Cultural Critic. African American Studies Scholar. Author. Educator.
Here you'll find papers I've written or presented on the subject of education.  Please send me your comments and questions.  Add to, or challenge my perspective - I welcome it!  Really! J        ©2010  Kim L. Dulaney
 
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Cultural Relevance Project

African-American and Latino students consistently obtain lower scores on standardized tests at all educational levels. They have lower attendance rates, lower passing rates, lower graduation rates, lower college matriculation rates, and higher drop-out rates than their white counterparts (Haycock, 1999). These inequities increase even as the proportion of racial and ethnic minorities is growing in American public schools. The explanations given for the low achievement of poor and minority students are varied, but increasingly research has shown that these students are not offered equal or even adequate opportunity to learn in American public schools (Datnow, 2002).

 

For a five year cohort that ended at the end of the 2009 school year, Chicago Public schools had a drop-out rate of 54.5 % for African American male students and 46.9 % for Hispanic male Students (See Appendix A). Despite Illinois’ efforts to mandate school attendance by raising the high school dropout age from 16 to 17 in 2004, Chicago dropout rates have remained at about 50% for its minority students. This dropout rate is alarming. It has strong negative implications for the students, the communities from which they come, and for society in general. 

Need and Situation Analysis

When a student drops out of school, the consequences or effects are far-reaching. Their wage earning potential is drastically reduced. When a student leaves school prematurely he/she is not afforded the average skill set required to be competitive in a technology-driven society. At best, the average student without a diploma will earn an average of $9,000 less per year, and $260,000 less over a lifetime than a high school graduate. The earnings difference between a high school dropout and a person with a bachelor’s degree is more than $1,000,000, according to the U. S. Bureau of the Census. The unemployment rate for dropouts is 1.5 times greater than that of high school graduates and more than three times greater than that of people with bachelor’s degrees. 

Additionally, there are startling statistics regarding high school dropouts related to incarceration. The probability that a high school dropout will end up in jail or prison is eight times greater than it is for a high school graduate, according to The Silent Epidemic, a 2006 report by the public policy firm Civic Enterprises. The U.S. Department of Education reports that half of death row inmates are high school dropouts, and more than three quarters of state inmates are dropouts.

    The negative consequences of high school dropouts are not solely personal. The civic and economic losses are pervasive and profound. Research shows that people who drop out of school are more likely to be poor, have poor health, and get divorced. These consequences can qualify as personal effects. However, there are universal effects, which are shared by all citizens. As a result of their limited wage-earning potential “dropouts cost the public an estimated $24 billion each year in crime, food stamps, housing assistance, and TANF benefits” (Thorstensen, 2005). 

Dropouts occurs at almost every school in the United States, however a small population of about 12% of America’s high schools have a concentration of half of all dropouts and two-thirds of minority dropouts (ICF, 2009). These high concentrations make a strong case for targeted interventions. Considering the many negative effects that result from the lack of completing high school, Chicago has to focus on innovative school reform in order to sustain its viability. The city has to find alternative education models that meet the needs of the huge population of students who are currently failing, and whose failure ultimately costs the city revenue.

The Particular Problem

            In the book Response to Intervention: A Practical Guide for Every Teacher, the authors William Bender and Cara Shores write about the disproportionate numbers of African American students who are classified as having learning disabilities of some sort. They have determined there is an inaccurate over-classification. They attribute the over-classification to many small inadequacies and misaligned structures stemming from one basic theme – culture. They write “The question of why African American students are placed in special education in disproportionate numbers speaks to the uniqueness of African American students, as well as to educators’ ignorance of the subcultural issues facing this population.” They further explain that “… the school as a system is responsible for the African American student’s learning and, as a result, must deal with the child’s unique and distinctive needs.” This opinion is echoed by many scholars in the field of education. Evidence shows that educators of African American students in African American communities must have knowledge of the community norms and must be keenly aware of the position of their specific community within the larger society, in order to have success with the students from that community population (Foster, 1994). Few would argue against the fact that gender, ethnicity, and social class are powerful realities that affect perceptions, meanings, and existence (Datnow, 1998).

            This information does not present a new phenomenon occurring in schools, nor is it newly exposed subjugated knowledge. The problem is simply the fact that there has not yet existed a school reform movement that directly and pervasively addressed the issue of culture. In his review of the history of educational change Michael Fullan claims there has not been much progress since the 1960’s. Innovations were adopted, large-scale reforms were enacted with a focus on accountability, pressure was applied, language and simple structures were adjusted, and yet, the Unites States is “losing ground”. The economic gaps between the have and the have-nots, as well as the education gaps have been widening over the past ten years.  

The factors reinforcing the status quo are systemic. The current system is held together in many cross-cutting ways. Confronting the isolation and privatism of education systems is a tall order. It requires intensive action sustained over several years to make it possible both physically and attitudinally for teachers to work naturally together in joint planning; observation of one another’s practice; and seeking, testing, and revising teaching strategies on a continuous basis. Reform is not just putting into place the latest policy.  It means changing cultures of classrooms, schools, districts, universities, and so on… Solutions must come through the development of shared meaning (Fullan, 2007).

Cultural Relevance Reform Strategy Conceptualization

Education is a service industry and it must be recognized as such. If a company does not effectively or satisfactorily service more than half of its clients, the company will ultimately go out of business. This is exactly what is happening. Charter schools and select-enrollment specialty schools are quickly gaining clients which are loss by Chicago Public Schools. The clients are dissatisfied and are seeking options. However, not all students and parents can easily relocate to new schools. In fact, the bulk of the students in Chicago are still enrolled in Chicago Public Schools (CPS). As a service industry CPS can not simply disregard its client base while it waits in a sort of abeyance to be taken over or restructured under a Charter School program.  The clients must be serviced now.

Pursuant to the No Child Left Behind Act, CPS is encumbered with numerous mandates, training and practice reform policies, performance benchmarks, etc. The last thing educators need is another requirement demanding more paperwork or technical training. The cultural relevance program would deal more with the sociocultural elements in the school. A co-construction process with a capacity-building focus would be used to create and implement this program. 

The goal of the program would be to remove the cultural barriers that impede academic success. The basic premise is to revise the school culture of each individual school so that it reflects the culture of the population it is paid to serve. It is not a difficult task.  It is logical and sensible. Every business or industry has a target market on which they focus. They develop marketing tools, create store settings and atmospheres using certain colors, designs, and music.   They make deliberate decisions about their product brand based on what they know about the target market. The educational goals and standards will not be adjusted. The packaging of that which is used to facilitate the education will be altered to give the students and community a sense of ownership and relevance within the school building and the educational programs. Education is a service industry. It should be made to accommodate and appeal to its client base. Once the changes are made and the clients see their culture and themselves reflected and respected, they will consequently support the vision and mission, which is student learning.  The concept is simple common sense and it has proven to be effective. The whole idea is to use dignity and respect as a source of motivation for all involved in or with the school. 

The most profound example of a reform model that has totally embraced the student’s culture as the lead influence of its school culture is Urban Prep school in Chicago. Urban Prep has 100% African American student population. All of the mentors at the school are African American. Ninety percent of the teachers and administrators are African American, and the school culture distinctly resembles that of a traditional African village – the culture is communal, and involves mentoring, support, and rituals, and it is all anchored in an extreme focus on morals and values. While this model has worked successfully for Urban Prep, it is not practical to think that schools can or should be completely segregated by race throughout the city. Politically, there is bound to be trouble. The claim of reverse racism might immerge at some point. A shortage of teachers and administrators from specific ethnic groups might not be readily available, or might not desire to transfer from their current appointment. Leaders developing leaders is the key factor to balancing and sustaining diverse culture-centered programs. However, during the initial stages, the best situation that can be universally achieved is for the faculty and staff to be culturally competent in direct alignment with their students, and culturally sensitive to the unique needs and understandings of its clients. 

Operationalization of the Cultural Relevance Reform Strategy

            This reform program is not rigid or technical in nature. It is not an event; it is a process. In effort to be organic it requires relationship building, intermingling and socialization with the students and their parents. A basic development and implementation process can be assumed.  

  Phase I   

        A. Research

           1. Formal Research

           2. Casual Conversation - ongoing

* (Talk to the students, parents, and organizations in the community)

B. Training

   1. Staff Development

    *Presentations

    *Movies, Books, and Art (all produced by members of the culture)

   Phase II

         A. Physical adaptation          

            1. Building

            2. Classroom

              B. Curriculum

                 1. Pictures

                 2. Terms

                 3. Examples

              C. Special Programs and Events

                 *Decorations, snacks, events, music, rituals

   Phase III

A.    Content

1. Seek culturally specific texts and materials

B.     Community

1.      Attend Community Events

2.      Host or work in conjunction with community
 

                Operationalization

TASK      

ACTIVITY

ACTION

AGENT

RESOURCE

PHASE I

Research

Formal Research

Gather facts

Faculty, staff, administrators

Internet, books, documentaries, local community organizations

Informal Research

Gather facts, gauge feelings and dispositions regarding various people and topics, etc.

Faculty, staff, administrators

Students, parents, culture originated media commentary

Training

Staff Development

Presentation of one pertinent fact, unique characteristic, or culturally specific perspective or interpretation

Each employee in the facility

Must originate from a source from within the culture: People, books, film, etc.

Observations

Faculty, staff, and administrators on a voluntary basis

Sources outside of the school building (which include representatives from the culture): community events, seminars, conferences, etc.

PHASE II

Physical Adaptation

Building

Decorate the school building: hang art, put up posters, use particular fabrics and patterns on displays, design the layout in common areas with cultural considerations 

Administrators and staff

Teachers supply stores, local artists, student artist, poster companies, local arts & craft or dollar stores

Classrooms

Teachers

Curriculum

Adaptation

Culturally Contextualize Lessons

Incorporate pictures, terms, and examples from the culture into the lesson (make sure that the images are favorable and empowering representations of the students)

Teachers

Internet, books, documentaries, local community organizations; Students, parents, culture originated media commentary; Must originate from a source from within the culture: People, books, film, etc.; Sources outside of the school building (which include representatives from the culture): community events, seminars, conferences, etc.; Teachers supply stores, local artists, student artist, poster companies, local arts & craft or dollar stores

Special Programs & Events

Culturally Contextualize Existing Programs and Events

Incorporate decorations, snacks, music, and rituals into existing programs and event celebrations

Teachers, staff, and administrators

Students, parents

Formally Recognize Major Culture-related Events, Days, and People

Add school-wide celebrations and popular rituals

Teachers, staff, and administrators

Students, parents

PHASE III

Content / Curriculum

Culturally Contextualize Teaching Material

Seek and purchase culturally-specific supplementary texts and materials

Teachers and administrators

Teacher Supply Stores, internet, publishers, conferences, etc.

