The article starts out with an unattributed aphorism: The great truths in education turn out to be half-truths in search of their other half.
There is something to ponder.
Prof. Shattuck had the luck of being elected to a local and district school board in Vermont. For some inexplicable reason he wanted to know what kind of curriculum the state required and after reading a 600-page document put out by the state board called Curriculum Guidelines plus something called Vermont's Framework of Standards and Learning Opportunities he found that it had no content.
[There seems to be an inverse relationship between volume and vacuousness in edland. The NCTM "Standards" come to mind.]
Instead of content, the good professor found that "...entry after entry stipulates that students shall examine, investigate, analyze, understand, and interpret immense intellectual topics such as 'fiction' and 'nature and nurture.' The verbs teach, learn, and study do not appear."
Prof. Shattuck writes:
The nearly impenetrable pages of the state of Vermont's Framework of Standards plus the Addison Northeast Curriculum Guidelines add up to an elaborate professional camouflage of the fact that at no level—state, district, or school—is there a coherent, sequenced, and specific curriculum. The teachers on the curriculum committee for accreditation had good reason to ignore the district Curriculum Guidelines. They propose no course of study, no coordinated sequence of subjects within the core fields. I'm not saying that our district curriculum is watered down or lopsided or old-fashioned or newfangled. I'm saying that those six hundred pages contain no useful curriculum at all.Progressive/constructivist ed hostility to knowledge induces educationists to commit semantic fraud. Two extemely nettlesome terms that fill educationists with horror are "standards" and "curriculum." Educationist have appropriated these terms, drained them of meaning and redefined them. "Standards" now stands for vague visions and "curriculum" is misused to stand for a particular pedagogical doctrine:
What then fills these pages in multiple copies which no one reads or consults? In large part they contain bland hortatory statements about what students "should know and be able to do." It's almost a mantra. Yet the two major curriculum documents refer to no specific content, to no simple lists of items such as osmosis and Martin Luther King Jr. and, one hopes, Martin Luther.
And what also fills these pages, in the place of what to teach, is lengthy instructions about how to teach these unspecified materials. Our district Curricululm Guidelines of recent years devote increasing space to "Best Practice in Teaching," identified as "an inquiry approach, which is based on constructivist principles." The documents to which one looks for the articulation of curriculum turn out to be presentations of a pedagogical doctrine, constructivism, much in dispute and which has appropriated to itself the dubious slogan and sales pitch "Best Practice." Most board members don't know what "constructivist" means and, if they read that far in the Curriculum Guidelines, they don't ask. Constructivism refers to the half-truth that full understanding occurs only when students learn for themselves from hands-on experience without direct instruction or teacher intervention.Prof. Shattuck limits his exploration of state "curricula" to one state. A review of other state "curricula" shows the same vacuousness. State "curricula" are one form educationist hostility to knowledge is institutionalized.