Take a moment to think of all the things you and I are knocking ourselves out to do well that aren’t really worth doing at all. A colleague in Early Childhood Education recently remarked: “History is social studies done badly.” Somewhat irritably, I shot back, “Yeah, and social studies is the fluff of history.”
As they are both generally taught, of course, we were both right. But it’s not just a methods problem or a personnel problem; it’s also a curriculum problem. If a teacher is supposed to teach 120 to 150 students the history of the human species coherently, a process delineated in most state curricula for 180 hours (minus intercom time, so let’s say 150 hours), the teacher will use lecture more than even the most traditional scholar would like and rely on the textbook more than even the authors would like.
And yes, under those circumstances, Joe the Jock really is as adequate a teacher as the finest history scholar or the most inventive social studies talent. Then we wonder why only one in four Americans can name more than one First Amendment freedom, but more than half could name at least two members of the Homer Simpson family, and 12 percent of us think that Joan of Arc was married to Noah!
As it is, if I were asked to list all the things in this world that I don’t care a rat’s bottom about, my best single reference source would be my state’s curriculum guidelines.
To examine these issues further, see Accountability: some misgivings