Wednesday, April 19, 2006

What Is the Sound of One Knee Jerking?

I am not sure what to think of Glen DeVoogd's article "Question Authority," published in the April issue of SLJ and online here. DeVoogd says that kids need to be taught the means and value of questioning texts and curricula: "it's our duty to teach kids to ask serious questions about the authority of the words they read. Our schools need to teach that being skeptical of the curriculum is acceptable." Well, right on. But I get the feeling that DeVoogd has, one, set up a straw man by asserting that children should learn that there was more to discovering America than Columbus. They do. Second, it seems that DeVoogd isn't so much interested in getting kids to think for themselves as he is in getting them to see the world the same way he does: "Ultimately, the goal of critical literacy is to create a more equitable, just world." By whose lights? Conservative critics such as Diane Ravitch and Sandra Stotsky would argue that American education is currently exactly where DeVoogd would like it to be, emphasizing the contributions of women and minorities, for example, at the expense of the whole picture.

I don't know if DeVoogd is responsible for the accompanying resource list, but the inclusion therein of Hoffman's Amazing Grace, Rinaldi's My Heart Is on the Ground, and Jane Yolen's Encounter as "books that expand understanding" is not going to endear DeVoogd to those most likely to otherwise welcome his article: all three books have been targeted by leftist critics for their perceived crimes against history. But if I were in charge of the curriculum, the first thing the kids would be learning is that irony is always waiting to bite you in the ass.

7 comments:

Andy Laties said...

You're such a Romantic.

Andy

shewhonowwishestobecalledportia said...

Well, after reading this blog for a while it is hard to believe that anyone has any kind of goal other than to make everyone else see the world as he or she does. And yet they always do. So I don't think we need worry about the children, whom, I have found in my voluntarily limited contact with them, to be no more than small opinionated adults with runnier noses.

Becky said...

Thanks very much for your thoughts, Roger. As a home educating parent, I was hoping the article -- which I found a link to last week at Chicken Spaghetti -- would give some handy dandy pointers about teaching children to (much as I hate the term) think critically, not to focus on marginalization and finding Orwell in "Click Clack Moo".

I haven't seen "Critical Thinking in U.S. History" by Kevin O'Reilly, which is now out of print, but I'm hoping it provides a more, erm, critical approach.

Rosemary Graham said...

Well, as a resident of a city which has OFFICIALLY re-named Columbus Day as Indigenous Peoples' Day I have to agree with you, Roger, about the straw man.*

When DeVoogd states that "our educational culture promotes sitting back and soaking up information," I find myself questioning _his_ authority. Yes, currently, some of the test-driven stuff promotes a certain amount of information-stuffing. But isn't today's educational culture all about active, engaged learning?

*As for irony, the city also celebrates International Women's Day by giving kids the day off from school, leaving their working mothers scrambling for childcare.

KT Horning said...

The best educational experience I had in public schools came from my 11th grade history teacher who, on the first day of class, handed out our shiny new history text books (Hofsteder, as I recall) and spent the entire class calling our attention to all the changes that had been made between the new edition and the previous ones. We discussed why the changes were made, and what that said about our own era.

This same teacher was famous for his true/false exams where you could answer any question either true of false, but you had to support your answer with a one-sentence explanation.

Unfortunately, he lost his job a few years later because he refused to coach.

Irony, indeed.

Glenn DeVoogd said...

It's alright to post about critical literacy if you don't know what you are writing about because hopefully someone will respond to your comments and you can learn a thing or two. The article I posted in the School Library Journal (Question Authority, April 2006) had a list of books I think were particularly good at giving disruptive perspectives on a topic. By that I don't mean a leftist perspective on a topic, I mean that it disrupts the understanding people find common. After I wrote the article I received a note about one of the books (My Heart is on the Ground) but not the other two. Alright, good to know about the criticism. I'll look it up. I'll learn something.

Roger Sutton should probably also learn that critical literacy is not critical thinking. Critical literacy is not ever value free or free of bias. It supports the poor and marginalized. I don't think it fits well into the labels because so much of what the left does is not for the poor. To say that the left is concerned for the poor especially political left, would be reductionist. Call it left or right or center or Christian or Muslim or caring or bleeding heart, but that's what it is support for the poor and marginalized. Critical literacy comes from Critical Pedagogy and Paulo Freire/Liberation Theology/Frankfurt School which are all so much different than critical thinking.

Secondly, I'm shocked to hear that Roger Sutton, Chief Editor of the Horn Book thinks that schools teach about different perspectives. It might actually be true in Massachusetts which accounts for the fact that they often vote for candidates which support that point of view. In Michigan, Texas, California, and other places I've been teachers don't discuss different points of view. Very few people know about the lives of African Americans, women, Mexican's, Asians or unionist at any point in history.

Anyway, I'm glad you posted Roger because hopefully this response will help you learn a thing or two.

Glenn DeVoogd said...

It's alright to post about critical literacy if you don't know what you are writing about because hopefully someone will respond to your comments and you can learn a thing or two. The article I posted in the School Library Journal (Question Authority, April 2006) had a list of books I think were particularly good at giving disruptive perspectives on a topic. By that I don't mean a leftist perspective on a topic, I mean that it disrupts the understanding people find common. After I wrote the article I received a note about one of the books (My Heart is on the Ground) but not the other two. Alright, good to know about the criticism. I'll look it up. I'll learn something.

Roger Sutton should probably also learn that critical literacy is not critical thinking. Critical literacy is not ever value free or free of bias. It supports the poor and marginalized. I don't think it fits well into the labels because so much of what the left does is not for the poor. To say that the left is concerned for the poor especially political left, would be reductionist. Call it left or right or center or Christian or Muslim or caring or bleeding heart, but that's what it is support for the poor and marginalized. Critical literacy comes from Critical Pedagogy and Paulo Freire/Liberation Theology/Frankfurt School which are all so much different than critical thinking.

Secondly, I'm shocked to hear that Roger Sutton, Chief Editor of the Horn Book thinks that schools teach about different perspectives. It might actually be true in Massachusetts which accounts for the fact that they often vote for candidates which support that point of view. In Michigan, Texas, California, and other places I've been teachers don't discuss different points of view. Very few people know about the lives of African Americans, women, Mexican's, Asians or unionist at any point in history.

Anyway, I'm glad you posted Roger because hopefully this response will help you learn a thing or two.