Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Making Room for Hope: Granito de Arena

"As teachers we have a moral, political, and social obligation to try to change things."

I was reminded today as I was reading an  essay by Scott Russell Sanders in The Impossible Will Take a Little While: A Citizen's Guide to Hope in a Time of Fear that it is important to "make room for hope." Here is my "hope" for today: Granito de Arena, a documentary directed by Jill Friedberg, Corrugated Films.

"What happens to a teacher in the United States, can happen to a teacher in Canada, or to a teacher in Mexico....If we are all confronting the same monster, a monster with many different heads, then we all have to flow together into the same river." 

Granito de Arena (Grain of Sands) documents the 25-year struggle of school teachers in Mexico and highlights the state of education pre- and post-NAFTA. It explores the fundamental role of education from a perspective similar to that of Paulo Freire and bell hooks--education as transformation as opposed to education as a means of producing human capital.
"This is a system that breaks everything it touches into little pieces, and which teaches us that life is about having, and life is about working, instead of life being about being."

"Everything is subject to the market, and education is no exception. You're going to have the very best education for the rich kids and what's left over for the rest."

Sound familiar?

The TFA Debate Continues

Core Knowledge Blogger Robert Pondiscio, writes A Memo To Wendy Kopp. He says:
Our toughest schools are no place for rookies, even well-educated, data-driven rookies. Being a first year teacher in a tough school makes for great memoirs, but all the good intentions and Ivy League degrees under the sun don’t make you a great teacher. We’re certainly not going to turn around thousands of underperforming schools on the backs of 22-year olds....
He suggests:
Place them in that high-functioning school for two years as pinch-hitters for some of our best, most experienced teachers, and send those master teachers to the same schools to which you’re sending TFA corps members now. We can call it the Teach For America Fellowship, and throw in a nice extra chunk of change to incentivize those master teachers without worrying about whether it’s merit pay.
It is a rare person who has what it takes to excel as a teacher in a low-income community, and it’s not at all a given that teachers who do well in more privileged communities will do well in urban and rural areas.
True. But this doesn't mean that the most inexperienced privileged teachers with do-gooder attitudes will be any better.
The most important thing for kids in low-income communities is that we recruit as many people as possible — whether new or experienced — who have the personal characteristics that differentiate successful teachers in high-poverty communities, and that we train and support them to be effective in meeting the extra needs of their students.
I doubt the same argument would work if you substituted "high income" and tried to advocate for putting inexperienced teachers in our "best" schools. And do TFAers really get the chance to fully develop these "personal characteristics" in order to meet the extra needs of students within their two year terms?
Teach For America is building a pipeline of leaders who are deeply committed to educational equity and deeply understand what it will take to ensure that children in low-income communities have the educational opportunities they deserve. Their initial teaching experience in under-resourced communities is foundational to their lifelong commitment to effecting the systemic changes necessary to ensure educational opportunity for all.
Studies show that most TFAers leave the classroom after two to three years. What about building a pipeline of teachers that will ensure educational opportunity for all? 

In terms of teacher development and accreditation, Wize suggests:
...a “teaching team strategy,” that gives only experienced teachers primary student responsibility, but in multiple classrooms and with the assistance of the novices. Senior teachers, appropriately compensated, lead instructional teams of other teachers, novices, and untrained personnel....
In an ideal world, all new teachers would receive their capstone preparation and induction in a professional development school or an urban residency program.
In an ideal world, all new teachers would receive their capstone preparation and induction in a professional development school or an urban residency program.
He cites NYC Teaching Fellows as an intermediate step--as its fellows must be enrolled in a Master's program in teaching and learning.

Teaching isn't community service. Teaching, like any other career, takes time to master. While TFA achieves its goal in filling the teacher shortage in urban and rural districts---shouldn't we be looking for more long-term solutions to the problem?