Community

Focus on Capacity-building: build a relationship with the community

Attend community events

Teachers and administrators

Neighborhood newspapers, postings in local stores, the park district, students, parents, and community organizations

Host and co-host community events and organizations: provide school space and student participation resources

School Principal or President ONLY(The school must be very careful with the legality of these actions)

Students, parents, and local organizations

 

The program must be actuated with total regard for the authentic incorporation of the students’ cultural persuasions and perspectives. Therefore, care must be taken to locate perspectives and understandings that are organic to the population, as opposed to the broader society’s interpretations and approximations. The client is to be respected, appreciated, and celebrated, evidenced by the images, references, and reflected understandings germane to the distinct population segment the school serves. Finally, and most importantly, in the past “Educator’s beliefs are a fundamentally important cultural consideration, because they often constitute people’s actions. Educators’ and policymakers ideologies about ability, race, language, social class, and most fundamentally, education strongly influenced how they implemented reforms... belief systems became enablers... and served as a constraint to the reform” (Datnow, 2007). To properly service the students, all decision makers and persons who are involved with the school must completely commit to the Cultural Relevance Reform Program. If a person finds that they can not, or are not willing to be supportive of the culture of the students and the cultural adaptations in the school, the person must be disassociated from the school completely. This disassociation can be facilitated by means of transfer, or ultimately, when all else fails, termination.  

 

References

 

Datnow, A. Stringfield, S., McHugh, B. and Hacker, D. (1998). “Scaling up the Core Knowledge Sequence”, Education and Urban Society, 30, 3: 409-432.

 

Datnow, A., Hubbard, L., and Mehan, H. (2002). Extending educational reform: From one school to many. RoutledgeFalmer: NY, New York.

              

Fullan, M., (2007). The New Meaning of Educational Change. Teachers College, Columbia University.

 

Porowski, A. (2009). Transforming dropout prevention policy and practice. ICF International, www.icfi.com

 

Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC.

http://nces.ed.gov

(2005). Study provides early indicators of high-school dropout risks. Black Issues in Higher Education, 22(12), 8.

(2009). Urban Prep 2009 annual report. Urban Prep Academies. Chicago, IL. www.urbanprep.org

(2010). Office of performance, 6/23/10. Chicago Public Schools. June 23, 2010. http://research.cps.k12.il.us/cps/accountweb/Reports/citywide.html

(2010). Urban Prep 2009/2010 student handbook. Urban Prep Academies. Chicago, IL. www.urbanprep.org

  

Appendix A

 

Taken from Chicago Public Schools Office of Performance posting on the CPS website.

 

 

5-Year Cohort Dropout Rates

5-Year Cohort Graduation Rates

 

1999

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

1999

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

CITYWIDE

50.1

50.5

50.2

50.2

48.4

46.9

44.7

44

41.6

42.5

42.5

47

47.2

47.2

47

48.4

50.1

52

52.7

55.1

54.3

54.5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

GENDER

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Female

42.2

43.2

42.9

42.4

40.3

37.8

36.6

35.8

33.2

35.2

35

55.7

55.3

55.5

55.6

57.3

60.1

60.8

61.8

64.5

62.5

62.8

Male

57.8

57.3

57

57.3

56

55.1

52.3

51.6

49.8

49.7

49.8

38.6

39.5

39.2

39.1

40

40.9

43.7

44.3

46

46.2

46.3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

RACE/ETHNICITY

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Asian

21.8

21.7

24.3

21.2

22

24.3

24.6

24.6

21.3

22.6

22

77.6

77.4

75.1

77.5

75.8

74.3

75.1

74.6

77.4

76.4

77.2

Black

53.3

54.7

53.9

54.2

52

51

49

48.1

45.4

45.3

46.1

43.2

42.6

43

42.8

44.5

45.6

46.9

48.3

50.9

51

50.6

Hispanic

47.6

47.3

47

48.2

46.1

43.8

41.4

41.1

39.6

41.7

40.7

49.8

50.3

50.5

48.5

50.6

52.9

55.8

55.5

57.2

55

56.2

Nat Am

59.6

68.8

58.6

49

51.8

46.4

42.9

41.3

47.1

34

54.4

40.4

31.3

40

49

46.4

51.8

53.6

58.7

52.9

60.4

45.6

White

46.9

44.1

46.4

44.3

44.4

41.6

39.8

37.8

35.8

36.4

35.3

52

54.8

52.2

54

54

56.8

58.3

60.2

62.2

62.1

62.8

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

RACE/ETHNICITY AND GENDER

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Asian Female

17.1

18.1

19.5

16.5

17.6

18.8

17.5

17.8

15.3

18.1

17.5

82.5

81.7

80

82.6

81.2

80.2

82.3

81.2

82.8

81.3

82

Asian Male

26.1

24.9

28.5

25

26

29.4

31.1

30.6

26.7

26.9

26.7

73.1

73.5

70.7

73.2

70.9

69

68.6

68.7

72.4

71.7

72.4

Black Female

44.1

46.5

45.5

45.5

43.6

40.6

40.1

38.5

35.7

36.9

37.5

53.2

51.9

52.7

52.4

53.9

57.2

56.8

58.9

61.7

60.6

60

Black Male

62.5

62.9

62.1

62.6

60.5

60.8

57.5

57.3

55

53.8

54.5

33.2

33.3

33.4

33.6

35.1

34.9

37.4

38.2

40.3

41.4

41.3

Hispanic Female

41.6

40.4

40.9

41.1

37.5

36.2

34.2

34.6

31.7

35.3

34.2

56.7

57.9

57.5

56.6

59.7

61.8

63.5

63

66.1

61.9

63.8

Hispanic Male

53.2

53.4

52.6

54.4

53.7

50.6

48

46.9

47

47.9

46.9

43.5

43.6

44.1

41.5

42.5

44.9

48.7

48.6

48.9

48.2

48.9

Nat Am Female

56.5

63.2

60

52.9

43.3

40.6

34.5

36

52.4

30

35.7

43.5

36.8

40

47.1

56.7

59.4

58.6

64

47.6

70

64.3

Nat Am Male

62.5

72.4

57.1

46.9

61.5

54.2

51.9

47.6

43.3

39.1

72.4

37.5

27.6

40

50

34.6

41.7

48.1

52.4

56.7

47.8

27.6

White Female

39.7

39.3

40.3

37.3

37.8

34.5

32.1

30.5

30.4

31

30.5

59.4

60.2

58.5

61.2

61.1

64.4

66.3

67.3

68.3

68

68.2

White Male

53.8

48.4

52

50.6

50.1

47.8

46.9

44.1

41.1

41.3

40.2

45

49.8

46.4

47.5

48

50.2

50.9

54

56.4

56.7

57.3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES OR 504 PLANS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yes

61.4

64.5

63.9

61.5

55.8

56.2

53

53.3

49.7

51

49

33.1

31.7

31.9

33.9

37.4

36.7

39.9

40.4

43.2

41.8

43.8

No

48.6

48.5

48.2

48.3

47.1

45

43

41.9

39.9

40.6

41

48.8

49.3

49.4

49.1

50.4

52.7

54.5

55.5

57.7

57

56.9

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

STUDENTS CURRENTLY OR FORMERLY IN ENGLISH LANGUAGE LEARNER PROGRAMS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yes

 

 

 

 

 

37.4

33.2

33.8

37.2

39.3

38.5

 

 

 

 

 

59.6

64

63

59.8

57.6

58.5

No

 

 

 

 

 

51.5

50

48.8

44.1

44.1

44.6

 

 

 

 

 

45.4

46.4

47.9

52.4

52.6

52.3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

STUDENTS ELIGIBLE FOR FREE/REDUCED PRICE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yes

 

 

47.4

47.9

46

44.4

42.5

42.3

39.2

40.1

39.6

 

 

49.7

48.9

50.5

52.2

53.6

54

57.2

56.2

57

No

 

 

58.3

57.3

56.6

55.4

52.1

49.8

50

50.9

52.6

 

 

39.8

41.1

41.5

42.9

46.5

48.4

48.3

47.4

45.8

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

###################################################### 

Urban Prep Education Model:
Educational Change Program Analysis

 

Kim L. Dulaney

August, 2010

 

            There is a new movement occurring in the field of education among Chicago High Schools. The movement is called Urban Prep and it could be the solution to the educational issues plaguing Chicago’s Black male high school student population. If proven successful, the Urban Prep model could be scaled up, altered, and adapted to benefit school systems and students at various levels around the world. This year Urban Prep will open its third campus. In just a few short years Urban Prep has developed into, and proven itself to be a model worthy of recognition and possible replication.

Urban Prep History

Tim King, the founder and president of Urban Prep Academies formerly served as the president of Hales Franciscan High School (Hales). Hales is located in Chicago and is a Catholic high school for males. The student population is predominantly African American.  Under King’s leadership Hales’ graduates boasted a record 100% college acceptance. A couple of years after Tim King left Hales he founded Urban Prep Academies. 

Urban Prep Academies is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization which was founded in 2002. The organization opened Urban Prep Charter Academy for Young Men (Urban Prep) in 2006. Urban Prep is a single-sex charter school located in the predominantly Black, economically disadvantaged Englewood community on the south side of Chicago, Illinois. It is the first public charter high school for boys in the United States. The school is partly state-funded and services a population of 450 African American male students. Eighty-five percent of the students are from single-parent households. An astounding ninety percent of the teachers and all of the school leaders are African American men. Urban Prep addresses the complex needs of the students with a unique model of curriculum, timetables, and staff recruitment, and a definitive culture of confidence and success. In response to Chicago Public Schools’ Renaissance 2010 Request for Proposals, Urban Prep Academies submitted applications to open two additional Chicago area schools: one in East Garfield Park, and one in South Shore. Both proposals were approved by the Chicago Board of Education. The second school opened in 2009. The third school opens in the Fall of 2010.

