Thursday, April 15, 2004

Standards elsewhere 

The Alabama Scholars Association has contributed to the creation of new social science standards.
The examples of prominent blacks in history were almost all in athletics, entertainment, or civil rights. Hardly any were included for business or science. There were other weaknesses too. Despite the world-shaking impact of 9-11, the document virtually ignored the role of Islam as a religion.

The discussion of key founding documents was often superficial. It said little about individuals who influenced the Declaration of Independence, such as John Locke, or the underlying principles of unalienable rights and consent of the governed. It was entirely silent on important parts of the Constitution, such as the second, ninth, and tenth amendments.

The questions dealing with the human impact on the environment almost always stressed negative examples such as oil spills.

It said nothing about the importance of evaluating students through consistent and rigorous grading standards.
So ASA created a committee and worked with the state's education department to get some improvements. Some, but not all.
Unfortunately, despite the repeated urging of our committee, the Alabama Scholars Association, the Eagle Forum and several board members, the COS committee and the Board of Education rejected an amendment to require students to read the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution as original primary documents.

The proposal lost by a single vote because Governor Riley, a member of the Board, left the meeting before the vote. We can not understand why the Board rejected this common sense amendment.

Many defenders of the status quo argue that teachers will assign the founding documents anyway but our experience in several years of teaching introductory courses at the University of Alabama indicates otherwise. We often find that students have not read either the Declaration or Constitution before entering freshmen classes.
Riley, a R(INO)epublican, has also led a fight for tax increases using rather aggressive tactics. What's worth reading in the document from ASA is the relative quiet in which the Course of Study was debated and decided. A marked change from here.