Wize says: 
Of course, every experienced teacher was once a novice, so not every student can have an experienced instructor. But there is almost universal agreement on the value of teacher experience, and research indicates a multiplier effect on students’ performance when they are taught by ineffective teachers over multiyear periods.
When will we decide to give our nation's poorest children the education that all children deserve?

Monday, May 26, 2008

Jay Mathews Reviews Keeping the Promise

Journalists, particularly me, tend to get excited about charter schools, the independently run public schools that have produced -- at least in some cases -- major improvements in achievement for children from low-income families. The charter educators I write about are often young, energetic, witty, noble and pretty much irresistible. But their charter schools, which use tax dollars with little oversight, are relatively new and untried. Like all experiments, they could easily fizzle.
He continues:
But the book's overall message is that charters are not what the happy stories in the media make them seem, and there should be better ways to improve learning. Many people agree with that thesis. But the book failed to make the case for me because it offered no compelling or widely available alternatives for the young educators I know who want to save this generation of poorly schooled kids right now.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Last Brown v. Board Plaintiff Dies at 88

The last surviving Brown v. Board plaintiff, Zelma Henderson, died at the age of 88 on Tuesday in Topeka, Kansas.
In an interview with the Dallas Morning News in 1994, Mrs. Henderson reflected on Brown 40 years later. "None of us knew that this case would be so important and come to the magnitude it has," she said. "What little bit I did, I feel I helped a whole nation."
A decision that is critically important to our nation's educational history:
“We conclude that in the field of public education the doctrine of ‘separate but equal’ has no place,” Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote in the court’s opinion. “Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.”

"It's getting to the point of almost absolute segregation in the worst of the segregated cities – within one or two percentage points of what the Old South used to be like," says Gary Orfield, codirector of the Civil Rights Project and one of the study's authors. "The biggest metro areas are the epicenters of segregation. It's getting worse for both blacks and Latinos, and nothing is being done about it."

About one-sixth of black students and one-ninth of Latino students attend what Mr. Orfield calls "apartheid schools," at least 99 percent minority. In big cities, black and Latino students are nearly twice as likely to attend such schools. Some two-thirds of black and Latino students in big cities attend schools with less than 10 percent white students; in rural areas, about one-seventh of black and Latino students do. Although the South was the region that originally integrated the most successfully, it's beginning to resegregate, as in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg district.
More information and resources:

From The Civil Rights Project:
From Jonathan Kozol:

Friday, May 23, 2008

Documentary: Middle School/Middle Passage (the Journey)

Talks with Wolves, an arts residency program, documents their work with a Brooklyn school in Brownsville, NY in Middle School/Middle Passage (the Journey).

Understanding our own diverse histories and working with the diverse histories of our students and their families to generate learning. That's why it's so important that we don't allow things like this Arizona legislation to pass.

Find out more information about the documentary here.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Blogger Summit: Thoughts on Young Teachers in High Need Schools

"A system who gives the kids who need the most the teachers who are able to deliver it the least." -- Amy Wilkins of Ed Trust to Dan Brown of the Huffington Post

Bronx 8th Graders Boycott Tests

The students remark:
"We've had a whole bunch of these diagnostic tests all year," Tatiana Nelson, 13, one of the protest leaders, said Tuesday outside the school. "They don't even count toward our grades. The school system's just treating us like test dummies for the companies that make the exams."

According to the petition, they are sick and tired of the "constant, excessive and stressful testing" that causes them to "lose valuable instructional time with our teachers."
The administration has placed the blame for initiating the riots on Douglas Avilla, a 30-year-old social studies teacher.

Avilla says:

My students know they are welcome in my class to have open discussions," Avella said. "I teach them critical thinking."
Students say:

"They're saying Mr. Avella made us do this," said Johnny Cruz, 15, another boycott leader. "They don't think we have brains of our own, like we're robots. We students wanted to make this statement. The school is oppressing us too much with all these tests."

Several students defended Avella. They say he had made social studies an exciting subject for them.

