Thursday, July 24, 2008

What Happens When Ken DeRosa Assumes?

To review, Ken DeRosa, with the purest of intentions, decided to survey the Science Leadership Academy Family Night Curriculum Book. To everyone's surprise, he was deeply disappointed with the first example of student work he found and decided to write a post enumerating the flaws in the assignment's design and the student's writing.

DeRosa's critique of the assignment is based on how he imagines the Dred Scott decision ought to be taught in a US History class. Had he asked before writing his missive, or bothered to read the History and Social Studies section of the Curriculum Guide, he would have known that his entire frame for critiquing the assignment was incorrect, because this was not an assignment for a US History class (taken in 11th grade at SLA), but an African-American History class. In this context, what is important is the decision's impact on African-Americans and the abolitionist movement, not the balance of power in the great game between the North and the South in which the African-Americans are seen as mere pawns. Perhaps in 11th grade US History, the pre-war balance of power dynamic will be emphasized.

I would note that Chris Lehmann told me that he left a comment on Ken's blog explaining this oversight on Ken's part, but for whatever reason, that comment has not been published as of this date.

Beyond Ken's unhappiness of the framing of the decision and the assignment, his criticism of the student work itself is not based on any knowledge of the kind of work 14 year olds typically do. As a piece of writing, the letter in question would stand up admirably against the anchor papers used in any 9th grade writing assessment in the country, if not the world. DeRosa never questions the accuracy of the student's historical information.

I have no doubt that, given accurate and complete information, that Ken DeRosa could not find plenty to kvetch about at SLA. Teaching African-American History to all ninth graders, for example. Or the poster... A POSTER, that is the second piece of student work in the curriculum guide. What is clear is that to DeRosa, the facts, any objective evidence, and are beside the point. Guessing and attacking the first thing he sees is sufficient.

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