40. A Philosophical Foundation

The language arts subject area committee, unintentionally drifted. Only the curriculum council and board of education could act.

A philosophical direction. Rebecca conferred with Barbara.

The direction, in a word, was interdisciplinary.

Non-language arts teachers began to see the logic of connecting language arts and technology. Letting language be the thread that ran through all subjects in a project-based environment.

To make that adjustment work, Barbara and Rebecca examined both district and language arts mastery statements. Ensuring compatibility. Written with broad philosophical strokes. No conflicts.

But the building blocks of a discipline were not specifically mentioned.

No mention of vocabulary development, sentence structure, word meaning, grammar, spelling, handwriting, composition, and other technical aspects of communication.

Considerable attention must be given to the specifics of mathematics, science, social studies, music, physical education, visual art, or any other subject in public-school curriculum.

The new learning infrastructure does not overlook attention to detail. Policy statements acknowledge the need for new bridges. They provide the necessary money.

Policies refer to what constitutes quality in general terms. But never specify what kind of girders or bolts to use. They issue blueprints—exact expectations associated with load capacity and engineering considerations.

Policies include no assumptions. They imply, even declare, that contractors and their staff are highly competent and skilled. Policies provide external safety inspections —critical accreditation in project development.

The No Child Left Behind agenda micromanaged the nation’s public education system.

Before NCLB associations created subject area standards. Accreditation processes were strengthened. Standardized subject-focused tests were created and implemented. Efforts improved teacher education programs. A movement began to increase teacher involvement in the decision-making structure.

But all those efforts were short circuited by NCLB and the rationale behind it.

Using the bridge analogy, bureaucrats and politicians told contractors exactly what was expected in detail. The particular weld used on learning girder number five.

Changing that mindset and practice in American education, especially at the district level, is not easy.

It requires Barbara, Mary, Rebecca, Ken, and all others serving on both the curriculum council and language arts subject area committee to operate at a high level of intellectual engagement.

To align the district and language arts mastery statements in their thinking and actions. Without getting sidelined with details best left to the discretion of knowledgeable and creative teachers.

They start the process by discussing and reflecting on the two mastery statements. How more specific curricular elements can be created.

Examined side-by-side. Then, the language arts subject area committee drafts a recommendation for the curriculum council to consider.


DISTRICT MASTERY STATEMENT
 
Students completing the full program of studies at XYZ School District will have skills that expand their understanding of reality. A deeper understanding of themselves and how they fit into the world.
 
They can solve complex problems, think and act creatively, and manage their own needs responsibly.
 
Graduates understand and can act on principles associated with entrepreneurship. The ability to become lifelong learners through knowing how to learn and being motivated to do so.
 
They are curious about ways they can stretch boundaries into new and different realms. An inherent drive to learn continuously, to ask good questions and become part of diverse communities in which feedback is vigorous and stimulating.
 
They will understand the importance of self-confidence, gained through experience with widening groups, taking meaningful initiatives (reaching out), receiving consistent encouragement from respected associates.
 
Graduates will practice mindfulness in terms of clarifying priorities and actions each day.
 
They are open to others from different backgrounds. They understand and work to achieve self-discipline and personal values. Create and maintain the convictions to pursue these values.
 
Students completing the full program of studies at XYZ School District will speak and write effectively. Know how to make people feel at ease, those from every walk of life. Graduates will enter conversations with others and show genuine interest in their ideas and activities.
 
While each academic discipline is important, graduates will grasp the idea that problem solving is usually associated with a complex and interactive system. Solving problems requires collaborative skills that allows all disciplines to work in concert.
 
Graduates will understand the meaning of intellectual passion. Not simply a passion for attaining more knowledge, but in comprehending its significance and value.
 
The ability to communicate expressively both orally and in writing. Life is more than a single dimension. It is an assortment of experiences that make it worth living.
LANGUAGE ARTS MASTERY STATEMENT
 
Students participating in and completing the district’s language arts curriculum will master outcomes corresponding with written intentions for learning at grade level: Defining reality in the context of decisions made valid through background knowledge and evidence.
·  Gaining insight into human interactions and behaviors as depicted in literature that discusses cultural influences, thereby gaining an appreciation and respect for diversity.
·  Interpreting problem solving as the ability of human beings to consider challenges, weigh the accuracy of options found in all types of literature, conduct trial and error tests, and work in teams to create and evaluate possible or probable solutions.
·  Establishing a working definition of creativity as being an authentic learning goal, characterized by the dynamic nurturance and acceptance of novel ideas, proposals, and behaviors that depict curiosity and devotion to some endeavor.
·  Demonstrating responsible behaviors in the context of what is read as valuable in terms of good taste, logical reasoning, and instructive to readers as guidelines for living and learning. Responsible behaviors are also manifested in written works reflective of the writer’s own creativity, ability to express ideas, opinions and factual information offered through quality syntax. 
·  Developing, through reading and writing, an appreciation for competition based on valuable insight, examples of moral/cognitive/physical self-improvement, and willingness to take risks for reasons other than self-aggrandizement. Accepting persuasiveness based on conviction and improving the common good as the appropriate model for entrepreneurial enterprise.
·  Accepting the idea that reading, writing, speaking, listening, and interacting through language is the basis of lifelong and worthwhile learning.
·  Using literature and other media as catalysts essential for making learning a conscious, intentional, and ongoing part of life.
·  Making curiosity a fundamental part of living and becoming, through reading or accessing diverse forms of media on a regular and ongoing basis.
·  Inquiring through the use of questions posed appropriately and regularly.
·  Participating in the interchange of vigorous and stimulating ideas in which feedback is welcomed.
·  Recognizing the acquisition of self-confidence as the result of taking initiatives in widening groups. Using insights taken from literature and other media, and applying skills in speaking, writing, and listening to the act of reaching out.
·  Placing oneself where encouragement of others is given and received.
·  Practicing the art of mindfulness by being sensitive to prioritize actions and responses, particularly through effective oral and written communication.
·  Articulating the meaning and practice of self-discipline and development of personal values, reinforced by the reading of quality literature, and the viewing of uplifting media.
·  Interacting with others easily based on the art of conversation by maintaining the habit of staying engaged with the world and listening carefully.   
·  Pursuing knowledge and sharing that knowledge with humility and sincerity through both speaking and writing.

©2021 Stu Ervay – All Rights Reserved

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