisers don't want to be seen as heavy-handed in influencing the way Iraqis interpret history, neither do they want to be in the position of endorsing texts that could be anti-American, anti-Israeli, or radically religious.

As a result, some charge, in a matter of months Iraqi education has gone from one-sided to 'no-sided.'

The Christian Science Monitor quotes a prospective history teacher as saying she'll teach her students that Americans are terrorists. Just try it lady, and you'll be thrown into prison, tortured and executed. Oh. You don't believe the American "terrorists" will do that? Well, OK. Maybe not. But maybe we won't equip your school. Oh, OK. We'll do that too.

Passing on a Record

The fix was in: One high school coach agreed to let the rival team score a touchdown; the other coach agreed to let the rival's quarterback complete a record-setting pass. But the quarterback didn't want to set a record by cheating.

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. -- A high school quarterback has asked officials to erase his record-setting pass because his coach had made a deal with the opposing team to let him complete it.

Nate Haasis' Springfield Southeast High School team let Cahokia High School score a touchdown late in Saturday's game, which Cahokia won 42-20. In exchange, Cahokia made no effort to keep Haasis from completing a 37-yard pass that gave him a record.

In post-game comments Saturday, both coaches acknowledged arranging the deal during a time-out.

The completion gave Haasis 5,006 yards for his career, setting a new record for the Central State Eight Conference and making him one of 12 Illinois high school quarterbacks to pass for more than 5,000 yards.

But in a letter to the president of the conference, Haasis asked that the pass be stricken from the record books.

Stupid coaches. Classy kid.

Winning Respect

Wilcox High in Santa Clara, Calif., was on its way to a great season, till the coach learned a special teams player had forged a teacher's signature on a grade change. The coach reported the ineligible player. The team forfeited five games. It made the front page of the San Jose Mercury News. Integrity is newsworthy these days.

Bright Flight

To compete with private and charter schools, Phoenix's school district wants to start small high schools for untroubled, academically successful students. But it will take a tax increase to fund the plan to combat "bright flight."

Joanne Jacobs writes about education and other issues at JoanneJacobs.com. She’s writing a book, Ride the Carrot Salad, about a start-up charter high school in San Jose.


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