Rationale of the Project

“Almost one million students who start ninth grade each year will not earn a diploma four years later. That’s one of every four students. For African American and Latino students, it’s closer to one in three” (Hall, 2007). When a student drops out of school, the consequences or effects are far-reaching. Their wage earning potential is drastically reduced. When a student leaves school prematurely he/she is not afforded the average skill set required to be competitive in a technology-driven society. At best, the average student without a diploma will earn an average of $9,000 less per year, and $260,000 less over a lifetime than a high school graduate. The earnings difference between a high school dropout and a person with a bachelor’s degree is more than $1,000,000, according to the U. S. Bureau of the Census. The unemployment rate for dropouts is 1.5 times greater than that of high school graduates and more than three times greater than that of people with bachelor’s degrees. 

Additionally, there are startling statistics regarding high school dropouts related to incarceration. The probability that a high school dropout will end up in jail or prison is eight times greater than it is for a high school graduate, according to The Silent Epidemic, a 2006 report by the public policy firm Civic Enterprises. The U.S. Department of Education reports that half of death row inmates are high school dropouts, and more than three quarters of state inmates are dropouts.

            The negative consequences of high school dropouts are not solely personal. The civic and economic losses are pervasive and profound. Research shows that people who drop out of school are more likely to be poor, have poor health, and get divorced. These consequences can qualify as personal effects. However, there are universal effects, which are shared by all citizens. As a result of their limited wage-earning potential “dropouts cost the public an estimated $24 billion each year in crime, food stamps, housing assistance, and TANF benefits” (Thorstensen, 2005). 

Dropouts occurs at almost every school in the United States, however a small population of about 12% of America’s high schools have a concentration of half of all dropouts and two-thirds of minority dropouts (ICF, 2009). These high concentrations make a strong case for targeted interventions. Some factors that cause students to drop out include “poverty, low achievement, teen parenting, urban location, gender (male), and race/ethnicity (minorities)” (ICF, 2009). Chicago is one of the target areas that warrants urgent, special intervention. According to Chicago Public Schools Office of Performance, for the 5 year cohort ending in the year 2009, Chicago’s Black male students had a dropout rate of 54.5%. More than half of the African American males in Chicago schools don’t graduate from high school. Considering the many negative effects that result from the lack of completing high school, Chicago has to focus on school reform in order to sustain its viability. The city has to find alternative education models that meet the needs of the huge population of students who are currently failing, and whose failure ultimately costs the city revenue.

Cultural Considerations

            In the book Response to Intervention: A Practical Guide for Every Teacher, the authors William Bender and Cara Shores write about the disproportionate numbers of African American students who are classified as having learning disabilities of some sort. They have determined there is an inaccurate over-classification. They attribute the over-classification to many small inadequacies and misaligned structures stemming from one basic theme – culture. They write “The question of why African American students are placed in special education in disproportionate numbers speaks to the uniqueness of African American students, as well as to educators’ ignorance of the subcultural issues facing this population.” They further explain that “… the school as a system is responsible for the African American student’s learning and, as a result, must deal with the child’s unique and distinctive needs.” This opinion is echoed by many scholars in the field of education. Evidence shows that educators of African American students in African American communities must have knowledge of the community norms and must be keenly aware of the position of their specific community within the larger society, in order to have success with the students from that community population (Foster, 1994). Few would argue against the fact that gender, ethnicity, and social class are powerful realities that affect perceptions, meanings, and existence (Datnow, 1998).

            To sum up the rationale for the Urban Prep project and for deliberate cultural considerations in developing the project one must simply examine the history of educational change. In his review of the history of educational change Michael Fullan claims there has not been much progress since the 1960’s. Innovations were adopted, large-scale reforms were enacted with a focus on accountability, pressure was applied, language and simple structures were adjusted, and yet, the Unites States is “losing ground”. The economic gaps between the have and the have-nots, as well as the education gaps have been widening over the past ten years.   A Fullan quote can be used to best articulate the main idea for Urban Prep’s education reform model.

The factors reinforcing the status quo are systemic. The current system is held together in many cross-cutting ways. Confronting the isolation and privatism of education systems is a tall order. It requires intensive action sustained over several years to make it possible both physically and attitudinally for teachers to work naturally together in joint planning; observation of one another’s practice; and seeking, testing, and revising teaching strategies on a continuous basis. Reform is not just putting into place the latest policy. It means changing cultures of classrooms, schools, districts, universities, and so on… Solutions must come through the development of shared meaning (Fullan, 2007).

 

            Urban Prep has recognized the core issues affecting the education of African American males in Chicago and has developed a comprehensive program that is responsive to the needs of that particular population of students. Education is recognized as a communal endeavor. Family and community are fully engaged in the process.

Program Implementation

            Urban Prep began its development with the assembling of a group of African American education, business, and civic leaders who serve on the board of directors for Urban Prep Academies, the non-profit organization responsible for the creation of Urban Prep schools. The board membership includes representatives from institutions of higher learning in Chicago, financial institutions, large corporations and charitable organizations such as the Oprah Winfrey Show, and even a representative from school program that has successfully implemented an unprecedented education reform model (KIPP). The unique compilation of board members is symbolic of the knowledge and financial resources available to, and at the base of the Urban Prep schools. 

The development of an appropriate school culture which promoted positive self-esteem and high achievement was a key factor to the success of the school. The school has a motto, a clearly stated mission, and a statement of its core values. The motto is We Believe. The mission is: to provide a comprehensive, high-quality college-preparatory education to young men that results in graduates succeeding in college. The core values that govern the activities at the school are: accountability, exceptionality, faith, integrity, relentlessness, resilience, selflessness, and solidarity. The school also has creed which was created by Team Up which is comprised of staff members, faculty, and administrators at the school. The creed is recited at the start of each day by all students in a common space.

                                 The Urban Prep Creed

We believe.
We are the young men of Urban Prep.
We are college bound.
We are exceptional-not because we say it, but because we work hard at it.
We will not falter in the face of any obstacle placed before us.
We are dedicated, committed and focused.
We never succumb to mediocrity, uncertainty or fear.
We never fail because we never give up.
We make no excuses.
We choose to live honestly, nonviolently and honorably.
We respect ourselves and, in doing so, respect all people.
We have a future for which we are accountable.
We have a responsibility to our families, community and world.
We are our brothers' keepers.
We believe in ourselves.
We believe in each other.
We believe in Urban Prep.
WE BELIEVE.

The education model at Urban Prep is comprised of four arcs: academic rigor; activities participation (requires students to participate in two school-sponsored activities per year: sports, clubs, etc.), service to the community, and professional and college exposure (students spend one day a week in a professional setting). Urban Prep believes this program to be a comprehensive one that affords students the support they need to prepare to succeed in college. The school claims small class sizes, diverse athletic programs, devoted teachers, positive role models, and an intense focus on reading, writing, and public speaking. The school offers before and after school tutoring. Some school activities include chess club, choir, entrepreneurship club, and a school newspaper. 

Urban Prep has several unique program qualities.   The students have access to laptops during the school year. The school provides each student a list of cell phone numbers for its entire teaching staff. This emphasizes the family and strong support model that exists at the school. Students can call for help from any or all the school faculty and therefore have continuous access and support. The school day is virtually never-ending. The phone number and calls are available for all the inquiries and needs that could not be answered during the extra long structured school day. The school day begins with Community, which is a 20 minute session at the start of the day. Then there are 10 periods which run from 8:30 – 4:30 every day of the week except Wednesday. A 20 minute mentoring (Pride/Men Do Read) period is built into the daily schedule. A Pride is a small group of students assigned to support each other, led by a teacher. On Wednesday’s students are released early, after 7th period to accommodate professional and college exposure appointments. The academics are rigorous. At Urban Prep the credit requirements for promotion include more English than most programs: 4 years of writing and 4 years of literature. The school requires 3 years of language. Also, several of the required courses are pragmatic and more about functional/operational preparation for an academic environment. These are elements of schooling that are oftentimes gained outside of the classroom, in student’s homes or social interactions, in economically advantages populations. Classes such as life skills, technology, and public speaking provide foundational support skills, and ready students for competent and appropriate participation in school settings. 

The school has unusual characteristics in their high school grading policy. Students at Urban Prep can receive a grade of an ‘I’ which stands for incomplete. This is a grade option usually used in a college setting. Urban Prep offers this option as a means to build “resiliency” with its students who may have experienced unavoidable circumstantial disruptions during the normal semester. Students who receive an ‘I’ and have a cumulative numerical grade that falls between 60-69, are given the opportunity to take a Proof of Proficiency Assessment to prove they have obtained proficient knowledge or skills in the subject course. If the students pass the proficiency assessment with a 70 or above, they receive a ‘C’, and thus pass the course. Also, unusual policy provisions apply to a student who receives and ‘F’ for a semester. If the student receives a ‘B’ or better in the second semester of the same course, the student receives a passing grade for both semesters.

 

GRADE EARNED

1st SEMESTER

GRADE EARNED

2ND SEMESTER

CHANGE ON TRANSCRIPT

1ST SEMESTER GRADE

2ND SEMESTER GRADE

F

B

C-

C-

F

B+

C-

C

F

A-

C-

C+

F

A

C-

B-

 

Urban Prep Handbook (2009/2010)

 

This grading provision is also provided to promote “resiliency”, according to the Urban Prep Student Handbook.       

The school has many rules and discipline-related structures. There are vacation restrictions; behavior and peer mediation guidelines; categories and consequences on a scale of infractions; and a formal discipline board which holds actual hearings. Discipline is an extremely factor which greatly affects Urban Prep’s daily functions. The small factors that contribute to discipline issues and academic problems are character traits. The emphasis on character traits is about as weighted as academics.   Nothing is taken for granted. All behavior and character traits are deliberately modeled, shaped, and attended to through the curriculum. The character traits and skills that have been identified as necessary components associated with the school’s mission and values are as follows:

·         Deepened responsibility

·         Improved public speaking

·         Strong reading and writing skills

·         Confidence

·         Interpersonal skills

·         Leadership qualities

·         Respect

·         Understanding of the business world

·         Valuable work experience

·         Reinforced character and leadership development

The four connecting arcs were created to provide a holistic educational experience. Those four arcs included an Academic arc, a Service arc, an Activity arc, and a Professional arc. Activities that are intended to address the core values, skills, and traits were identified and incorporated under the various arcs.