"Now they've taken away the teacher we love only a few weeks before our real state exam for social studies," Tatiana Nelson said. "How does that help us?"

Kudos to these students for taking a stand. Very impressive.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Gender Gap is a Myth, Report Says

The American Association of University Women has published "Where the Girls Are: The Facts About Gender Equity in Education."

From the Washington Post:
The most important conclusion of "Where the Girls Are: The Facts About Gender Equity in Education" is that academic success is more closely associated with family income than with gender, its authors said.

"A lot of people think it is the boys that need the help," co-author Christianne Corbett said. "The point of the report is to highlight the fact that that is not exclusively true. There is no crisis with boys. If there is a crisis, it is with African American and Hispanic students and low-income students, girls and boys."

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Some more good reads

Recently attended a closing event for NYU's Catherine B. Reynolds Fellowship in Social Entrepreneurship.

Fellows were asked to bring along a book that had been meaningful to them on their social entrepreneurship journey. Some titles included:

Friday, May 16, 2008

The Power of a DOT!

Was just introduced to this book today. I'm suprised I hadn't heard of it sooner. A must-buy and must-read.

From School Library Journal

"Just make a mark and see where it takes you." This sage advice, offered by her intuitive, intelligent teacher, sets our young heroine on a journey of self-expression, artistic experimentation, and success.

First pictured as being enveloped by a blue-and-gray miasma of discouragement and dejection, Vashti seems beaten by the blank paper before her. It is her defeatist declaration, "I just CAN'T draw," that evokes her teacher's sensitive suggestion.

Once the child takes that very first stab at art, winningly and economically dramatized by Reynolds's fluid pen-and-ink, watercolor, and tea image of Vashti swooping down upon that vacant paper in a burst of red-orange energy, there's no stopping her. Honoring effort and overcoming convention are the themes here.

Everything about this little gem, from its unusual trim size to the author's hand-lettered text, from the dot-shaped cocoons of carefully chosen color that embrace each vignette of Vashti to her inventive negative-space masterpiece, speaks to them.

Best of all, with her accomplishment comes an invaluable bonus: the ability and the willingness to encourage and embolden others. With art that seems perfectly suited to the mood and the message of the text, Reynolds inspires with a gentle and generous mantra: "Just make a mark."

-Kathy Krasniewicz, Perrot Library, Greenwich, CT, Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

NYC Deputy Chancellor's Speech: All Talk?

Today, at a workshop on arts education, the keynote speaker was Dr. Marcia Lyles, Deputy Chancellor for Teaching and Learning at the NYC DOE.

Some of her key points:

We know that learning is in direct correlation with:
  • Imaginative thinking.

  • Discovery. Allowing students to find things out for themselves and supporting their exploration). Thinking about the things that are important to our students and exploring them together.

  • Doing. Understanding through active participation.

  • Expression of the individual. Who am I? What do I do best?
She continued, "it is very difficult to learn when you fail."
I agree.

And more: we want "excellence for every child. Every school. It's every child as an individual. I want our children to take ownership over who they are and how they learn."

I agree again.

When asked why the DOE doesn't push an active learning/arts-based literacy component to principals, Lyles answered: "It may not work for every school--there may be another way."

Fair enough, but this isn't what we hear about any other piece of school curriculum.

It all sounds nice, doesn't it. So why aren't we doing it? What happened?

Thursday, May 15, 2008

School Funding Shackles Lower Income Students

By perpetuating school finance systems that treat children from different districts so differently—by shackling students to the economic circumstances into which they were born—states are undermining the egalitarian goals of public education and new performance imperatives of NCLB. At the very least, combined state and local funding per student should be equal among districts within each state.

The Education Sector and the University of Washington's Center for Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) have released School Funding's Tragic Flaw, examining local, state, and federal education funding policies. The bottom line? Policies systematically give money to schools and students that have more resources, and give less to those that have less.

