Wednesday, November 11, 2015

#Edchat Discussion - Politics, Religions & Education

I participated in an interesting #edchat this past Tuesday, as I try to do every Tuesday at noon (Eastern time) if it fits into my schedule.  The topic for this hour long chat was:
Education should reflect culture of the country, but do politics and religion have too much influence in American education?
My immediate reaction and response was yes, religion and politics have way too much influence in  American education. Two prime examples are the current hot-button issues of The Common Core Standards and whether the word "God" should be included in the Pledge of Allegiance. Here are my personal opinions on both:

  1. "God" in schools/Pledge of Allegiance - 
    • First of all, God was not included in the original pledge, written by Francis Bellamy in 1892. "under God" was added in 1954 in response to the Communist threat of the times
    • But, regardless of when "under God" was added, this is just a political & religious ploy to get everyone up in arms over nothing. In all honesty, the pledge, with "under God" included is said in most schools to this day - I travel all over the country and have yet to be in a school where this is taken out. I am sure there are probably some, but I have yet to be in one. 
    • Whether the words are there are not, most schools (public) give the option for students to say the words. In all the schools I taught in, it was respectful to stand, but you didn't have to say the words.  Same with those moments of silence - which students could do anything they want - pray, think about the upcoming math test, worry about the football game, etc. Let's move on and get to learning!
    • Public schools should be about educating all students, regardless of their religion - its America after all, and we have a mix of everything. This continued push, mostly from the religious right/Christians, is an example of too much religion influencing public, state-run education system, and there should be a separation of church and state. 
  2. The Common Core Standards
    • If you haven't read my previous postings regarding the Common Core Standards, suffice it to say I am a big fan. The fact that there is now a huge push from many politicians, particularly those running for President, to do away with the Common Core is a clear example of too much politics influencing education
    • First - The Common Core State Standards were NOT an Obama or Federal initiative, and have nothing to do with No Child Left Behind, despite so many politicians on the right blaming the Obama and Federal Government/administration. It was a state-led initiative, with teachers and education experts and state leaders developing standards, based on research.
    • Second - The Common Core is NOT a curriculum, so it does NOT define what states, schools and teachers teach. Rather it is a set of goals demonstrate the skills and understandings students need to be successful. How these goals are taught and reached are determined by the individual school districts within each state. 
    • What I see are politicians and media stories that are full of inaccuracies about The Common Core, that are then used to fuel the fear of parents about what their students are learning, fuel the fear of teachers worried about standardized test scores and their jobs, and used to basically halt any change in the education system and bring us back to where we started - nowhere. Yes - definitely too much politics in education!
So - religion and politics are too much of an influence in our education system, in my opinion. Unfortunately - I have no answers on how to make this stop. As my examples show, politics and religion regularly influence American education and unfortunately, are part of the reason there is so little change in the educational system. We are stagnating and our students are suffering and it needs to change. I wish I knew how because the small pockets of change and innovation I do see do not seem to be enough to become systemic. If I knew what it took, I'd be a rich woman and schools would be teaching and students would be learning. In the #edchat discussion, the idea of revolution came up - Dr. Mark Weston sent me a link to his thoughts on that - great read. Like Mark, I want to revamp the whole system. Guess I will keep looking for ways to do so...if you have ideas, let me know. I've thought about becoming Secretary of Education, but then I think politics would make it impossible to really do anything, right?!! It's a catch 22.....

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