Saturday, March 29, 2014

Indoctrination vs. Exposure

Some people critique the Common Core State Standards for encouraging ideological biases that they find troubling. As for me, I’m plenty worried about pedagogical biases: the bias towards lofty, everyone-can-do-it, one-size-fits-all goals; the bias towards an abstract version of “higher-level thinking” that probably doesn’t exist; the bias towards the supposed virtues of explaining in words one’s reasoning in math problems; the bias towards an abstract, information-aged, multi-media conception of “text”; and finally, via its abstract goals and its leaving up to schools and teachers how to meet these goals, the de facto bias towards the dominant pedagogical philosophies of the Powers that Be in education.

On the other hand, ideological biases, per se, don’t worry me. As I wrote in a comment on my recent blog post on Jennifer Finley Boylan’s piece on the Common Core, I think it's harder to indoctrinate kids than many people fear. Kids, after a certain age, are naturally rebellious. They are also often more savvy than we give them credit for being. I think of my oldest son, who, after 13 years of contemporary Quaker multi-culturalist communalism, has seen through the agenda and rebelled against most of it, espousing an original set of contrarian views. Even if he’s more contrarian than most, I’m guessing that indoctrination ventures in K12 schools are failing spectacularly—particularly once the kids become teenagers.

When it comes to social/political/moral issues, I’m guessing that what actually bothers certain people about the Common Core (and other recent educational fads) isn’t indoctrination, but exposure. They worry not that their kids will actually be brainwashed, but, rather, that they will be exposed to certain things from which they prefer to shield them.

I don’t happen to share their particular worries: there’s nothing, politically or morally speaking, in the Common Core agenda (or its likely exegeses by the edworld’s movers and shakers and curriculum developers) that I’m afraid of my kids being exposed to.

Not that there aren’t plenty of things that I (like nearly every parent) want to shield my kids from until they’re older. I still don’t want J exposed to any sex ed (I’ve opted him out for years): he’s not nearly mature enough and will end up with yet another avenue for serious mischief. I don’t want my 13-year-old daughter reading books that (like so many Young Adult books these days) contain scenes of explicit trauma and routine nastiness: they will upset her pointlessly. I don’t want either of my kids hearing racist or sexist or other derogatory slurs bandied about casually as if there’s nothing wrong with them—in books or by teachers or classmates. But I’m pretty sure that these aren’t among the things that the CCSS will end up encouraging.

However troubling some people find the CCSS in terms of social/political/moral ideologies, the immediate issue (except for kids who are unusually suggestible and susceptible to adult authority--and I'm not sure how many of these kids are out there) isn’t indoctrination, but exposure. And when it comes to mere exposure, the CCSS don’t worry me.

But then there are the less immediate, long-term cognitive consequences of some of these ideologies--a subject for a later post.

1 comment:

3rseduc / handsinthesoil said...

I agree with you, I think. I do believe there is some "indoctrination", more of an agenda which can border on propaganda. But I think its a very small piece of the puzzle and a lesser evil issue. Plus there can be two sides to the coin...some people are besides themselves that we teach multiculturalism. I'm all for teaching American exceptionalism (kinda opposite multiculturalism) but I promote teaching about other cultures, too. We no longer interface with the neighboring farmer, but will work in a very close knit diverse world. Anyways....I'm kind of meandering here so I will stop while ahead of myself...but I'm looking forward to reading more of your thoughts.