Sunday, March 09, 2008

Inward Education

J's first grade curriculum is quite alarming in how inward looking it is. The world begins and ends in America like the rest of the planet was simply empty and had nothing worth knowing or learning about.

The argument it seems is that first graders have no need to know about the world, staying local is the best way to introduce them to concepts that can be extended later. But I hear from parents of older kids, it does not change that much even at the high school level unless a kid is taking advanced courses in specific subject.

So to learn about ancient cultures around the world, a child would need to be on an advanced history track. The rest would go out into the world with just a smattering of American history and that would be the extent of their sense of history. The pattern follows with all other subjects as well. The kids "graduate" and come out into a highly globalized and competitive real world with a lot of strong non-American players in it; find themselves struggling to stay afloat let alone win. This is a perfect set-up for failure.

While I had expected the need to supplement math and science education at home, I had clearly underestimated the deficiencies of public school education and how hard I would have to work to overcome them.
Particia Cohen's NYT review of "The Age of American Unreason" is an excellent summary of all that concerns me and a lot more.

Specially in America, one would think educators would realize the absolute need for children to have a good understanding of the cultures, religions and histories that are represented within the large immigrant population. It is excusable for a school in almost any other country to remain local in their curriculum - while not the best choice it would at least represent the interests of all the students.

For an American school to pretend that the world started a few hundred years ago with the discovery of America is to disenfranchise everyone's history and culture which goes much beyond that. The gaps education leaves behind is filled by cheap infotainment with questionable outcomes.

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