Posted in Hidden curriculum, Social justice

Social justice & “hidden curriculum”

“Social Justice” is the underlying philosophy in Ontario and, in fact, in all publicly funded Canadian and U.S. schools today. Some taxpayers and journalists, like Sue-Ann Levy of the Toronto Sun, believe it is destroying the education system in Ontario from within.

In her column today, for example, she assumes teachers’ unions can do something to change what is taught or at least what is emphasized. The reality is that, by themselves, teachers’ unions cannot.

Look, I understand where Levy is coming from and I agree with her that school choice would shake things up and bring about change — even if reluctantly. But, the reality is that comprehensive curriculum change is only changed from the top — by society. And by society, I mean parents, the media, the politicians, academic researchers and yes, the teachers’ unions.

Notice, I did not include teachers in the change process and the reason I did not is because, in their jobs at least, teachers are followers. They prepare their unit themes and daily lesson plans from government documents and teach their students directly from those plans.

Perhaps I need to explain that a bit more. For those who don’t realize it, teachers are bound by a code of ethics they are taught in teachers’ college. Chief among that code is that they never ever critique their employers. In fact, even on their own time, say at a parent meeting at their community center, they have to be careful what they say and do.

Anyway, there is a formal technical term for the social and political influences on the school system and that is the “hidden curriculum.” And, no, that is not just edu-babble. There really is both an intended and unintended curriculum that guides everything that goes on in each and every school system, school board and school.

For example, you will often hear parents say they took their child out of one public school for another public school because the new school had a better academic, sports, arts or drama program. That is where choice would shake things up. If parents didn’t like their neighbourhood public school choices, they could use their choice voucher and send their child to a private school with the curriculum emphasis they preferred.

Anyway, in Ontario, this is how public school curriculum guidelines are developed from the top down.

  1. The Education Ministry develops overall education goals and curriculum priorities for their public schools at the direction of the Education Minister. I know this process to be true as I observed it when I worked for a Mike Harris MPP who was the Parliamentary Secretary to the Education Minister.
  2. Once the overall curriculum “guidelines” are developed, those documents are available online and distributed to school boards which, in turn, make them available to school administrators who then make them available to classroom teachers and school-based subject specialists.
  3. Then the teachers use the formal guidelines as the basis of their yearly unit themes and daily lesson plans based on what they personally believe about those themes and teaching and learning.
  4. Lastly, each teacher submits their documents to their principal for his or her approval, who may or may not recommend revisions.

In other words, an awful lot of people have input into what children are taught and how they are taught. Sure, teachers’ unions can be a part of that process, but they, alone, cannot tell the Education Ministry what to do.

As Levy’s argument implies, Ontarians are going to struggle for the next few years because we have a provincial government that is conservative and a public school system that is progressive. And, that reality has both intended and unintended consequences. Like it or not, some of the unintended consequences are the inroads social justice warriors have made. So, apart from Levy’s suggestion to allow publicly funded school choice, I simply cannot foresee a different philosophy influencing the public school curriculum anytime soon — hidden or otherwise.

Posted in Parent Resources, Post Its, Teacher Strategies

“Post Its” as reading organization strategy

This post is how classroom teachers, parents and older students can effectively use Post It Notes. My point is that while there are a lot of computer and telephone Apps to help with reading comprehension and writing planning, some of the old fashioned techniques still work the best. In fact, I would put “Post Its” as the star.

Why? Because there are so many different shapes and sizes and they can be easily moved around. In fact, it is the ability to stick and change the order of the Post Its that is key. Individuals with learning difficulties, for example, no matter what their age, often have difficulty with sequencing. Here I am going to refer to the 3×3 and 4×6 sizes.

(1) Post Its for Teacher Instructions:

In a whole classroom context, when teachers are dictating lesson instructions orally, printing them on a chalk or white board or typing onto their e-blackboard, they could ask their students to write each instruction on a separate Post It. If the size used is 4×6, there is still room for the students to write what they have to do related to that specific instruction. Or, if the smaller, more flexible 3×3 size is used, the students can easily add a second or third Post It because they will stick together.

