Monday, July 31, 2023

In Case You Missed It – July 31, 2023

Here are links to last week's articles receiving the most attention on NEIFPE's social media accounts. Keep up with what's going on, what's being discussed, and what's happening with public education.

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"The people of America deprive us of every privilege—they turn round and taunt us with our inferiority!—they stand upon our necks, they impudently taunt us, and ask the question, why we don’t stand up erect? they tie our feet, and ask us why we don’t run? that is the position of America in the present time, the laws forbid education, the mother must not teach her child the letters of the Lord’s prayer; and then while this unfortunate state of things exist they turn round and ask, why we are not moral and intelligent; and tell us, because we are not, that they have the right to enslave [us]." -- Frederick Douglass


Florida Governor Ron DeSantis claimed that he "wasn't involved" in writing the state's 2023 Social Studies standards, but he defended them nonetheless. In response, former U.S. Rep. Will Hurd of Texas tweeted that slavery "wasn't a jobs program that taught beneficial skills."

Florida Attempting to Revive the “Happy Slave” Myth as Real History

Beneficial skills don't matter when you don't "own your own body."

From Gadfly on the Wall Blog
Frederick Douglass was widely considered the most photographed American in the 19th century, though he never smiled in a single portrait.

He stares out of the frame with a look of quiet dignity, but never joviality or contentment.

The reason for this is simple – he didn’t want to perpetuate the myth of the “Happy Slave.”

Douglass was born into bondage until he fled to the North at age 20. He was considered a fugitive for nine more years until 1845 when English friends raised $711.66 to buy his freedom. He was already a famous orator, author and abolitionist.

But he knew the power of a picture and how a still image of him grinning ear-to-ear might be used by slaveholders to indicate that people of color enjoyed their own servitude.

Now 158 years after the Civil War, the Florida Department of Education is trying to perpetuate that same myth with its new guidelines for Black history curriculum in public schools.

Among other things, the guidelines suggest that American slavery was not all bad because enslaved people developed skills that “could be applied for their personal benefit.”

Letters from an American: July 22, 2023

Heather Cox Richardson analyzes the new Florida Social Studies standards.

From Letters from an American by Heather Cox Richardson
The Florida Board of Education approved new state social studies standards on Wednesday, including standards for African American history, civics and government, American history, and economics. Critics immediately called out the middle school instruction in African American history that includes “how slaves developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit.” (p. 6). They noted that describing enslavement as offering personal benefits to enslaved people is outrageous.

But that specific piece of instruction in the 216-page document is only a part of a much larger political project.

Taken as a whole, the Florida social studies curriculum describes a world in which the white male Founders of the United States embraced ideals of liberty and equality—ideals it falsely attributes primarily to Christianity rather than the Enlightenment—and indicates the country’s leaders never faltered from those ideals. Students will, the guidelines say, learn “how the principles contained in foundational documents contributed to the expansion of civil rights and liberties over time” (p. 148) and “analyze how liberty and economic freedom generate broad-based opportunity and prosperity in the United States” (p. 154).


Bob Shepherd: Past Time to End Our Obsession with Standardized Testing

The entire post is below...

From Bob Shepherd, quoted by Diane Ravitch
"I have come to believe that there is one way and one way only that we will eliminate the federal testing mandate, which has had such blood-sucking costs over the years, direct costs and opportunity costs in loss learning, and which has brought about a dramatic devolution in our curricula and pedagogy.

"The tests will remain in place until the national teachers’ unions take up the cause of ending them, until they call a national strike to do that. This would take real guts, real leadership. But until the teachers’ unions do that, until they institute a national action to end the testing, they are COMPLICIT IN CHILD ABUSE. I mean that. It’s not hyperbole. The testing is child abuse. It robs kids of large percentages of the time that they could be spending learning. And it robs them of coherent curricula and pedagogy. Instead, they get random exercises on random “skills” from the puerile Gates/Coleman “standards” bullet list and its progeny around the country.

"ENOUGH. It’s been an utter failure. It’s been devastating. Time to end it."


Northwest Allen County Schools board pauses vote on library conference attendance request

The last sentence in the quote below says it all. School Board members are afraid of what a keynote speaker might say. As they see it, it's their job as "thought police" to protect staff members from wrong thinking which they might bring back to students. The professionalism of the employee doesn't matter.

We agree that there are professional conferences that the School Board might question paying for. Still, with the recent history of this board, and the current "culture war" atmosphere in Indiana and around the nation, there's reason to believe that the refusal to pay for this conference might be based on political rather than educational reasons.

From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette**
The Northwest Allen County Schools board wants more information about a November library conference before voting on an employee’s request to attend.

The board tabled Terri Uchtman’s professional development proposal in a 3-1 vote Monday. Members said they wanted more information about the activities planned for the Indiana Library Federation’s annual conference in Indianapolis.

The agenda posted online includes information about some speakers and indicates details about the 12 breakout sessions will be available soon.

“We don’t even know what the content is going to be,” member Darren Vogt said. “For me to approve something where I don’t know what the content is, I’m going to vote no.”

...This isn’t the first time a professional development request has divided the board. A split vote in January 2022 denied staff from attending a conference about students’ emotional well-being. Members feared what a keynote speaker might say, particularly about critical race theory.


Fort Wayne Community Schools board OKs financing for $10 million in improvements

From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette**
Fort Wayne Community Schools’ plan to finance about $10 million in safety and accessibility improvements with general obligation bonds got the board’s final blessing Monday.

The elected leaders also agreed to hire two businesses to provide services for the accessibility projects, which will affect 11 buildings.

The pre-construction services contract with FCI Construction totals $28,125. The design services agreement with Martin Riley Architects and Engineers is estimated at $449,400.

The work will be funded with general obligation bonds – a common tool districts use to pay for projects outside the operations fund.

The accessibility upgrades have an overall construction budget of $6 million. They will affect Young Early Childhood Center; Adams, Harrison Hill, St. Joseph Central and Weisser Park Elementary Schools; Jefferson, Kekionga, Lane, Northwood and Portage Middle Schools; and the Center for Academic Success at Nebraska.

**Note: The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette is behind a paywall. Digital access, home delivery, or both are available with a subscription. Staying informed is essential; one way to do that is to support your local newspaper. For subscription information, go to [NOTE: NEIFPE has no financial ties to the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette]

Note: NEIFPE's In Case You Missed It is posted by the end of the day on Mondays except after holiday weekends or as otherwise noted.


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