Resistance, Training, and Institutionalization

There is little resistance to the Urban Prep model in Urban Prep schools. The schools assume operation in Chicago Public School (CPS) buildings where the CPS schools have been closed due of poor academic performance. Each school is a new entity within itself. There are no persuasive elements required. Each employee is new to the system and is hand selected because of their abilities and their willingness to embrace The Urban Prep model. They clearly know the demands and understand the commitment required. No person is transferred against his or her wishes. Employees and students opt-in to the Urban Prep model and culture.

Training is public and a continuous process. The goal is to be better, to excel beyond your current and imagined abilities. Since the faculty is primarily of one ethnicity, one primary grounding culture, and one pre-determined meaning and purpose of task or challenge, training begins in a common lane or perspective and the diversity of styles, opinions, and techniques are issues of methodology or practice. A healthy education environment consists of varied experiences, skills, and strengths. It is the ideology that undergirds the actions and practices that usually present the greatest challenges. Those deep elemental ideological differences don’t exist at Urban Prep.       

The ideology is embedded in the school culture and demonstrated routinely in the school’s rituals and pervasively incorporated in the school’s curriculum and subsequent activities. At Urban Prep, WE BELIEVE is an institutionalized concept. It exists in every aspect of Urban Prep’s existence at every Urban Prep campus.

Resources, Management, and Key Roles

            Urban Prep school is under the leadership of Tim King, the school president. It is important to note that Mr. King is not identified as a principal, nor does he have the traditional credentials requires to hold the position of school principal in CPS. A principal is traditionally seen as a manager, supervisor, administrator, facility caretaker, or a planner. The president of the school is more of an instructional leader. His primary role is to encourage, model, and empower the faculty, staff, and students; the additional tasks are secondary. Also, as the leader it is Mr. King’s task to recognize and pull into power the strengths of his faculty and staff. When this task is fulfilled the resultant reality is that everyone in the school is a leader of sort, and the school has a more communal governance than a top-down dictatorship. The key to success in the Urban Prep model is heavily dependent upon each participant fully embracing the culture and committing him/her self to achieving the school’s unified goals. Each individual’s skills and knowledge is used to strengthen the school, and the success of the student’s serves as a management and evaluation mechanism. Adjustments to simple functions at the school are made as warranted. Major changes to the curriculum would have to be approved by the board. Urban Prep is a charter school in the Chicago Public School system and as such its governing principles were determined by the Illinois General Assembly. The Illinois General Assembly Public Act 096-0104 states “a charter school shall be administered and governed by its board of directors or other governing body in the manner provided in its charter.”  

Urban Prep has a uniquely diverse group of board members, each bringing great strength, power, and resources from its affiliation with a major institution. As a result, Urban Prep’s knowledge pool and networking capacity benefits the school greatly. Additionally, since Urban Prep is the first school of its kind, with attention garners from the United States President, media, and education reformers, its popularity serves as a resource in and of itself. Many educators and volunteers are willing to work at the school, even with the extenuating circumstances and demands simply to be a part of the historic movement or model initiation. Urban Prep also has participation from the community in the form of a speaker’s series, where once a month a successful person from the community comes to speak to the students.  The donor, list which is published in Urban Prep’s Annual Report, is extensive. This signifies that people are impressed with the school’s performance and they support the school model.

Intended and Unintended Results / Evaluation

            To date, the 2010 one hundred percent college acceptance rate of the inaugural Urban Prep class has been its evaluation source. The program is successful. It has fulfilled its intended goals, at least as much as is possible at this stage in the school’s operation. Urban Prep’s mission’s inherent goals are 1) to ensure that students graduate from high school and 2) to have fostered in students the growth and development of skills and traits needed to have a successful academic collegiate career. After four years, the school has succeeded in the first part of its mission. Four more years are needed before a determination can be made regarding the success of the complete program and its intended goals. By the time the school model is in position to be judged on the totality of its efforts there will be far more information available to provide for a comprehensive evaluation of all the elements of the program. 

            The evaluation criteria for the program should include the effectiveness, efficiency, and sustainability. The intended results are apparent in the school’s clearly articulated mission, core values, and creed. However, what about the mechanisms that support those results? How effective and efficient are they, and how long can it all last? There are several areas to be concerned with in analysis of this program.

 

Areas of Concern
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              Urban Prep has a grading policy that adapts to what is perceived to be the student’s needs. The ‘I’ and first semester ‘F’ policies are not traditional public school policies. In the student handbook Urban Prep makes the claim that this sort of second chance grading will build resiliency in its students and to keep the students on track with their initial graduation schedules. This major effort and grade accommodation practice designed to benefit the students might actually compromise the academic integrity of the school. Under such extreme pressure to keep the students on promotion schedule teachers might be moved to result to a practice referred to as “grade loading.” This is a practice where teachers give students higher grades than they have actually earned. This possibility lends itself to the question of college readiness. What will be the student’s score on a standardized assessment like the ACT exam? In 2009, Urban Prep’s Annual Report claimed the average ACT score of its students was 15.4. This compares to a national average of 16.4, and a local or neighborhood average of 13.4. Which institutes of higher learning are the students being accepted into? How will the students perform when there are no adjustments made to meet their particular needs? The same question applies to college. What happens when the college grading policies do not afford the same adjustments the students were entitled to in high school? Urban Prep  has incorporated these issues into its planning by providing both personal and college counseling during enrollment at Urban Prep schools, and the school promises post graduate support throughout their students’ collegiate careers.

            The second issue of concern is the efficiency of the program. What is the cost in time and finances? It can be said that the faculty makes a life commitment to the school’s mission. They are at school longer than the average teacher then they go home to the possibility that a student might call them in what would normally be their personal time. Basically, the teachers all function like high-level mangers at a corporation; they are never technically off work. A per hour computation, even only using actual hours spent on school/work, might reveal a less-than-minimum wage salary for the teachers at Urban Prep. In general teachers already spend a great portion of their time researching, preparing lessons, and grading papers. An addition of tutoring and calls from students could be overwhelming, and could result in high turnover at the school. In addition to issues regarding retention, other teacher issues have to do with training and money for training, recruitment and the selection process, and support and development of African American male teachers. Since a great number of the sought after population pool never complete a four year degree, there is a challenge to find enough qualified culturally-specified faculty to accommodate the schools as they increase their campuses. 

A similar issue of retention and commitment has to be addressed with regard to board members, especially since most of the members are representatives of large and high-profile companies. Their concentrated time commitments could be more limited than others, due to the high demands of their organizations. What effects might their absence have on the school? Board member contacts, resultant board money, and general fundraising are always things with which one should be concerned. In a time of recession, when funds are limited, sometimes even worthwhile causes lose financial support. Urban Prep has expanded. They now have three campuses in Chicago. This calls for increased funding. In these most difficult times, where will the school find the funds needed to provide the many services the school has to provide in order to achieve success? The students in Urban Prep schools generally come from single-parent low-income homes. Urban Prep helps the students meet basic needs.   

            Effectiveness and efficiency are major factors that will affect the sustainability of the program. There are social and educational implications that will also affect the sustainability of the program. Currently, there is a concerted effort to increase the number of Charter schools in Chicago. Since education trends are highly related to politics and social trends, the focus on, and support for Charter schools might decrease at any time. With a decreased focus there will be decreased funding. Also, a decrease in funding from sources other than CPS would greatly affect Urban Prep’s programs (See Appendix A). 

However, there is a beacon of hope to be gleamed from this situation, despite the many challenges the program faces. Suppose the program is concretely successful in meeting both if its goals. The overall societal results will far outweigh any of the minutia and unintended results. Money spent on prisons, public aid, and public health would be better spent on salaries paid to fully functional positive contributors to the society. Urban Prep has initiated an innovative model that has already proven to be far more effective than any program CPS has instituted, regardless of the exorbitant amounts of money, research, and administrative time and effort put into them. The Urban Prep model is, and should be reviewed by education reformers worldwide. It is the first program in what I am hopeful will be a trend of educational programs that recognizes the service element of its existence and in such recognition respects the cultures and varied understandings of its clients.  

              

 

References     

Datnow, A. Stringfield, S., McHugh, B. and Hacker, D. (1998). “Scaling up the Core Knowledge Sequence”, Education and Urban Society, 30, 3: 409-432.

 

Foster, M., (1994). Educating for competence in community and culture: exploring the views of exemplary African-American teachers, Too Much Schooling Too Little Education: A Paradox of Black Life in White Societies, 221-244.

              

Fullan, M., (2007). The New Meaning of Educational Change. Teachers College, Columbia University.

 

Hall, D. (2007). Graduation matters: Improving the accountability for high school graduation.     The Education Trustwww.edtrust.org

Porowski, A. (2009). Transforming dropout prevention policy and practice. ICF International, www.icfi.com

 

Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC.

http://nces.ed.gov

(2005). Study provides early indicators of high-school drop out risks. Black Issues in Higher Education, 22(12), 8.

(2009). Obama acts to end dropout rates. Straits Times, 1 Mar. 2010

 

http://www.silentepidemic.org/

 

(2009). Urban Prep 2009 annual report. Urban Prep Academies. Chicago, Il. www.urbanprep.org

(2010). Office of performance, 6/23/10. Chicago Public Schools. June 23, 2010. http://research.cps.k12.il.us/cps/accountweb/Reports/citywide.html

(2010). Urban Prep 2009/2010 student handbook. Urban Prep Academies. Chicago, Il. www.urbanprep.org

Appendix A

 

Financials

URBAN PREP ACADEMIES - STATEMENTS OF ACTIVITIES

FO R TH E YEARS ENDED JUNE 30, 2009 AND 2008

UNRESTRICTED NET ASSETS 2009 2008

SUPPORT AND REVENUE

CPS FUNDS $ 3,817,525 $ 2,465,773

SGSA/STATE 236,644 107,237

TITLE I/FEDERAL 116,028     58,020

CONTRIBUTIONS 1,141,233     1,078,396

STUDENT FEES 28,705     28,978

INTEREST INCOME 797 546

MISCELLANEOUS INCOME 4,453 687

NET ASSETS RELEASED FROM RESTRICTION - 25,000

TOTAL SUPPORT AND REVENUE 5,345,385     3,764,637

fundraising/charitable donations

Foundation 43%

Individual/Anonymous 29%

Government 24%

Corporate 4%

 