(2) Post Its for Reading Comprehension:

  • Because most students in the primary grades are still learning to say and identify words, I am going to assume that the students I am recommending use Post Its to recall what they just heard or read are at least in Grade 4. Whether the teacher is reading the information or the student is reading silently to himself, the student needs some way of remembering the important words and phrases.
  • When I was in private practice, I usually recommended at least two readings because some children, when they stopped to write down words, would forget everything they just read. However, if only once through is possible, tell the students to just write down words that interest them. In that way, they are not yet trying to remember the main idea and you don’t interfere with processing the information.
  • The point is to have the students write words or phrases that interest them on Post Its, not worrying what they mean or how they are spelled at that point. The reason is not to dismiss the importance of grammar or spelling but not to interrupt their thought about what they are reading. A lot of people don’t understand that not everyone can think on two tracks at the same time. Once the story/article is finished, spelling corrections and clarifications can be added.

(3) Post Its as Organizer: Once the reading is finished, and corrections and clarifications completed, ask the students to put all the Post Its in a folder in their correct order for the next day. Then, by the time the story is finished, the students should be able to tell you the story in the order of the each Post It.

Crux of the Matter:

As a learning specialist, I can tell you that the repetition of the word or phrase, combined with trying to figure out the meaning, will help the students remember the story. Older students in high school and beyond can also use the Post Its as a guide to writing a report or essay.

More, in the next post, about how older students can use Post Its to research, plan and write an essay.

Posted in Teacher Concerns, Teacher Education, TeacherCon

TeacherCon & digital revolution in education

Whoa, what is going on? Are we actually in the midst of a digital revolution in education? I mean, I always liked teacher conferences when I was teaching at the university level, but they were never readily available for the rank and file classroom teacher.

Sure “principals and lead teachers” got to go out of town for a day or two, but not the rest of us. The best we could hope for during the 1970s, 80s and 90s, was an occasional Professional Development Day (or Professional Activity Day as they were called by some boards). Those activities, however, were usually organized through our local teacher’s union rather than the school board.

But, make no mistake about it, TeacherCon is very different. It is about significant, relevant teacher learning, in this case, dealing with the reality of the digital revolution.

So, what is TeacherCon all about? It is about making sure all teachers and children in Grades K to 12 are literate in the latest technology. For example, check out http://www.canadalearningcode.ca. They state, for example, that their conferences offer a multi-day event designed for teachers by teachers teaching educators how to teach web design, coding and programming in their classrooms.

Specifically, they give five quick points as to what they are all about.

Point One: It’s free. In fact, the TeacherCon organization even offers travel stipends to teachers who really want to go but can’t afford it, such as a single parent or because the teacher just started teaching. Sure, new teachers would learn some of the latest digital issues, but certainly not everything. As I recall, up to the year 2000, public school boards didn’t even have the budgets for such a stipend.

Point Two: At least least fifteen TeacherCon events will be held in 12 different locations in Canada during 2019.

Point Three: Each teacher who attends a TeacherCon will leave with a kit of practical tips and resources.

Point Four: As a mentioned above, workshops not only cover practical tech help on web design, HTML and processing, they also dive into the various tools introduced.

Point Five: Teachers, based on conference reviews, are really loving the process.

Now, if someone is reading this and they are not an educator, believe me # 5 is huge. I taught both teacher preparation and graduate teacher education, and teachers are notoriously hard to please. So, the workshops must be very relevant to get participants to take a car, train or plane to get where they are going and actually feel positive about the outcome.

I have been very critical of public education the last decade but this process seems very much worth everyone’s time. What I noticed, as well, in researching this story, is that Teacher Conventions are popping up everywhere.

