Kathleen Kesson on Curricula and Culture War




Kathleen Kesson – ISE board member, professor emerita at LIU-Brooklyn and former director of the John Dewey Project on Progressive Education at the University of Vermont – has a new article on the impact of Trump’s targeting of critical education and insistence on a “patriotic” curriculum up at the VTDigger:

“It is no accident that the teaching of history becomes a lightning rod in times of cultural crisis, like the one we are living through at the present.  The culture wars are heating up with the threat from the White House to cut off federal funds from schools that utilize the New York Times Pulitzer Prize winning 1619 Project, with Trump calling it “toxic propaganda,” and then doubling down on those comments and actions when questioned about them during the first presidential debate. At a recent White House sponsored event on American history, Trump also denounced the “propaganda tracts, like those of Howard Zinn, that try to make students ashamed of their own history.” Denouncing these curriculum materials comes on the heels of Trump’s M-20-34 memorandum of Sept. 4 calling for the suspension of any federal trainings in implicit bias, or any content that references white privilege, systemic racism, or critical race theory. The war of words rages. Presenting knowledge from multiple perspectives becomes “propaganda” while learning the facts of history becomes “divisive.” Universities be warned – this memo has been sent to higher education institutions that receive federal funding, and deans of schools, many of whom sense that academic freedom is at stake, are considering its potential impact.

… Educating for life in a democracy is fraught with conflicts over the meaning of democracy, the tensions between liberty and equality, and what skills, attitudes and concepts are necessary in order to educate people for active participation in public life. It has never been more important to be able to critically analyze the barrage of information and fake news coming at us every day, to challenge the manipulations and the lies, and to examine the myths that shape consciousness, including the myths of progress, of white superiority, and of American exceptionalism. Without a deep understanding of the patterns of history, and an honest reckoning with our past, young people will lack the tools they need to create a better world.” 

Read the full article from the VTDigger here.