Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Plane of Core Knowledge

My sense that rhetoric about Core Knowledge is slightly unhinged from reality was reinforced by a perusal of their list of K-8 schools, which features... the Providence Public Schools. While I can understand why they'd like to take credit for the stunning successes of the PPSD, I think they mean the slightly more posh Providence Academy.

Also, I'm just unfamiliar with this type of practice they like to rail against:

The students became experts at spotting an author's "purpose," an exercise that's a staple on state tests. But the text they were asked to decipher was often a meaningless story — what Perlstein dubbed "random knowledge" — rather than real-world information about, say, ancient Egypt or the Civil War — building blocks for understanding today's world.

Really? People do that? Why? It certainly isn't progressive education as I understand it. Bad test prep, perhaps, but whose fault is that?

Looking at their website, they really seem more excited about phonics than knowledge. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

And the later grade lesson plans, which I can relate to my own experience more easily, seem, well, not that unusual, although it is also unclear if they got the "learning styles don't exist" memo; e.g., an activity from the second lesson I looked at, an 8th grade lesson on the Cold War:

D. Procedures/Activities 1. Review reading from previous day. Answer any questions 2. Gather the class outside around a slight down hill slope. (This can also be done with a tub of water, a wide board, and some clay.) Using a pitcher, pour the water down the incline, and ask the students what they see. Responses will vary. 3. Now using some dirt or clay create some barriers or walls and then pour the water down the incline. Again ask the students what they noticed. 4. Back in the classroom, discuss the differences between the two different pours. Guide the discussion towards the United States policy of containment. The United States felt that if communism was allowed to move freely, it would take over what ever it wanted, but if the spread of Communism was obstructed, like the wall of dirt or clay, it would have to fight to take over an area, or even leave it be. 5. Give the students information on the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan (orally). Explain that these were attempts to stop the spread of Communism. 6. Have them read Chapter 5 in All the People and write a short response essay connecting the building of barriers to attempts of the US to stop the spread of Communism.

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