First the Federal Government...
The Title I program, which provides money to school districts with high concentrations of poor students, contributes to the funding disparity problem. Title I allocations are dependent upon how much states and districts spend. States and districts with more money spend more money, so they get more federal dollars. States and districts that are poorer and, therefore, have less money to spend, get fewer federal dollars, penalizing poorer states.

Then the States...
Many states have adopted policies—some prompted by lawsuits—to equalize funding between richer and poorer school districts. However, laws allowing local districts to augment state funding with local property tax levies often mean those districts with higher property wealth wind up with more money. Also, when state funds are distributed according to staffing reimbursement formulas, wealthier districts that spend more typically benefit.

And finally, the Locals...
Districts make decisions that determine how funding is distributed among individual schools, especially around budgeting for teachers. When teachers are allowed to choose where they work, they tend to go to lower-poverty schools where working conditions may be better. High-poverty schools typically have less experienced teachers and higher turnover rates, so the average teacher salary is usually much lower in those schools, resulting in significant per-student funding disparities between schools within districts.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

"The Surge Against First Graders"

Gary Stager at The Huffington Post draws similarities between Iraq and Bush's Reading First.

He outlines "Faulty Intelligence, Profiteering, Enemies Everywhere, The Surge..."
Underlying Reading First is one of the religious right's favorite issues, phonics instruction. Educators have long understood that some students need help sounding out words while learning to read. However, the "reading wars" is an offensive by neoconservatives and religious fundamentalists convinced that every child learns to read in exactly the same way by being taught 43 phonemic sounds in a lockstep sequence. Some suspect that the promotion of "highly structured, systematic sequential explicit phonics" instruction is a Trojan horse for public school privatization while others suggest that phonics is embraced by religious fundamentalists happy to reduce reading to the literal interpretation of text. Either way, Reading First is the federal government's program for mandating uniform phonics instruction. Any parent who has watched a child spontaneously learn to read must question mechanistic theories of human development that oversimplify complex issues.

Check out The Reading First Study: Interim Report. Summary of outcomes:
  • "Reading First did not improve students' reading comprehension.
  • "Reading First increased total class time spent on the five essential components of reading instruction promoted by the program.
  • "Reading First increased highly explicit instruction in grades one and two and increased high quality student practice in grade two.
  • "Reading First had mixed effects on student engagement with print."

It doesn't really work, but at least we got our teachers to spend time on it!

Student Produced Documentaries on Civil Rights

The Digital Legacy Project at Facing History and Ourselves worked with Boston students to create documentaries about Boston's civil rights history by interviewing leaders in their communities.
What was so meaningful about this experience was...being able to meet... I don't want to call them our ancestors but...being able to meet somebody who pretty much changed our lives today, so that we don't live- we wouldn't live the same lives they did in the 60s...."
My favorite: The Struggle for a Good Education with Jean McGuire, Executive Director of the Metropolitan Council for Educational Opportunity, Inc. (METCO). (Only 5 minutes long.)

More on what you'll hear about in the video:

Teacher Says Goodbye, Thanks to NCLB

In this School Library Journal Op-Ed, Jordan Sonnenblick, an urban teacher, shares why he left the classroom.

An exerpt:
If you’re a teacher, thanks for being braver than I am. Thanks for riding it out when I’m just, well, riding out. And if you’re a parent, please fight for your child. Ask to see your school’s test-materials budget and its library budget. Ask to visit the classroom on a random day, unannounced. Ask whether your kid is getting more or less art than she would have had five years ago. Ask why band practice is at 7 a.m. when it used to be part of the school day. And while you’re mourning the loss of art, music, language, or history, ask the one most damning question of all: What took its place? If you get really riled up by the answer, please consider running for a spot on the school board.

As for me, I’m out. And I’m sorry.

