Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Curriculum in a Can

Can an educational course be successfully packaged so that it can be taught by anyone, anywhere? Those who are selling the curriculum would like you to believe so. But I'd be doubtful whether I could learn "Brain Surgery in just four short weeks," regardless of how many CD tutorials came with the package or how much I overpaid for them. Granted, some courses of less scope require less effort or practice to master. I think I could pass ace a course entitled "Tie a bow tie like a true Nerd," without having a live, professional Nerd standing next to me in a dressing room, and even if I couldn't I'd insist on trying (those circumstances make me uncomfortable just typing about them.) In fact, I DID learn to tie a bow tie from a detailed sequential diagram I downloaded from some nerdy website. Now I can tie them perfectly with my fashion sense tied behind my back.

So, yes, SOME things can be taught by anyone, anywhere, but it depends on what is being taught and the motivation of the person on the receiving end of the lesson. What would you say about the following scenario that has recently surfaced in our district: Freshman Core Subject (World Geography) taught (not from a can but) in a can (the locker room) during Freshman Athletics period, for half the period (45 of 90 minutes.) Something about this proposal stinks, other than the jock straps hanging on the globes.

The reasoning goes like this. Elective courses such as health and speech, which would normally be the first to be relocated to a mat room, are now being moved down to the middle school, the ideal place to discuss personal hygiene and puberty. Because many of the coaches who are out at the field house are social studies teachers, it would be convenient, no, it would make perfect sense for them to throw in a little World Geography lesson while the students are running bleachers. What better place to discuss the Coriolis Effect that in a locker room bath room, where each athlete/student has access to his own personal lab (i.e. toilet.)

All potty humor aside, having a core class in a field house is a wrong move in this case. To be fair and equitable, both academic level and PreAP (advanced) level classes would have to be taught out there. This means at least two "sections" that will likely be held concurrently. There is also the time issue. The courses in the main building are 90 minute classes. The courses in the field house are slated to be 45 minutes, splitting time with the athletics curriculum. This likely means that the 45 minutes of Geography time, will likely be less than that. All students taking the course, in either venue, will receive the same credit, AND the same rank points for the PreAP sections. This is a real issue that needs to be tackled before this can even remotely take place, otherwise, academically competitive students will be insisting on taking the class at the field house to earn the same credit for what could amount to less effort.

Aside from the equity and logistic issues, it just seems fundamentally wrong for a soon-to-be 5A premiere school district to offer ANY academic class in a mat room. What kind of message does that send about our commitment to academic excellence? What's next? Football practice in a lecture hall?

5 comments:

bob s said...

What an absolutely FABULOUS idea. I can't believe it has taken so long for someone to think of this. Next we should try Calculus BC (maybe the dual credit class only) for the varsity sports!

sk said...

Another example of the brilliant administration at NBISD. I always thought it would be a great idea to build a classroom in the field house - a sneaky way to trick those pesty UIL officials who limit practice time. This way, the athletes don't have to waste practice time with eating, showering, or changing their clothes - they can do all of that during "World Geography". We all know that the new 5A district is going to be tough. The football players are going to need all of the extra practice they can get! And, anybody can learn geography by doing a few worksheets, right?
GO UNICORNS!!!!!!!!

D said...

Even though schools must endure legislative brilliance in an attempt to increase its quantity of engineers by requiring all students to take an extra science and math course, the resulting effect needs to be that some courses may need to be discontinued or offered in another capcity. Other changes need to be considered to assure core academic disciplines are protected. I do not think the future leaders in China and India are concerned with the preservation of athletic time for it's students. It is time the parents, staff and board members of NBISD stop giving lip service to academics and closely examine the huge percentage of Texas HS's who have already moved away from double blocking extra-curriculars and the many that have had to return to a straight eight schedule in order to accomodate yet another unfunded mandate. Something proactive needs to be done, before it is done to our students leaving them with a second class education with a winning athletic record. Not to worry, as social studies and civics lessons are reduced, voter apathy should rise and the uninformed masses with mis-prioritzed
ideals will be chasing an American dream that will no longer exist; at least not in America.

kwkorpi said...

d, you said it much better than I did.

bob s said...

Great comments d. We pursue academic excellence at all costs until it interferes with athletic excellence, work, or family/free time.