 

of income

Chicago Public Schools $ 3,817,525 71.4%

Charitable Donations 1,141,233 21.3%

State Funding 236,644 4.4%

Federal Funding 116,028 2.2%

Other Income 33,955 0.7%

Total Income $ 5,345,385

EXPENSES

INSTRUCTION 3,719,017 2,641,329

ACADEMIC SUPPORT 167,634 138,496

DEVELOPMENT AND FUNDRAISING 244,117 178,259

PLANT OPERATION 829,400 512,748

DEPRECIATION 203,589 121,909

INTEREST 26,537 24,024

TOTAL EXPENSES 5,190,294 3,616,765

CHANGE IN UNRESTRICTED NET ASSETS 155,091 147,872

TEMPORARILY RESTRICTED NET ASSETS

CONTRIBUTIONS - -

NET ASSETS RELEASED FROM RESTRICTIONS - (25,000)

CHANGE IN TEMPORARILY RESTRICTED NET ASSETS - (25,000)

CHANGE IN NET ASSETS 155,091 122,872

NET ASSETS, BEGINNING OF YEAR 440,676 317,804

NET ASSETS, END OF YEAR 595,767 440,676

 
 
____________________________________________
 

****************************************

 



*Personal Philosophy of Education*

Nature of Humans

            Quite often human habits are misclassified as human nature.  A wide spectrum of recurring actions and reactions are all attributed to some innate force that predetermines what human beings will do.  Oftentimes actions routinely associated with specific situations are a result of training or teaching, instead of a primal inclination.  Many habits become what are referred to as “second nature”.  This implies that something may be done automatically, or naturally without absolute focus on the act that is done.  Though the act may be automatic, it happens as a result of exposure to the situation.  Driving is an action that becomes second nature.  Experienced drivers do not think about moving their foot from one pedal to the next.  They do not think about twisting the steering wheel clockwise to a certain degree to cause the car to turn a corner and glide into the passing lane.  Drivers just drive.  Since driving comes with ease, after someone has been driving for years it is difficult to image they ever took driving lessons, or had difficulty coordinating hand and foot movements that would afford smooth and seamless automobile movement.  Yet, the driver was not born with driving skills.  Driving is not an act that qualifies as human nature.

            In order to discuss the pure or organic nature of humans, one must first acknowledge that humans are just one subcategory under the classification of living things.  Then it is necessary to discuss the basic nature of living things.  At the most fundamental level, all living things exhaust resources and opportunities in an effort to exist or live.  This is not a complicated concept; living things try to live and they try to recreate the life cycle.  The habits associated with the effort to exist are not mandated by morals or a good versus bad nature of the living, but by the circumstances that warrant the action that supports the effort to live.

            Individual perceptions of what it means to live and consequential judgment of actualization according to those perceptions are results of socialization.  The only absolute organic nature of living things is the inherent impulse to live and to recreate life.  Everything else grows from the desire to survive.  Within the broad category of living things, humans are classified as mammals.  The environment and biology of mammals dictate the basics of their existence.  According to NationalGeogrphic.com, “The word mammal comes from the Latin mamma, meaning breast, because female mammals produce milk to nurse their babies. Nearly all mammals give birth to live young, and all are warm-blooded, maintaining a near-constant body temperature regardless of environmental conditions. They are vertebrates and use lungs to breathe air and are the only animals that grow hair. Mammals probably appeared on Earth some 200 million years ago. 

            The first order of socialization happens with the development of the child in the mother’s womb, as opposed to in a shell or cocoon.  The mother does not lay an egg or drop her womb in the corner of a garden and leave.  That type of birth cycle can not happen with mammals.  The mother has to carry the child until a point at which it is ready, or can survive outside of her.  The mother does not choose this birthing process; it is part of the natural re-creation cycle.  After the child is born the need for mother’s milk as a source of food dictates where the child can go and ultimately, how the child will exist in the world.  Mammals are social creatures.  Is that condition innate?  One might argue it is more a matter of necessity, driven by the natural desire to live?  Once the child is weaned from the mother’s milk, he or she remains in the social network because it offers the optimal conditions for a chance of survival.  Also, remaining in the social system provides an opportunity for re-creation of the life cycle.      

            Further examination of mammals, particularly humans, reveals that all of the habits of humans can be at least minimally loosely coupled with the natural survival instincts people possess.   Good and bad actions are primarily defined according to alignment with impact on survival and re-creation of the life cycle.  If the ills of the human species are to be corrected, the challenges, presumed and extant, that threaten human existence and procreation must be completely eradicated.

Goals of Humans

Complete eradication of life-threatening factors in human societies is idealistic, but highly improbable.  Social structures which divide and categorize humans into hierarchical groupings are core support and governing systems in every known contemporary society.  In situations where there is inequality, ultimately there will be unrest and conflict.  The people forced into categories that are subjected to rules, restrictions and limited access to things will exist in a perpetual state of compromise and insecurity.  The constant state of insecurity translates to a threat against existence of the oppressed, as well as the oppressor.  The question then becomes how can all people be secured or assured of their rights and access to life and a continuance of the life cycle?  The focus is shifted from absolute equality to perceived equality and adequate security.

Humans should work to create a societal atmosphere where there is relative equality, which is achieved through balance of power and resources.  The ultimate goal for humans should be to live more peaceful and equitable lives, void of gross inequity which threatens human existence.  These peace and equity goals directly correspond with and serve to satisfy human nature, which is the urge to live and procreate.

Goal of Education

            The goal of education should be to train students to discover and then live in compliance with universal rules that promote and sustain balance and equity.  Education should transform lives: first the life of the student and the student’s family, then the community, and ultimately humankind.  In the United States, initially education was used as a means to support and perpetuate social hierarchies which were based on wealth, which was primarily associated with heritage.  Only certain individuals of particular financial means were permitted to attend school.  This group of students who were privileged to attend school also contained the male group of property owners that were privileged to vote.  Later, when other groups earned the right to vote, politicians and other government officials thought that all persons who could impact the policies and governing rules of the United States should be educated in order to make the “right” decisions.  In theory the plan was great.  It was logical, practical and it seemed a move towards balance or equality.  Each voting person would be afforded an opportunity to have his or her voice and opinion considered when decisions were made for the country.  However, since the people who were in power put the mass or public education policies into effect, they greatly influenced the public education system.  They instituted curriculums that supported their ideals.  Students were essentially taught to fill roles and think as the presiding power base deemed necessary.  Though education was offered under the guise of promotion of freedom and equality, in essence it only trained people for acceptance of the existing structures. 

            After a century of assimilationist education, and nearly a couple of centuries of struggle and adaptation, many educators have realized the hypocrisy of contemporary educational structures.  This realization has prompted a movement towards critical thinking, and transgression beyond epistemological limitations.  This is the root purpose of education.  It is the purpose that was put forth when the formal educative process was limited to the financially privileged.  Education warrants exploration and consistent critical analysis.   Otherwise, the system of education is reduced to a stagnant factory-like assembly line which dictates content and replicates production.

            Education is effectively used to establish norms.  All ecosystems and biomes, which are systems which support life and life cycles, need known norms to promote balance and prevent extremes that could cause imbalance, extinction, and destruction.  The human species, though nurtured towards selfish extremities, can not escape the cause and effect of gross misuse, consumption, and imbalance it forces upon other living species.  Habits of greed, waste, and inconsiderate luxury impede upon other living species and threaten human life and re-creation of life cycles.  Therefore, the goal of education is first exploratory.  Education should help humans understand their position and existence in the universe.  Then education should fortify new universal applications that promote and sustain balance and equity. The notion of infusing balance and equity into already established imbalanced traditional structures is more complicated than it sounds.  The starting point would be to make systemic changes to curriculums and the philosophies from which they spawn.

Curriculum

            Since under the current educational structure education is used to teach people how to exist in society, then it stands to reason that education can be used as a tool for transformation of societal standards.  This transformation can be affected by careful and purposeful alteration to curriculums.  Systemic changes to curriculums will have almost instant resultant manifestations in broader society.

The definition of curriculum varies from source to source.  At most, curriculum is perceived as a detailed guide for what and how knowledge is to be managed and transferred.  In essence anyone or anything that provides routine uniform instruction utilizes some form of what can be perceived as curriculum.  Dogs, cats and rats must have some form of curriculum for care; they all adhere to the same code of manners and habits when caring for their young.  Ants have been shown to have the same patterns of behavior and ritualistic methods of ambushing picnics and scattered crumbs.  In the field of horticulture there have to be patterns of expectancy which enable people to plant and produce desired flowers and crops.  Therefore, in a species as intellectually sophisticated as human beings, curriculum must consist of something more than fundamental prescriptive aims, methods and outcomes common to other life forms.

At its least, which is what a curriculum should be, a curriculum is the primary source of instruction.  It is a sort of master teacher that informs, not dictates, the basics of what is to be taught and explored.  To understand the purpose of curriculum, one must only think of the human body.  Curriculum is the bones: the skeleton.  It is the core structure around which matter is organized and built.  Curriculum bones are fortified with social, political, and physical environmental influences.  The bones form a skeleton which is solid with limited flexibility in some areas, yet pliable at certain junctions.  The skeleton is strong enough to support varied and even fluctuating sizes and types of matter.  Matter, in relation to curriculum, would be knowledge which represents muscle, methodology which represents veins, and relationship which represents fat content.

Just as a body is afforded optimal functioning when it has and utilizes all of its varied parts, so does a curriculum maximize its potential when it implores varied schools of philosophical thought, respects individual strengths and skills, and incorporates interdisciplinary relations that expose students to existences outside of their culture and even their human classification.  It is difficult to expect students to respect, or even appreciate that which they have no knowledge of, or no perceived connection to.  Study of World History, Geography, Anthropology, Life and Environmental Sciences, Art, Reading and Mathematics will broaden students’ understanding of general concepts and more accurately contextualize their existence in the world.  

In America students have instruction on United States History at every level of schooling.  Not only do they have repeated instruction, but they must pass standardized U.S. History tests before matriculation is permitted.  In these standardized tests there is no room for interpretation.  The answers are fixed based on provided and memorized facts.   These indisputable facts represent one perspective of historical occurrences and form of regulation.  That redundant testing process and limited perspective coincides with the original purpose of public education.  It would seem to inform and prepare individuals for the voting process.  However, it does not prepare students for the holistic thought process needed to make a decision.  Only courses which provide a view of the historical impact of voting decisions can begin to inform students of the weightiness of voting and its implication on humankind and the world over. This then is the charge of contemporary educational systems – the task of teaching students to think critically and empowering students with facts and information expansive enough to enable them to consider cause and affect realities that support nature, balanced ecosystems, and ultimately human survival.

