The War of 1812, as an example of bullying

Meanwhile, in Ontario, it’s 1969.

Ontario’s government is conducting a sweeping review of curriculum from Grades 1 to 8 to fix what educators charge is an overcrowded jumble of disconnected facts that fail to prepare the province’s 1.4 million students for the future.

Based on tough input gathered this fall from teachers and school boards, Queen’s Park says it will start clearing the clutter by the fall of 2011 with leaner guidelines, fewer checklists of facts and more time for deeper learning.

It is the first overhaul designed to weed out some of the staggering 3,400 “expectations” built into the new curriculum designed 10 years ago when Grade 13 was abolished.

So Ontario’s teachers and school boards think the curriculum is too demanding, too full of “expectations” and “facts.” Do Ontario’s parents? The story never mentions them. Not even once.

…. A tough-talking missive from the Toronto District School Board … called the curriculum “a series of overly robust subject-based documents which are disconnected, overwhelming and full of content reflective of 20th century knowledge. “The curriculum does not engage students within their own realities, nor does it integrate the skills society hopes to see in a 21st-century learner,” said the recent submission by a group of principals, teachers, superintendents and trustees.

I have no idea what “engaging students within their own realities” means. Luckily, a helpful educrat is nearby to make sense of it all:

Karen Grose, the board’s system superintendent, said it no longer makes sense to try to cram piles of facts into young minds.

“Our kids live in a world where they are immersed in content through things like Twitter and Google, so we don’t want them memorizing facts they can access easily, but we want them to think about how to apply that knowledge, and how it affects how they live as citizens and workers,” said Grose.

They don’t need to learn facts! They can get those from Twitter! Because, after all, it’s about the kids. Or maybe the teachers:

Education Minister Kathleen Wynne said the review was sparked by years of complaints she has heard that the curriculum is overcrowded with material teachers scramble to cover.

But lest you think knowledge minus facts equals ignorance, nothing could be further than the truth.

“We’re not saying we don’t want kids to study the War of 1812, but let’s lift that subject to the ‘big idea’ of war in the current global context,” [Grose] said…

Thinning out the curriculum does not mean dumbing it down, said Toronto trustee Cathy Dandy, one of the authors of the TDSB’s submission. By spending less time teaching the small details of individual wars, said Dandy, it frees up more time to “weave it into a larger discussion of war and peace and conflict and even bullying.”

A prediction: twenty years from now, some future government will discover that they have ruined the education of a generation of children, as the “reforms” of the 1960s and 70s ruined mine. Then we will repeat the cycle all over again.

EXTRA CREDIT: The Society for Quality Education weighs in on Ontario’s new fact-free curriculum:

Ontario’s Liberal Party has been making very little progress towards fulfilling their promise that 75% of the province’s students will pass the provincial tests, even though the government has been throwing money at this problem for years…

Right. So if students can’t pass the tests, then either we teach them better, or …

The … tests are based on the curriculum. If the curriculum gets easier, the tests get easier. And, if the tests get easier, more students will be able to pass them. In other words, dumbing down the curriculum makes it more likely that the Liberal Party will be able to keep its 75% promise (albeit several years late) and get re-elected. A happy ending for all concerned, except of course the students who end up learning less.

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