Keep Arts in Schools Webinar: May 29

Keep Arts in Schools will be hosting a webinar featuring Varissa McMickens of The DC Arts and Humanities Education Collobarative and Erin Offord of the Dallas Arts Learning Initiative.

The focus of the conversation will be "Igniting Community Action for Arts Learning."

Immigrations Raids Scare CA Parents

Aggressive immigration agents were spotted near an elementary school in East Oakland, CA. Parents fear that students will be targeted.

Listen to the NPR report here.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Talkin' bout Liberation

Education for Liberation has hosted an online discussion about teaching current events in the social justice classroom.

talkin' bout is an online discussion series that brings together educators, activists and youth to participate in a public conversation on the network website about timely and important topics in liberatory education. From Monday, May 19 to Tuesday, May 20 a panel will answer questions posted to an online discussion board about what teaching current events in the context of Education for Liberation means. The conversation will take place on the website of the Education for Liberation Network (http://www.edliberation.org/). Please join us by posting questions and comments for the panelists andparticipants. This discussion features panelists from organizations and media outlets that publish current events teaching materials including The Nation magazine,IndyKids, Democracy Now! and World Savvy.

Justice Not-Just-Tests Meeting in NYC

Justice Not-Just-Tests Meeting
Monday, May 12
CUNY Graduate Center, Room 5409
Email jnjt@nycore.org for more information.

More about NYCore here.

Yahoo! New Social Networking Site for Teachers

Yahoo!'s new social networking site for teachers: http://teachers.yahoo.com/.

Reflecting Democracy in Education

Great post on Education Policy Blog: Democracy Is a Learning Theory, informed by John Dewey's perspectives.

It turns out that democratic education is considerably more difficult than a form of education that seeks primarily to induct the young into the ways of the old. Dewey spent considerable efforts during his career to try to outline the principles and methods of democratic education, and remained frustrated that many readers of his works seemed unable to escape the tired dualism of an education that is primarily grounded in tradition and one which is primarily aiming to free the myriad possibilities of each child. The best education, Dewey argued, would take account of both the curriculum—taken from the accumulated knowledge and wisdom of intellectual and social tradition—and the child, with his or her creativity, fresh perspective, and lively imagination.

It is important to understand how Dewey’s concept of democracy connects with this nuanced and hard-to-achieve conception of education. Education cannot be considered apart from the conditions of associated living in the society, and such conditions cannot be considered separate from education. Life rooted in “conjoint communicated experience” is inherently educative; young people in a democracy inevitably grow to become participants in shared activities and shared governance; and schools—as institutions explicitly designed to further education—must necessarily be continuously redesigned to serve—and reflect—democracy.
Worth reading: Dewey'sThe School and Society & The Child and the Curriculum

Sunday, May 4, 2008

The Rubber Room Movie

Looking forward to watching this...whenever it does come out.

Watch the trailer here.

Education & Conflict

Is any discussion of political issues in schools indoctrination?

Joanne Jacobs highlights the University of Delaware's Residence Life program as having an "agenda" because it will include discussions of: “Stereotyping, Oppression, Prejudice Reduction, Privilege, Heterosexism/ Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Awareness, Racism, Ageism, Sexism, Values Clarification, Multicultural Jeopardy, Classism.”

When we keep the "politics" out of our schools, we silently give a nod of approval to the status quo. Schools aren't places of indoctrination, but places for conversation, interrogation, and transformation. Schools can and should be safe places where we discuss and explore any and all of the above.

Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity or it becomes the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world. --Paulo Freire

Conflict is the gadfly of thought. It stirs us to observation and memory. It instigates to invention. It shocks us out of sheeplike passivity, and sets us at noting and contriving. --John Dewey

Seattle Teacher Rejects Standardize Test

NPR on the Seattle teacher, Carl Chew, who refused to administer the state's standardized test (WASL) to his students.

"If we are training students for a set of specific skills, and that's all we spend our time on, we are casting them into a dead end."