A brief description of suggested courses easily demonstrates their pertinence with regard to a curriculum that supports holistic and balanced ideals. 

·         World History would introduce the notion that other countries exist and they have experienced monumental challenges and transformative cultural adjustments that are as significant to them as wars, depressions, recessions, industrializations, and other revolutions have been to citizens of the United States.  Oftentimes students in the U.S. aren’t even aware life and culture exist outside of their own experiences.

·         Geography would illustrate the location and spatial factors that have impacted national and international relations.  Study of geography would also begin to help students contextualize environmental variations that dictate different existences.  Students can see how small the area the live in is in comparison to the huge rest of the world.  They can also begin to see how the environment and weather is different in different areas and how those differences impact the people who live there.

·         Anthropology is a cultural studies field where the history and geography of a place have direct, traceable, obvious manifestations in the everyday lives of the people in the region.  When students know that the pollutants from their luxuries directly affect the sustenance of others, they may be more careful about the choices they make, especially when they know that ultimately the disruption of others will disrupt and threaten their own existence.

·         Through anthropology and then more refined explorations of Life and Environmental Sciences, varied existences are shaped into community and communal units whose structures are more relatable for students.  At this point students are made to realize the connectedness between varied places and people.  It is also at this point that students come to understand their survival in terms of relation to their lifestyles, actions, and impact on universal systems. 

·         Art then gives a clue as to how the people see themselves, in relation to each other, their communities, their ecosystems, and the world.  Art also is the means by which new imaginations are bred and nurtured.  So then art will become a sort of supplementary teaching source as students begin to internalize and promote their new understandings.     

Math and reading are support subjects.  They should not be dominant fields of study by which a person’s intelligence is measured.  They are simple necessities needed to be mastered in order to aid in the mastery of other larger concepts.  One can properly contextualize the study of math and reading by comparing it to walking.  In life, a child has to master many basic functions in order to live life at an optimal level.  When a parent attempts to teach a child to walk, he/she understands it is a monumental accomplishment only for a brief period of time and at an elemental level.  After the child has conquered the basic task of balance and motion, the parent does not generally check back at various teen and adult stages to assess the child’s walking ability.  Normally, the child naturally progresses to running and jumping and at some early point in the child’s life walking is just a means to an end – a second nature motion required for advancement through greater tasks to greater desires.  Upon initial consideration, walking could be considered a life-sustaining act.  It gives people greater access to food, water, and shelter; however, deeper contemplation reveals that fact that walking is only a support action.  It is not in itself food, water, and shelter.  It takes people to these life-sustaining things.  Likewise, reading and math in isolation do not adequately support life or humans’ natural instinct to live.  They are support subjects that facilitate access to knowledge that empowers and advances living and re-creation of the life cycle.  These subjects should not be at the forefront of an educational system.  When they are obsessed over, they are taken out of context, students do not appreciate their value nor do they value a system that forces them to spend exorbitant time and effort on something they can not readily associate with their instinct for survival.  Thus, the whole idea of education becomes a foolish or unnecessary endeavor.  

 Teaching Methods 

In order to promote balance and equity and to be fully functional as a life-sustaining source, education has to serve as a link to survival tools.  This link has to be prominent and easily recognizable as such.  Students should know, in bold terms and by blatant demonstrations that for every action there is a reaction in the universe.  All of matter and energy is connected.  Excessive use or neglect in one area imbalances natural relationships and can be catastrophic to other life forms, which will ultimately be detrimental to humans.  Stark presentations of this manner will result in transformation of students’ attitudes towards education because of their natural instinct for self-preservation.

Recognizing student’s natural instincts is the key to successful teaching.  Since students have a natural inclination towards survival, first teach them to value themselves.  Then teach them to value others.  Encourage them.  Empower them.  Imbued with a belief that the educator appreciates them and their struggles, the students will open their minds and be receptive to the information provided and exploration guided by the teacher.  How does an educator encourage, empower, and gain the trust of the students? 

Encouraging involves:

·          Urging openness – this is a method of inclusion that promotes diversity on a small, introductory scale.

·         Stimulating student intellectual growth – make it fun to learn so students enjoy being exposed to new information and understand how to process and critically think about that info.

·         Fostering critical thought and deconstruction of knowledge

Pertinent questions: How do you know what you think you know?        What is the source of the info?  What factors might have influenced a particular perspective or orientation?  Who benefits from various perceptions of knowledge and reality?  This type of inquisition is necessary to combat prescribed norms in order to re-create them.  

·         Supporting uniqueness

How does the content and context of the subject relate to the student’s own life?  Again this continues to affirm, throughout the process, that the student and his/her experience is valued and relevant.

·         Moving towards second nature inclinations.  What things does the student do without thought?  Why?

What student interests can be intentionally incorporated into the lesson?  Figure out ways these personal interest can become a permanent part of the student’s and the communal existence?

·         Acknowledging diversity of learning styles and students’ varied orientations towards information according to their experiences and exposures.  Encouragement warrants fluidity.  The teacher must be willing to be a student, allowing space to expansion of understanding.

Empowering (accelerated and assisted encouragement) involves:

·         Guiding and leading at times

·         Listening and assisting exploration

·         Affirming and critically evaluating

·         Acknowledgment that social and political structures influence formation and utilization of knowledge

·         Exposing students to various sources of information

·         Helping students discover new sources of information   

·         Promoting student and peer teaching

·         Cultivating curiosity

·         Helping the student to articulate and establish clarity of his/her thoughts          

The teacher should not prescribe to a rigid predetermined lesson plan.  He/she should be comfortable enough to engage in the learning process by actively participating in, and contributing to the deconstruction and exploration.  The goals and aims of the lesson should be readily identified and the methods for reaching those goals should be considered prior to the class session; however, the learning methods must be fluid enough to give credence to the students’ inquiries and translations, and the learning atmosphere must be such that students feel free to think and express those thoughts – equally; afterall, the ultimate goal of education is balance, equity, and peace.  This should first be demonstrated (not just talked about) in the classroom.

Fortification of self will result in the student exercising intellectual freedom in a respectful and balanced manner.  This type of educational environment will breed confidence.  Confidence will help students feel less vulnerable, which will result in greater individual feelings of security.  One a student perceives he/she is secure in his relative position in society, he/she will believe survival is attainable. 

Once the immediate dangers of survival are at bay, the student has time and space to extend his/her thoughts and efforts to address remote concerns and threats.  By the time a student advances beyond primary grades, he/she should be prepared to go beyond immediate safe zones into realms of greater global existence.  At this point World History, Geography, Anthropology/Sociology, Life and Environmental Sciences, and Art should become the major subjects of focus.  

The ultimate nature of human beings is survival.  Basic survival can be achieved many ways, but it can only be sustained through balance and natural equity.  Therefore, the ultimate goal of education is to teach balance and equity by peaceful means.  Education must be organic and realistic in its aims and goals.  Curriculums cannot be thrown together and relegated to forms that function as control and containment guides.  People’s desires are basic.  They want to live.  Society has to be careful as to not define living as removed grandiose unattainable forms of existence.  People can do without material things until the things become perceived necessities for living.  Teachers must work diligently and purposefully to create environments where students are equal and can recognize their balance and equality in a global context.  Then and only then will people’s human nature be addressed and their angst adequately eased.

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Okay.  After reviewing several Code of Ethics Statements, encountering much word play, etc., I devised a Code of Ethics of my own; this code of ethics complies with the method I've used in my various classrooms over the past couple of years; it has proven to be simple and sufficient.  Try it out this year in your classrooms and let me know how it works.  At the beginning of the semester or school year write the rules on the board so each student knows what is expected and has a fair opportunity at achieving success.  You don't need a big space; pick a corner of the board, write it boldly and leave it there for at least a few weeks: R E S P E C T  That's it.  That's all.  Define it.  Provide examples.  Enforce it!  Scan down to the blue writing to view details of my Personal Code of Ethics of Education.

Personal Ethics of Education / Review of Educational Ethics Literature

NEA Code of Ethics Review

            The National Education Association (NEA) Code of Ethics is a brief and concise statement meant to reflect and direct the behavior, mentality, and overall resolve of educators.  The document is separated into three sections.  The first section is a Preamble which provides the general thesis for educators.  The second section is headed Principle I with a sub-heading of Commitment to the Student.  The third, and final section is headed Principle II with a sub-heading of Commitment to Profession.

            The Preamble consists of a few paragraphs.  The thesis of this section and basically the entire document can be summed up in a few sentences.  The core thesis is that the “Code of Ethics of the Education Profession indicates the aspiration of all educators and provides standards by which to judge conduct.”  This thesis is supported by sub-thesis ideals which constitute essence of the thesis.  One sub-thesis ideal is the notion that the educator, believes “in the worth and dignity of each human being.”  That declaration or charge is packed with implications.  If the educators believe in the worth and dignity of each person, then it can further be resolved that the educator recognizes and values basic things like equal opportunity and democracy.  The other sub-thesis ideal is based on the premise that the educator “recognizes the magnitude of the responsibility inherent in the teaching process.”  This means       commitment to excellence, truth, and the “highest possible degree of ethical conduct” governs, or should govern the actions, thoughts, and intentions of educators.

            The section of the Code of Ethics titled Principle I, deals with Commitment to the Student.  The introductory statement for this section reads as follows:  “The educator strives to help each student realize his or her potential as a worthy and effective member of society.  The educator therefore works to stimulate the spirit of inquiry, the acquisition of knowledge and understanding, and the thoughtful formulation of worthy goals.”  This statement is followed by a list of “shall not” commandments.  The items on the list basically provide illustration of practical application of thoughts that support the ideals of the Code of Ethics.

            Commitment to the Profession is addressed in the section titled Principle II.  The introduction for this section includes the following language: “In the belief that the quality of the services of the education profession directly influences the nation and its citizens, the educator shall exert every effort to raise professional standards, to promote a climate that encourages the exercise of professional judgment, to achieve conditions that attract persons worthy of the trust to careers in education, and to assist in preventing the practice of the profession by unqualified persons.”  Just as was the case in section I, the introductory statement is followed by a list of “shall not” commandments.  The items on this list are things that should be avoided in an effort to safeguard the integrity of the field of education.