Take a look at this Google page on teacher conferences in 2019. True, many are in the U.S. but for Canadian educators wanting to travel, there are:

  • College Math Prepation, being held in California — which is currently so popular it is sold out.
  • Get Your Teach On in Dallas Texas.
  • Innovative School Summit in Las Vegas.
  • Best practices for teaching literacy in Baltimore, Maryland.

The crux of the matter is that, while I don’t always agree with all the new innovations, some are very relevant to today’s world, particularly tech. Of course, literacy and math preparation are always relevant we well. In the Math case, which I have written about before, I hope old fashioned methods and drills are once again back in fashion.

[…]

Posted in Curriculum, Sex Ed Curriculum

Adjustments required to Ontario’s Sex Ed Curriculum

Ontario citizens should not worry about the 1998 Heath and Physical Education Program revisions that include some of the good aspects of what I will call the “Wynne Sex Ed Curriculum.” In the latter case, I can understand why it was hated by so many parents because of the assumption that gender is always socially constructed.

Interestingly, the reason critics are negative about it, is because Ford and his Education Minister, Lisa Thompson, have confirmed that some aspects of the “Wynne” curriculum will still be taught. Which, by the way, is not a flip flop. That is simply how curriculum is revised! Updates and revisions simply include what continues to be relevant.

Here, for example is what the 2018 version looks like in PDF format. And, to the left is a diagram of my favourite model for what it takes to develop a new curriculum.

For those who are not familiar with my background prior to retirement, I should explain that I got my PhD from the University of Toronto (OISE) in the 1980s majoring in two specialities — educational psychology and curriculum. At that time, there were actually professors at OISE who were known to be conservative. In addition, while my research and thesis adviser was progressive in outlook, unlike in today’s political climate, he would listen and discuss differences of opinion.

My point is that I know what I am talking about in terms of the technical aspect of curriculum design, development and implementation. All three aspects are different. At this point, Ford and his committee are still gathering information from parents, teachers and academics. Only after that process is completed and matched to actual scientific research (other than almost entirely on subjective constructivist  “action research methods“), will the design and development start.

Which means, that Ontario parents and teachers may not see a new, revised document, for upwards to a year. And, that is okay. That is what it takes to get it done right.

In the meantime, teachers’ unions are making threats. The very fact that Ford is checking out what parents want for their children’s education, in addition to sex ed, means he is keeping his promise to scrap the “Wynne” program. The Education Act is what it is. The unions have nothing to do with teacher duties, no matter what they scream and yell. The Government runs the show.

Mind you, having been a classroom teacher, I know that teachers have a lot of autonomy when it comes to making unit and day plans based on an Ontario document about such things as health and physical education. And, discussions between teachers and students are not always predictable.

So, what was the problem with the “Wynne” sex ed curriculum when compared to the 1998 document? The main difference from the 1998 version and the “Wynne” version was, as I said at the start of his post, the notion that gender is more socially constructed than biological. Sometimes, that topic got into the aims and objectives at each grade level in a sneaky way.

For example, as I wrote a few years ago in my old blog, in Grades 1, 2 and 3 the objectives involved identifying body parts, including genitalia, the stages of human development and visible and invisible differences. It’s not hard to guess what kind of differences might have been emphasized.

Similarly, in Grades 3, 4 and 5, physical differences in males and females and strategies for managing stress come up. Again, understanding human development is good. The problem is that we know, anecdotally, that some students in early grades, as early as the age of 10, have been supported to transition to the opposite sex. This is much too early for such a notion because children are still maturing.

In fact, Jean Piaget would turn over in his grave at this type of social manipulation of cognitive and physical development.

Last but not least are the intermediate grades 6, 7 and 8. It is unbelievable what they were taught under the “Wynne” program. True, older pre-teen kids can handle learning about sexual relations and consent. However, what many may not realize is that the sexual relations they are talking about include not only heterosexual, but homosexual relations as well. How it is done. The differences. And, last but not least, they are taught all about masturbation.