Beyond Tolerance Workshop: May 31

The New York Collective of Radical Educators is sponsoring a one-day workshop on building communities that support core students and teachers:

NYQueer Presents:

Beyond Tolerance:

Building Communities that Support Queer Students and Teachers

Join students, teachers and community organizers for a dialogue and workshop on challenging heteronormative assumptions and combating homophobia and transphobia in NYC schools.

Saturday, May 31st
9:30 AM to 3 PM

NYU Barney Building
34 Stuyvesant St.

*Lunch and a lite breakfast will be provided.*

NYQueer is a NYCoRE working group focused on gender and sexuality as they relate to school communities. The daily pressures of teaching students at any level (K-12) are such that teachers often feel as if they do not have the time, the support, or access to the resources they need for addressing gender and sexuality in the classroom. More specifically, they are unsure how to challenge heteronormative assumptions and combat homophobia and transphobia.

Recognizing the wealth of resources that both individuals and organizations throughout the city have to offer in this area, NYQueer is planning a one day event that aims to unite students, teachers and community organizers for the purpose of building a stronger solidarity network and increasing awareness about existing resources and possibilities.

For more information and/or to RSVP please contact us at NYQueer@nycore.org.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

"The Kids Are Alright"

Great post on What I Want to Talk About - Practical Theory.

The blogger is Chris Lehman, Principal of the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia. These are his thoughts prior to giving a keynote speech at a technology conference in Oregon.
I want to scream at these folks... I want to shake them up. I want to tell them that we have to stop thinking that business has any idea what schools need to be. I want to tell them that our reliance on test scores will kill innovation and creativity. I want to tell them that every time I go to the exhibit floor at a conference and see more tools for monitoring, accountability and security than I see tools for creativity, creation and collaboration, I see us move one more step away from the dream of what I believe our schools can be.

I want to tell them that the Who had it right. The Kids Are Alright. It's the adults that keep screwing up.

I want to tell them that we have to forget so much of what we think schools are now -- we have to unlearn so much of current educational thinking. And then I want to tell them everything they have to relearn... I want to tell them that we can't look to the future unless we are willing to learn from the past.

I want to tell them that pedagogy matters. That we have to empower, even if that means giving up the soft comforts of security... of filtering... of mandatory curriculum... of lecture.

I want to tell them how much this matters.

I want to tell them that yes, Bill Gates and all the folks yelling and screaming about the broken American system are a little bit right and a whole lot wrong. I want to tell them that yes, our schools have issues and problems, and they aren't perfect. Sadly, they are a reflection of all of us who work in them, and sadly, we often build our flaws right into them.

But I also want to say that those folks have no idea how to fix our schools. And how dare they think they do.

But I want to ask them this... how is it that so many bright people... caring people... dedicated, idealistic people work in our schools, and yet we still have the problems we have.

I want to ask them how a test score matters when kids come to school hungry?

I want to ask them how a lecture matters when kids cannot see a connection between the work of the classroom and the life they see outside the school.

I want to ask them how, given a seven hour work day, we can possibly hope to do everything currently asked of us in the classroom.

I want to remind them that the average School District of Philadelphia high school teacher sees 165 kids in a day. And I want to ask them how they are supposed to do anything caring, meaningful and real in that time.

I want to tell them that technology solves none of this by itself.

None of it.

Not even a little bit. In fact, the way it's being used now, it's making it worse, as online tests and digital "delivery of instruction" command a larger and larger part of the educational-technology landscape.

And then I want to tell them what we have to do.

I want to tell them that schools can't be all things. We have to give up our notion that we can do everything. We can't teach coverage and creativity. We can't assess depth and breadth as our primary focus and have any kind of sanity. We can't tell kids we want them to think for themselves, take ownership, solve the problems of the 21st century, oh and by the way, first you have to take this test that was made by someone you never met and if you don't pass, forget all that stuff.