Points of Agreement

            Much of what is noted in the NEA Code of Ethics and its “shall not” commandments seems correlated to the more universal Ten Commandments which are found in the Bible (King James version) in that the essence of the commandments, and the fulfillment of the same, warrants an organic and almost euphoric pointedly directed transparency.  Several of the listed points can be fragmented sections of the deconstruction of a simplistic, yet loaded overall commandment to which I subscribe: Education should be equal, not the same.

1.      Wording such as “shall not reasonably restrain from independent action”... “Shall not unreasonably deny - access to varying points of view”... “Shall not exclude... deny... grant advantages...” all attend to the notions of equality and individuality.  Unlike sameness, equality lends itself to greater spaces for individuality, while allowing varied methods of measurement to be implored.  I strongly agree with specificity of interpretation provided with regard to the vast concepts of equality and individuality.

2.      In the section of the Code of Ethics that addresses Commitment to the Profession, the most poignant idea is noted in the 2nd point on the list.  This point states, the educator “shall not misrepresent his/her professional qualifications.”  While this idea seems elementary and obvious, it is not a minor detail.  It requires the educator to recognize his/her weaknesses and incompetencies.  Since the educator functions as the leader, and is trained to take and keep command of the class, it is often difficult to relinquish control of the intellectual environment.  This challenge of relinquishing power results in confidence related issues and actions that violate ethical points of concern.  In my estimation, once the educator acknowledges and is open about his/her deficiencies and weaknesses, without judgment, the need to make false statements or behave in a manner that shields or distorts reality, is removed.  Once personal distortions have been eliminated, the culture and environment of educational systems will be more fluid in structure and therefore, expandable with great potential for advancement.       

Summary

            Education dictates societies.  The things children are taught shape what they believe, how they perceive the world, how they interact with others, and how they will impact the universe.  Since educators are the stewards of the seedlings that will grow and shape society, it is important that the educators be rooted or grounded ethically.  If educators were to grossly misuse or underestimate the power of their positions, it does not only affect them and their limited student population.  Students carry messages and lessons learned in class back to their families and out into the broader world.  Ethics helps to keep education and its use in line with one of its general purposes, which is to maintain and establish a basis for norms, or a point of reference at which people can find some commonality, or a way to coexist with a sort of harmony or balance.            

Ethical Review

“Idealism and Education” – Chapter 1

Ozmon, Howard A. Philosophical Foundations of Education. New Jersey: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2008.

            In the very first chapter of Philosophical Foundations and Education (PFE) discussions about idealism and education lend themselves to a discussion about ethics.  Idealism has a long history.  The PFE refers to idealism as “perhaps the oldest systematic philosophy in Western culture.”  Exploration of idealism is best achieved by dividing the classification into three distinct categories: Platonic idealism, religious idealism, and modern idealism.  Though there are varied perspectives of idealism, universally, idealists believe that ideas are the only true reality.  They believe all else is temporary and is therefore, inconsequential.

            When considering the development of idealism one must begin at Plato, or even Socrates.  Socrates was a “leading thinker” who had a unique method of coercing people into thinking critically.  He used a method of questioning people about things they had not previously considered.   He never wrote books or recorded his exchanges.  His ideas were communicated orally through a dialectical question-and-answer approach. 

            Plato was a Greek philosopher who made a permanent record of Socrates’ thinking and the Socratic Method.  The combination of Socrates ideas and methods and Plato’s interpretations and possible embellishments are generally referred to as Platonic philosophy.  Platonic idealism involved the following concepts:

·         Dialectical approach to problems

1.      Begins with a thesis

2.      Needs to introduce the antithesis

3.      Looks at both sides of an issue

·         Search for truth

1.       The truth is perfect and eternal

2.      Cannot be found in the world of matter

·         Separation of the world of ideas from the world of matter

1.      World of ideas

A.      Has Good as its highest point

B.      The source of all true knowledge

2.       World of Matter

A.       Is an ever-changing world of sensory data

B.      Is not to be trusted

C.      Can be transcended through the use of dialect

·         Philosophizing

1.      Should be an intellectual affair

2.       Knowledge should be shared, even in the face of death

·         Believed

1.       Evil stems more from ignorance than anything else

2.      A utopian society consist of 3 classes: Workers, military, and rulers

3.      Art (including literature) needed to be taught and censored

Platonic idealism dealt with the “truth” and “good” versus material, and concepts of things perfect and eternal.  These concepts and terms are easily relatable to religion.  “Idealism has exerted considerable influence on religion.”  The Roman Catholic Church was founded by people who were heavily influenced by idealism.  Augustine, a priest, used the philosophy of Platonists and Neo-Platonist and combined them with Christian beliefs.  Instead of ideas and matter, Augustine called the juxtapositions God versus Man.

Virtually, all philosophy and its method of inquiry, thesis and antithesis stems from Plato which stems from Socrates.  The period of Modern Idealism offered an array of perspectives from Descartes, Berkeley, Kant, Hegel, and Royce.  During this period idealism was “largely identified with systematization and subjectivism.” 

The evolution of the concept of idealism was and is never void of direct connections to education.  Several well known philosophers were teachers or wrote about teaching and education.  It is almost impossible to deal with a train of thought that is grounded in inquiry or the dialectic without considering the field of education.

Personal Reaction

            After reading the chapter the second time and considering the information contained in the NEA Code of Ethics, I concluded, at least for my personal reference, that ethics is simply a hybrid of realism.  Realism in its aims of education focuses on:

·         Search for truth

·         Mental and spiritual qualities of human beings

·         Concept of individuals and their place in education

·         Character development

All of these things can be categorized into two basic groupings, physical being and mental or intellectual being.  Ethics is a byproduct system that utilizes basic philosophical renderings to compose a value system that serves to direct or govern mental and physical components. 

Strong Points

            There were several points in the chapter that were quite poignant.

1.      Plato’s idea of “moving towards the Good” is highly ethical and shows the early stage of what would become ethics.

2.      In The Republic where Plato wrote about separation of the world of ideas from

      the world of matter, there are apparent parallels to religion and Christianity.

3.      Augustine’s blatant clarification and specificity of City of God and City of Man as   opposed to previous notions of World of Ideas and the World of Matter narrowed the focus and transformed the world.  This was a purely ethical positioning.

Points of Concern

            It is interesting to witness the attempts to transform religion to the more ambiguous classification of ethics.  It seems the premises and goals are constant, but the terms and associations must be altered to appease the natural cyclical demand for change under the guise of progress.  My concern is that the constant effort to alter or better things will ultimately corrupt them.  If the search is for truth and truth is constant and perfect, why must there be a continual effort to revise, add to, or deduct from that which can get no better.  Any person of sound mind would know that tampering with something that is perfect is an unnecessary gamble, which can only result in loss or less.  As I endeavor to write my own code of ethics of education, I feel the frivolity of my effort to restate that which seems it can only be redundant at best; however, I am hopeful that simplicity will provide a level of clarity that will prove to be fail-proof and more than sufficient.

Personal Code of Ethics of Education

            In life there is one basic principle that is applicable to all of life and all of existence.  That simple, yet complex principle is respect.  By definition respect means to have a high or special regard or esteem for; to have reference to: concern; to refrain from interfering with.  If individuals would master the skill of respect and use it as a personal thesis for existence, there would be no need for detailed common sense commandments. Everything needed simply tucks itself neatly into the folds of “Respect”.

Educators and students should first, respect themselves.  Respect for self regulates presentation and style in areas such as attire, language, and personal behavior.  When educators and students respect themselves it is more likely they will extend that respect to people in general, and teachers, students, and peers, more specifically.  Respecting people will affect communication and basic behavior towards people’s personal differences (diversity), property, and personal strengths and weaknesses. 

Equally as important as respecting themselves and each other, educators and teachers must mutually respect education, the educative process, and the learning process.  This final branch of respect creates the culture for the classroom and heavily impacts the success of the school program.  Respect for education and the educative and learning processes means teachers prepare for the lessons and seek the best methods and materials to aid them in the teaching process; students pay attention to the teacher and each other and complete their assignments giving their best effort to assigned tasks; and both the teacher and the students work to eliminate all things that would serve to disrupt the learning process and deter them from optimal achievement with regard to education.   

Educators should:

· First, respect themselves.

· Respect people.

·Respect students.

·Respect peers.

· Respect education and the educative process.

·Respect the teaching profession.

·Respect diversity.

·Respect property.

· Respect their own and others’ strengths and weaknesses.

Students should:

·First, respect themselves.

·Respect people.

· Respect teachers.

·Respect peers.

·Respect education and the learning process.

·Respect their role as students.

· Respect diversity.

·Respect property.

·Respect their own and others’ strengths and weaknesses.

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Critical Reconstructionist and Curriculum

Kim Dulaney

            Education is a complex concept.  It involves the acquisition, comprehension, and dissemination of knowledge.  Knowledge is organized and processed data.  Data is bits of information.  In the field of education, specialists work to create categories made up of sub-groups of related knowledge, or clustered bits of information.  These categories are called subjects or disciplines.  Subjects are not absolute or isolated areas of interest.  Sometimes knowledge associated with one subject area can also be associated with a completely different subject area.  The context in which the data is being used can cause it to be categorized differently.  Context refers to the surrounding circumstances that affect something.  Circumstances can be defined.  Words used to define the word circumstance can be defined.  This deconstruction of knowledge can go on and on and on.  The minutia of extracting data bits is inexhaustible.  If knowledge can be broken down bit by bit, then it can be assumed that knowledge is built the same way, bit by bit.  At every sorting or building juncture where knowledge is combined or compounded, a definition or decision is made.  Those decisions are impacted by interpretations.

            Critical Reconstructionists understand that established norms in the field of education are built and solidified in accordance with someone’s interpretation of bits of data.  They also know that the foundation of structured education was built by people who intentionally sought to establish standards of inequality, during times when injustice was blatant and legally enforced.  Systems and structures built during these times were grossly impacted.  The system of education was not immune; in fact, it was used to perpetuate the ideals of the ruling class.

Curriculum Considerations

            Having knowledge of the culture of injustice that impacted the world, and more specifically the field of education affords Critical Reconstructionists a uniquely organic perspective with regard to education.  Traditional methods and facts are not assumed to be concrete truths.  A framework from which new truths can be explored must be established.  

