World Languages Curriculum

I mentioned earlier that I noticed an RFP for 180 iPads (2nd Generation). I was more curious than anything; the RFP gives no indication whatsoever of the justification or the purpose for these devices. So I asked. As noted in the post, Stephanie Stuart replied right away that they will be used to support the World Languages instruction. Recently I further learned from Dr. Wiegand that the board approved this new curriculum back on April 9th, 2012.

 

Looking back, April 9th was an interesting day (post 1, post 2). At the time, I did not make any mention about the World Languages curriculum due to all the intensity dealing with Working Cash Bonds. World Languages happened to be the first item on the business agenda, and looking back I am surprised at all the supporting documentation available via boarddocs. In the end, the administration asked for $684,926. Of the six supporting documents, only one mentions iPads, and only 60 at that. I am not exactly sure why the district is requesting 180 now, nor why 2 years later. Presumably, the iPads were supposed to come out of the Summer 2012 budget – now that we are sitting at Spring 2014, I am thinking the figures have shifted a little bit.

 

So here is my quandary. Is this a big deal at all? World Languages sounds like a really good idea given all the ethnic and cultural diversity we have, thanks largely to a Big Ten research institution. Obviously, a number of teachers, administrators, not to mention consultants, put some serious time and effort into the pilot (at least, according to the documentation available to us). Is it worthwhile to start digging into this niche circumstance, to learn how effective the World Languages curriculum has been, what “bang” our $685k got? Should I care what the iPads are used for? Or what about the involvement of Pearson and all the other curriculum materials we purchased?

On the other hand, I might just ask questions about the curriculum because I truly am curious and want to learn more. In my experience, if I start off talking to administrators and teachers with “Hey, this is cool, can you tell me more?”, they usually jump at the opportunity to tell me all about it. And my first response to Stephanie Stuart was along the lines of admiration for geeky gadgetry being used to tear down language barriers. I kinda want to see it at work. 🙂

 

On a more general issue, it concerns me that the RFP has absolutely no mention of “World Languages” at all. There is no indication that the board approved x number of iPads at a previous board meeting. But how much of a concern is this really? Does anyone in the community really care about RFPs? I don’t hear anyone else making any noise.

 

Which ties back to the same post about the iPad RFP in which I mention “normalized deviance.” Have we become so numb to the way things happen in our school district, our cities, our state and our nation that we are willing to let these minor things slide?

 

I do not want to nit pick really small things. $685k (spread over 4 years) is a reasonable chunk of change, but we currently have bigger fish to fry. Heck, if I wanted to make a big deal about small things, my panties would get all bunched up over the silly $900 plaque we hang in school buildings for LEED certification. But I am contemplating how to use this as a small example of holding our district accountable. Truly, I think we have lost the art of respecting the social obligation and civic responsibility of looking out for one another. It is not with judgement and criticism that we should look carefully at each other, but rather with a genuine desire to see improvement hoping that others would do the same for us.

 

Now to go learn more about World Languages…..

An afterthought: politics and civic responsibilities

As I was working on my previous post, in the back of my mind is the question “Why am I spending so much of my time and energy on the school district?” After completing the post, I sat for a while and contemplated that question. And this is what I have come up with.

Our society is shaped and formed by the values, ethics, morals and internal “rules” passed on, or “taught”, by others. The most commonly-held perception (I think) is that this process occurs today in a classroom, all during the course of “learning” grammar, mathematics, science, history, etc. Or perhaps, while some may strenuously disagree, I think they stridently hope that things like “values” and “ethics” are being taught at school. *grin* We cannot discount other significant “teachers”, like peers, parents and even our situational environment (where we live, how we live, what happens near and around us). It seems to me that, more and more, the official focus of public education is to train up and prepare people to go to college and then get a job. So while the softer, deeper things of values, ethics and morals are still being conveyed in one fashion or another, they are not the focus at all.

As I stated in The Purpose of Education, part 2:

Here is what I want “education” to be: an environment where Good is taught, Wisdom is imparted, Happiness is pursued and Peace reigns.

Here is the purpose I want for education: To find the Absolute best things

For me, Unit 4 is just a microcosm of bigger arenas; it is not unlike an onion, with public schools on an inside layer, the City next, then County, State and finally Nation. I cannot wrap my head around the “big” domains, so I stick with something that is relatively bite-sized. Something I can satisfactorily engage in, see results. So when I preach civic responsibilities and then mention keeping school board members accountable, I fully realize there are bigger fish to fry in the context of “civic responsibilities”. I get that. I know. But my brain is just not big enough yet to graduate on to the myriad of issues at higher levels. For me, “true politics” is being able to exercise some form of democracy in all domains.

Having said that, I have to clarify that I do not believe “true politics” or “democracy” is the end-all-be-all of human existence. I think it is a mechanism and framework from which we must work in America. But I firmly believe it falls far short on a global scale, and other forms of human relationship (including governance) must be exercised. For instance, the ubiquitous “golden rule”, love others as yourself. Four simple words that anyone would find to be a challenge when put to the test. (incidentally, I just noticed that Wikipedia has a very interesting and comprehensive entry on this term)

So why do I spend so much time blogging about Unit 4, talking to people about Unit 4 and visiting Unit 4 schools? Because this is how I am practicing my skills for the larger domains, and right now, I have a passion for public primary education burning within me. The “love others as yourself” is particularly vexing, but I am working on it.