While that is information most 12 and 13 year olds probably already know, as a curricula objective, it is based on pure loosey goosey liberal ideology. It is also very one-sided for all the people who don’t buy the idea that gender is socially constructed as opposed to biological and genetic.

Look, when someone is an adult and decides to live as the opposite sex to what they were born, fine. That’s their informed, mature adult choice. Same with gender re-assignment surgery. But, progressives need to understand that children are developing socially, cognitively and physically well into their late teens and what they don’t need is well meaning teachers and LGBTQ advocates pushing gender confusing notions at them, particularly given that the suicide rate among adult transexuals is very high.

The crux of the matter is that while there was some good in the “Wynne” sex ed document, in terms of openness about how boys are different from girls, there was definitely too much social engineering going on based on progressive, liberal ideology that is simply not supported by solid scientific research — other than, as I said earlier, research that is constructivist in nature.

How odd, then, that liberals and civil liberty advocates now want to sue the Ford government because they dare to update a health and physical education curriculum to suit the majority of Ontarians. The title of this Toronto Star column, for instance, calls the possibility of a new and/or revised health curriculum, a ham-fisted roll-back approach.

Hogwash. It is called democracy. The Ford caucus is currently the Ontario governing party, winning an election fair and square. Meaning, there is nothing ham-fisted about developing a new curriculum with topics and objectives that the majority of Ontarians can accept and support — and who have had an effective role in its development.

C/P at Jack’s Newswatch.

Posted in Cheating, Student writing services

Writing services for students, like plagiarism, is cheating & life ruining

I just saw this link on Twitter @9PapersMarket. Their ad says: Paper Writing Serviceget papers, dissertations, and more written for you. Starting at $5.00 talented writers are waiting to write for you.

Then, on their main page, they say there is no plagiarism. Huh? Plagiarism is cheating. Having someone write your paper is cheating. Okay, so they may be different types of cheating. But, they are both fraud because a person is claiming to have done something they haven’t done!

Do these “student” writing companies have any idea of the consequences of cheating like this? Putting it succinctly, it can destroy lives.

As a former academic I have seen it happen. Professors are not stupid. If your paper sounds more advanced than what you wrote before in another paper or on an exam question, they will interview you. If you don’t have all the ins and outs of the pre-research for the paper in question, they will know you are a cheater. There are also APPS to catch cheating, such as this word cloud program at turnitin.com which is good even at the high school level. There is also Grammarly for fact checking for plagiarism.

So, what happens if a university student is caught cheating?

  • He or she will have a mark on their transcript for life.
  • Likely, they’ll be kicked out of their program.
  • No other university or college will accept them.
  • Their future employers will know when they ask for an academic reference.

My advice to all secondary and post-secondary students is to do their own work. That is why they are where they are — to learn new things, not how to cheat in the hopes of getting away with it.

And, yes, cheating can be addictive. If they get away with it once or twice, they’ll be tempted to continue. Eventually, however, they’ll get caught, one way or the other. As many who have cheated have found out, even later in life, the previous act of cheating can bite them.

I mean, check out this Google page. There are nearly 400,000 entries of people who have been fired for plagiarism which is very similar to having someone claim as theirs, what someone else wrote.  In fact, more often than not plagiarism is just for small sections of a paper, which in this case, is the entire paper!

Anyway, the very idea that a ghost writer could write someone’s dissertation is nuts. It can’t happen in any reputable university. Thesis supervisors are all over the process or they should be. And, remember, the final oral defence is with a very tough committee that usually consists of your thesis advisor, another inside reader and at least one outside reader. For sure, if a person has not written what they are defending, it will show.

Professional writing services that are contracted by business people and politicians are a very different matter. It is the student services that are the problem.

The crux of the matter is that writing services that do what students should do themselves should all be shut down as illegal and I am surprised that Twitter allows such advertising.

Posted in Canoeing

B.C. canoeists find human ashes & note in bottle “to see the world”

Click for CBC credits.
Click for CBC credits.