           Creating a curriculum from the perspective of a Critical Reconstructionist involves adopting a few elemental facts as truths.  In a lecture presented on February 6, 2009, titled “What’s Worth Knowing,” given by Dr. B. Seo in a Curriculum and Instructional Leadership course at Chicago State University, the elemental facts or truths were summarized as follows:

  • the world is filled with injustice and education is used to change or reconstruct the injustices
  • the source of authority is the students
  • students are aware of hidden messages
  • need a new curriculum that focuses on the source of the problem
  • the following class system exist, and there needs to be intentional effort to change it and create balance in the world:           

Lower class                  -           follow the rules

Middle class                 -           give the right answer

Professional class          -           be creative within limits

Ruling Class                  -           manipulate the system because everyone is a servant

Organizing a Curriculum

            Questions related to organizing a curriculum are all addressed with the Critical Reconstructionist’s elemental facts as the basis for curriculum revision.  Taking those facts into consideration, curricularists employ educators, who can relate to the target student body, to develop core goals and objectives.  Those goals and objectives are clear.  Students should learn the importance of social justice.  They should understand that learning is an open and ongoing process.  Communication and dialogue is paramount to the learning process.  For all facts or knowledge introduced, students should engage some basic points of inquiry: what?, why?, and how?  The format of the curriculum should be flexible enough to support the elemental facts that support the Critical Reconstructionist’s perspective.  A Liberal Arts education is mandatory because it not only coincides with culture, but it helps to develop sensibilities towards equality.  Ultimately, the curriculum should affirm the idea that education is a journey, and on that journey egocentric views are considered necessary to move society to a place of justice and equality, that will prove to be beneficial for all (Seo, 2009).    

Assessing a Curriculum

            Assessing a curriculum developed from the perspective of a Critical Reconstructionist involves checking the sources of inclusion for balance and intention.  The sources of the knowledge acquired in schools should be varied, and should include new perspectives and facilitate development of student created perspectives.   Does the circulation or movement of knowledge draw upon and include the students’ interpretations based on their unique experiences?  What impact will the curriculum have on the students’ overall outlook on life?  Whose interest does that impact serve? 

            It is important to keep the objective of the Critical Reconstructionist at the forefront of all curricular activity.  The objective is to achieve equality in society.  The goal is to use education to empower individuals so they can affect change that will eradicate inequality. 

            Specific aims are used to assess curriculum.  Action-inquiry, which is political in nature, is one tool used to assess curriculum.  Action-inquiry “offers a broad perspective on the meaning of educational endeavors within the context of economic and ideological life.  It includes an effort to look critically at impingements of ideology and economics on human growth and development.”  Assessment should seek to find “inequities of educational access, opportunity, and quality, experienced on the bases of race, gender, socioeconomic class, and other differences” (Schubert, 2009, p.314).  After critical analysis, the curriculum should be revised to address all discovered inequities.

Evaluating a Curriculum      

            Once the students have been exposed to a curriculum, it is important to monitor the effectiveness of instruction and tools used to ensure that the goals and aims of the curriculum are being achieved.  One of the central concerns of evaluation is whether or not the curriculum showed evidence of emancipation, equity and social justice.  

A process of emancipation should be evident in the students’ thought processes and engagement.  Students should ask questions, disagree with ideas, and introduce new and unusual interpretations and solutions, all while mastering the basic offerings of a subject.  If communication, dialogue, and inquiry is minimal, and students basically repeat or regurgitate information in the form and perspective in which it is distributed, then the curriculum or the methodology used to implement it must be revised.  If new ideas are not introduced at the student level, where there is the least possible contamination of thought situation (other than infancy), then the system of governance and all that supports it will not change.

Conclusion

            Indigenous African and Native American societies have been studied and are believed to have been systems where all of the members regulated, participated in, and benefited equally.  While these systems of existence or groups of people can, by definition, be classified as societies, it is important to note they were not huge groupings of people, living in fixed close proximity of one another, relying on limited resources for existence.  Oftentimes they were nomadic.  History shows that once people took up permanent residence, the idea of accumulation and later the notion of class division or hierarchy became integral parts of societies.  Henceforth,           inequities have existed in every known society.  As societies grow, so do the inequities within them.   The Abolitionists Movement, the Civil Rights Movement, and the Women’s Suffrage Movement are all examples of a maturation process a society must experience in order to move towards an existence where the collective society can be in essence what most societies claim to be in theory.  The Critical Reconstructionist efforts will probably be recorded historically as the Critical Reconstructionist Movement and if its supporters remain consistent and focused, their perception will ultimately be credited with, at best, bringing equality back to human kind, or at least exposing inequality and availing better opportunities to people who had been relegated to the margins of human existence.  This will have all been made possible by way of altering sources of knowledge and intentions found hidden in curriculums.      

 References

Schubert, W. H. (1986). Curriculum: Perspective, paradigm, and possibility. New YorkMacmillan Publishing Co.

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Philosophy of Curriculum

Kim Dulaney

The definition of curriculum varies from source to source.  Peter F. Oliver, author of Developing the Curriculum defines curriculum as “a plan or program for all the experiences that the learner encounters under the direction of the school... a number of plans, in written form and of varying scope, that delineate the desired learning experiences” (Oliva, 2009).  Webster’s Dictionary defines curriculum as “the courses offered by an educational institution; a set of courses constituting an area of specialization” (Merriam-Webster, 1988).  At most, curriculum is perceived as a detailed guide for what and how knowledge is to be managed and transferred.  In essence anyone or anything that provides routine uniform instruction utilizes some form of what can be perceived as curriculum.  Dogs, cats and rats must have some form of curriculum for care; they all adhere to the same code of manners and habits when caring for their young.  Ants have been shown to have the same patterns of behavior and ritualistic methods of ambushing picnics and scattered crumbs.  In the field of horticulture there have to be patterns of expectancy which enable people to plant and produce desired flowers and crops.  Therefore, in a species as intellectually sophisticated as human beings, curriculum must consist of something more than fundamental prescriptive aims, methods and outcomes common to other life forms.

At its least, which is what a curriculum should be, a curriculum is the primary source of instruction.  It is a sort of master teacher that informs, not dictates, the basics of what is to be taught and explored.  To understand the purpose of curriculum, one must only think of the human body.  Curriculum is the bones: the skeleton.  It is the core structure around which matter is organized and built.  Curriculum bones are fortified with social, political, and physical environmental influences.  The bones form a skeleton which is solid with limited flexibility in some areas, yet pliable at certain junctions.  The skeleton is strong enough to support varied and even fluctuating sizes and types of matter.  Matter, in relation to curriculum, would be knowledge which represents muscle, methodology which represents veins, and relationship which represents fat content.

Just as a body is afforded optimal functioning when it has and utilizes all of its varied parts, so does a curriculum maximize its potential when it implores varied schools of philosophical thought and respects individual strengths and skills and interdisciplinary relations.  A curriculum should identify key areas of interest related to a particular subject, for instance, jargon and ideology, the history of the subject, the leading research findings, existing standards or formats (if applicable), and contemporary inquiries, correlations, and critiques.  This information should be fixed.  It becomes the language and grounding to be used by the instructor as he/she moderates and facilitates the learning process.  The learning process should be fluid.  It cannot be completely fluid, as the key points serve as the frame onto which the knowledge will be arranged and built. 

Knowledge at its best is added to, not demolished and rebuilt, not swallowed and regurgitated whole in its original state.  At its worst it should at least be stretched, reshaped, colored, or otherwise altered and impacted by each individual it encounters.  The job of the instructor is to use the curriculum and its key elements to guide exploration and inquiry towards understanding and growth of the knowledge base.  The student, the instructor, and the field of study should all have understandings which become more concise, yet expanded every time a curriculum is actuated.

So then, how is this achieved?  Once the structure or curriculum bones are in operable position, balance is a key factor.  Operable condition refers to structure or placement that is open and allows for movement.  The curriculum cannot be formatted in a way that stagnates and cripples growth.  This is of particular concern when incorporating the philosophy of Intellectual Traditionalists.  In the text Curriculum: Perspective, Paradigm, and Possibility, Schubert offers four seemingly distinct categories of understanding, with regard to curriculum.  However, upon thorough review the categories are deemed interdependent. 

One category or philosophical position cannot solely support a curriculum, if the curriculum is to fulfill its purpose of clarification and edification of a subject.  The philosophy-based perspective of the Intellectual Traditionalist must be balanced by the perspective of the Social Behaviorist.  It is not enough to know what the philosophy is; one must know how it is applied (Schubert, 1986).  This is why the aforementioned key elements that comprise the curriculum bones are of the utmost importance.  Once a person understands the philosophy and how it is used, then he/she can develop a means to reconstruct knowledge, which governs social structure and social change.  This is the intention of the Critical Reconstructionist (Schubert, 1986).  All of these various orientations and perspectives towards curriculums and education must work in unison to meet the contemporary challenges of education.  Most importantly, the perspective of the Experientialist must always undergird all education processes.    Educators must value and give credence to varied and ongoing philosophies, knowledge, and sources of knowledge.

Some may argue the fact that many educational institutions exist and maintain using a single focus of philosophy.  Surely there are Intellectual Traditionalists who believe classic texts and ideals are proven regulatory standards.  There are think tanks meeting, uninterrupted for weeks at a time, focused on current trends and Social Behaviorist’ understandings.  However, I would challenge the skeptics to look more closely.  Harvard University and The University of Chicago are both institutions that, at first glance, seem to function under the influence of Intellectual Traditionalists, but one could argue that while this is the dominant philosophy that governs these universities, each also is heavily impacted by Social Behaviorist.  There are numerous examples of fused philosophies in institutions.  It is moot point.  Any person of reasonable sanity would recognize the strength and necessity of bones, and muscle, and veins, and fat.  One would not, in a perfect situation volunteer the loss of an arm or leg to demonstrate viability, or amplified or accelerated possibility in his/her remaining limbs.  Likewise, one should not set out to use limited resources, philosophical, theoretical or practical once made aware of the options.  Curriculum is what erects and fortifies the educative body of knowledge; proper attention and care will yield required growth and longevity, as well as optimal quality of existence.            

Reference Page

Oliva, P, F.  (2009). Developing the curriculum.  Boston: Pearson.

Schubert, W, H. (1986).  Curriculum: Perspective, paradigm, and possibility.  New York:  Macmillan.

Webster’s ninth new collegiate dictionary. (1988).  Springfield, Massachusetts:  Merriam-Webster

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©2009  Kim L. Dulaney

 

 

 

 

 




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