As curriculum coordinator for middle school social studies, I am having a hard time with Mr. Keller’s op-ed about history education in The Jet Jotter on 01/28/20. As a parent of one boy who is into math and science, and another into reading and history, I have a problem. I’m all for free speech and freedom of the press, but I think a line is crossed when one faculty member openly, publicly, and in print dismisses and calls out an entire subject in school as a fraud and pointless.
I could make the argument, why study chemistry, unless I become a chemist? Why study biology, unless I become a doctor? Why read novels or plays, unless I become a literary critic or author myself? Calculus? Who needs that? Do I need to go to P.E.?
The point is, kids go to school to learn stuff – some of it is applicable in life, some of it isn’t. School should pique their curiosity, make them hunger for knowledge. Some skills are applicable, some of it is written knowledge, or just plain stuff you should know. It is OK to have to memorize things – formulas, dates, prose, etc. Whatever they learn, it serves to expand their minds, open them up to possibilities they have never heard of before. Learning opens new doors to something they may have never considered – be it a new way of thinking, or a career possibility.
Mr. Keller’s idea that all social studies should be civics-action projects is a nice idea, but it leaves far too much open to personal and political agendas. Who decides what is a worthy project? Does someone get to object to a project because it does not align with their political ideology?
There is a certain work-ethic instilled at school. A little stress every now and then, in school, studying, is a good thing. In life, maybe your grades don’t count, but the resiliency, grit, and coping skills you develop in school most definitely help you later in life when it does matter.
All academic subjects, all performing arts, all electives – all of school – gives kids an opportunity to find their own niche or interests. This is why it’s a shame that Longmeadow eliminated shop classes and home economics. Offering a broad assortment of subjects, skills, and activities is what accomplishes that. Just because one teacher does not see the value in a colleague’s area of expertise is not a reason to dismiss it. That subject you dismiss might be the one thing that a kid finds the most interesting. That said, dismissing or eliminating from schools is really taking away from the kids.
Williams Middle School