What a neat story in the midst of all the bad news globally and the anti-conservative whining nationally.

I just read on CBC via Twitter that a team of B.C. canoeists called “Team Soggy Beavers” found a bottle in the water in Victoria’s inner harbour this week. They are apparently training to take a trek to Alaska in early June.

Click for CBC credits.
Click for CBC credits.

What they found in the bottle were ashes, a photo and a note. The note apparently says it was “a celebration of life” and should anyone find the bottle to put it back in the water. The note also says: “My last wish to see the world.

So, the canoeists, who call the fellow “Ash” plan to take his ashes and the bottle to Alaska with them and then either throw it back in the water or “to pass it off ” to someone sailing to Asia and to continue that process clear around the globe.

It would be nice if someone recognized the story about this bottle so that we could find out exactly who the man was.

In the meantime, I agree that continuing the world-wide journey through passing the bottle would also be a very nice thing to do. At some point, however, the bottle needs to be put back in the water because that is what “Ash” wanted the finders to do.

Posted in EQAO, Standardized Testing, Teacher Unions

Why I somewhat agree with ETFO’s negative position on standardized testing

Pencil on school test. Click for Peter Greene's article on Huff Post.
Pencil on school test. Click for Peter Greene’s article on Huff Post.

Who benefits the most from standardized testing? Certainly, in Ontario, the EQAO agency which conducts the testing benefits to the tune of millions and millions of taxpayer dollars a year. Another beneficiary is the Fraser Institute that provides annual “reports” on how schools rank. As well, some schools and municipalities benefit when schools in their areas have averages that are higher than the norm — resulting in some parents actually relocating to those communities.

However, contrary to the Fraser Institute’s “key academic indicators of school performance” (on page 5 in the above link), their reports are empty of specifics. Here, for example is what some of those so-called indicators look like.

1. average level of achievement on the grade- 3 EQAO assessment in reading
2. average level of achievement on the grade- 3 EQAO assessment in writing; and
3. average level of achievement on the grade- 3 EQAO assessment in mathematics.

Now, exactly where are the “academic” or “learning objectives” in the indicators? Do the test results indicate, for example, that students were able to identify words in text — which is the first “fluency” phase of reading? Or, in terms of comprehension, do the test results prove that students in Grade 3 were able to identify the main idea in a paragraph? Or, in the average level of achievement in math, were the Grade 3’s able to add and subtract in three columns?

In other words, while the Fraser Institute’s Report indicates there are four standards used by EQAO (e.g., levels one to four), their indicators actually indicate nothing.

There is so much more to a school than cold, static, standardized test results. There are academic subjects such as social studies, history and science. There is also phys ed and extra-curricular activities, such as chess clubs, bands, art clubs, basketball, volleyball and baseball. In all those instances, children are learning new things, as well as how to get along with others and how to cope in the world.

Plus, let’s not forget there are opportunities for parents to volunteer and get to know their child’s teachers and what goes on in their child’s school day to day.

I frequently hear non-teachers talking about the entitlement attitude of today’s teachers. That too bothers me and I say so regularly. However, how many parents, in the midst of such complaining, will also tell you that they like and appreciate their own children’s teachers?

In the U.S., under President Obama, teachers have been fired for low standardized test results that measure so little of what students are actually learning. As Peter Greene says in his Huff Post column: “What about identifying schools that need help? Is the data used to help those schools? Not unless by ‘help’ you mean ‘close’ or ‘take over’ or ‘strip of resources so students can go to a charter instead.’ Our [the U.S.] current system does not identify schools for help; it identifies schools for punishment.”

Anyway, check out this video and list of reasons the Ontario elementary teachers union (ETFO) recommends a random sampling approach, as opposed to 100% standardized participation in the various grades affected. It is why I somewhat agree with their complaints about EQAO standardized testing. There really are other methods of evaluation that would be more helpful to parents.