How to learn what your children are being taught

Posted on September 13, 2020

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There is a great opportunity in the land opening up to us. It is free and largely apolitical although there may be some elements running beneath the surface that are “political.” In this day, less than two months away from probably the most important presidential election in a century there is hardly anything that doesn’t have some politics associated with it.

The Corona pandemic has caused school and college systems across the nation to switch to online and Zoom courses, with some variations on this phenomenon in different colleges and schools. California, for example, wants to emphasize ethnic studies, systematic racism, LGHTQ communities, etc. in their K-12 system while ignoring that her students are way behind other states in math and science. But that’s California. Here in Alabama we worry about the football season and whether it will come together or not, but math and science seem to be doing ok.

As we go to Zoom and online courses, all of which are delivered via computer technology to the students, basically no matter where they are, I think parents too should be able to Zoom in or follow the online curricula, lectures, requirements etc. all from the comfort of their homes. All they will need is access to their children’s i.d. and passwords, and whatever other impediment is thrown up by the schools and colleges to ensure the security of the system.

Parents as a group are generally very concerned about what their children are being taught, or not taught, in today’s modern schools. Private schools, parochial schools, and magnet schools are proliferating across the nation as parents seek alternatives to the public schools they often view as failures.

Don’t get me wrong, there are many devoted, great teachers in the public-school system. But the prevailing culture not only in the k-12 level but also in the colleges and universities is often dragged down by lowered expectations of school boards, administrators and the like or, like in California and some other states, by blatantly radical departures, substituting race, gender, diversity and politically incendiary issues for reading, writing and arithmetic. Our students rank ninth in science and tenth in math in the world, but we spend more per student than any other country. Go online and do your own research. Is feeling good about your gender or race as important as math?

Something is wrong here. How do we fix it? Let’s start by parents getting access to what is being taught, not just reading an article in a newspaper or some online source summarizing trends, both positive and negative. Listen in to what your students are getting on Zoom for example.

A young friend of mine from the Sokol Dog Park is a senior at UA. Her dog is Rex, a great big beautiful Husky, who loves to play and run with my Standard Poodles. After walking around the Park a few times to get some exercise while my Poodles, Miller, Stanley, and Dudley, mixed it up with Rex and other guys, I sat down to chat with other owners. My friend was doing something on her laptop, so I didn’t interrupt.

“I’m Zooming a class,” she said, and then added, “but I’ve just muted him for a while.” It was an English lit class and I’m sure the instructor was waxing on about some great literary masterpiece, but he was muted for a while. How many times have some of my students, I wondered, wished they could mute me, close their laptop, and just exit the class!

Alas, I only taught one true online course–a history of Christianity– but enjoyed it immensely and learned lot about my students. You could access that course and see what I taught if you know all the right hoops to jump through with the University services system to get access to it. I wouldn’t mind. And if I had ever Zoomed a class (Zoom was only created I think in 2019 or 2019) I would love to have you join me as we marched with the conquistadors through Mexico, explored the world of Indigenous agency (like that one?; very up to date am I!), or destroyed the Fulgencio Batista regime in Cuba with Fidel Castro and revolutionized not only Cuba but much of modern Latin America.

My point is, from the first grade through Ph.D. students, if teachers are teaching in other than traditional “face to face” classrooms the old-fashioned way, you could be listening in too, or following online.

There would have to be rules. Parents listening in would have to prove beyond a doubt they were the parents, and they wouldn’t be allowed to kibitz in any other fashion other than listen and watch passively. Who knows what you may learn? And after a few months we could put together some samples of what is being taught in K-12, at UA, at Stillman or Shelton State.