I want to tell them that we have to question every single system we have in our schools. I want to tell them that everything should be on the table. All of it.

And then, after I say all that, I can talk about SLA. That's less scary, I think.

Searching for the Mouse

Looks like an interesting read: Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations.

Here's the author, Clay Shirky, speaking at the Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco, April 22-25.

Cute story from the talk:
I was having dinner with a group of friends about a month ago and one of them was talking about sitting with his 4 year old daughter watching a DVD.

And in the middle of the movie, apropos nothing, she jumps up off the couch and runs around behind the screen. It seems like a cute moment. Maybe she’s going back there to see if Dora was really there.

But that wasn’t what she was doing. She started rooting around in the cables and her dad said, “What you doing?”.

And she stuck her head out from behind the screen and said, “Lookin’ for the mouse.”
Here’s what 4 year olds know. A screen that ships without a mouse, ships broken.
The moral of the story? Shirky says: "Media that targets you but doesn’t include you may not be worth sitting still for."

I'd add: "Education that targets you but doesn't include you may not be worth sitting still for."

On the Radar: A Few Upcoming Conferences

Hip Hop in Education
Coalition of Essential Schools (CES)
August 13-15, 2008
St. Paul, MN

New England Conference on Multicultural Education (NECME)
October 8, 2008
Hartford, CT

NAME International Conference 2008
(National Association for Multicultural Education)
November 12-16, 2008
New Orleans

Check out the Coalition of Essential Schools Calendar.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Reject your own culture, kids: "You're here. Adopt American values."

Incorporate the lived experience of our students and communities into our schools? "Na", says Arizona State Senator Russell Pearce. And other legislators have actually agreed.

Funny how teaching anything outside of the traditional American white values is considered "indoctrinating." Yet, "to inculcate values of American citizenship" is not?

Find a petition against this Amendment here.

The Arizona Republic reports:

Arizona public schools would be barred from any teachings considered counter to democracy or Western civilization under a proposal endorsed Wednesday by a legislative panel.

Additionally, the measure would prohibit students of the state's universities and community colleges from forming groups based in whole or part on the race of their members, such as the Black Business Students Association at Arizona State University or Native Americans United at Northern Arizona University. Those groups would be forbidden from operating on campus.

The brainchild of Rep. Russell Pearce, the measure appeared as an amendment to Senate Bill 1108, which originally would have made minor changes to the state's Homeland Security advisory councils. The House Appropriations Committee approved the new proposal on a 9-6 vote.

Pearce, a Mesa Republican, said his target isn't diversity instruction, but schools that use taxpayer dollars to indoctrinate students in what he characterized as anti-American or seditious thinking. The measure is at least partially a response to a controversy surrounding an ethnic-studies program in the Tucson Unified School District, which critics have said is unpatriotic and teaches revolution.

SB 1108 states, "A primary purpose of public education is to inculcate values of American citizenship. Public tax dollars used in public schools should not be used to denigrate American values and the teachings of Western civilization."

For schools that violate the anti-Western-teachings provision, the bill provides the state superintendent of public instruction with the authority to withhold a portion of state funding.

Rep. John Kavanagh, a member of the Appropriations Committee, said he hopes the measure helps return cultural studies in the state's schools to a "melting pot" model.

"This bill basically says, 'You're here. Adopt American values,' " said Kavanagh, a Fountain Hills Republican. "If you want a different culture, then fine, go back to that culture."

But Democratic committee members complained that the measure is overly vague, failing to define what constitutes teachings that "disparage or overtly encourage dissent from the values of democracy and Western civilization."

The result, said Rep. Pete Rios, would likely be a chilling effect on public instruction regarding diversity and other cultures.

"There's nothing wrong with being bilingual, bicultural," said Rios, a Hayden Democrat. "I like Mexican music. I like Elvis Presley. I'm bicultural. What's wrong with that? I think kids, students, need to learn about their culture."

What are your thoughts?