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I am a high school English teacher in an urban high school in Oklahoma City. I am a member of the American Federation of Teachers, Local 2309. I am a Democrat, a union activist and a worker for social justice. I also am a Christian (Congregationalist). I play chess and coach our school chess team.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

School in the good old days.

Sometimes, actually most of the time, I get weary of those who say, "American education isn't as good or rigorous as it was back in my day." I present to you a textbook I rescued from old John Marshall High School. "Cavalcade of American Writing" Copyright 1961, edited by Gunnar Horn.xon Americans except for a couple of "Negro Spirituals" made up, according to the author, by "humble and uneducated slaves." Marion Anderson's picture is on the introductory page making hers the only named black person in the book. The song "Dixie" is in the anthology next to "The Battle Hymn of the Republic." Henry W. Grady's "New South," a praise for the South written in a time when Jim Crow was firmly established as the law of the old Confederacy, is included in the anthology.
I think I might have used this text when I was in high school in the 60s. There are about 111 selections in this by around 70 authors, 9 are women. There are no selections from any non-Anglo-Sa
Nearly all the questions following the selection are what we in the education biz would classify as DOK1 responses to the text. Typical is this one about Lincoln's "Gettysburg Address": "What explanation does Lincoln give for making his address short?"
My point is this. We teach much more to our students today. We teach many more authors, a larger variety of authors, and we ask much more of our students in their responses.
We are doing a better job of teaching today to a far more difficult environment than those who went before us. We owe them much, but we have nothing to be ashamed of in comparing ourselves to them.

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