Saturday, April 01, 2006

Curricula

Dear Indigna,

I read that a group of Hindus are protesting a new California history textbook that, they argue, portrays their faith in an unflattering light. On the one hand, I’m sympathetic, but I also wonder if activist groups should be involved in the content of history textbooks. Your opinion?

Confused
Sacramento, CA

Dear Confused,

Who the hell cares? According to the New York Times (March 26, 2006) the “No Child Left Behind” law means most schools aren’t teaching anything except math and English anymore anyhow.

Why do we need to study history in the first place? Isn’t there a saying, “History is written by the victors”? Well, if you’re writing history textbooks for a living I’d say you have been anything but a “victor.” And that “social studies” subject? I don’t know about you but I don’t want my kids becoming “socialists”! Art, music, those are obviously for pussies.

According to the Times, “Some authorities, including Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings, say the federal law's focus on basic skills is raising achievement in thousands of low-performing schools.” Well, that seems obvious. You’d expect kids to score well when they spend all their time on only two subjects. Since it’s working so well, I recommend we expand the principle of “narrowing the curriculum” to college and beyond.

Why do college kids need to learn anything else? Allowing only English and math classes would greatly reduce the need for faculty and thus lower colleges’ financial needs and, hopefully, tuition. Imagine freeing the academy from the burden of expensive “labs,” so-called “art studios,” and giant, unwieldy “libraries.” Think of the students’ glee at being liberated from the horrors of the “recital,” “experiment,” or “research project.” Plus it would all but eliminate the chance of an ungrateful grad student beating you out for a Nobel Prize! (And isn’t it always the one who wouldn’t sleep with you?)

Oh yeah, and that idea about whacking students on the wrist with a ruler if they get the answers wrong? I like that one too.

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