Great article. The conflation of teaching methods or curricula with politics is a frustrating and ongoing feature of the education debate.

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Apr 22Liked by Natalie Wexler

Excellent article. This would be great for a big discussion about schools and schooling, teaching, and learning as well as where our country is headed educationally.

What students learn today is being heavily politicized. Yes, there are people on all sides of the political spectrum complaining about what policymakers choose to "allow" to be taught or "disallow". I am most disturbed by the politicization of the social studies/history curriculum and also the banning of books by right wing groups that affects everyone just because they don't want their children to read them. Teachers are in a bad place now - open to losing their jobs because they teach a broader curriculum.

Social studies needs and needed to be broadened to include all who have contributed to the America we have today - the good, bad, and ugly. White-washing our history is not good. Those on the right who have called this broadening as race-shaming is totally ridiculous. As an adult who reads extensively, and because of my extensive reading, I now know more about our history and all its successes and warts, which I should have learned in public school.

Whether teaching content is seen as a Republican "thing" and not a left-wing thing does not hold up for me. What is going on is just a reflection of the politicization of schooling, unfortunately coming a lot from very far right politicians. If people have approached you this way, saying that because you support the teaching of content to children, you are a Republican, it is their loss and very sad. Kids need content and that is going to come from the teacher and how the teacher teaches. As for co-constructing with students what happens in the classroom, co-constructing is usually not about content but about projects and activities from which students can choose. You are exactly right when you state "but you can’t choose to learn about a topic if you don’t know it exists, and unfortunately many students are unaware of a lot of topics they need to learn about in order to do well academically and in life." Teachers must teach, expose children to knowledge - but accurate knowledge, broad enough for a much fuller "picture" that we have done.

If our nation keep going in the direction we are going, we will have a generation that does not know our history, its origins and the philosophies that drove our development.

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Wonderful essay. Thank you.

If I may, I'll add the observation that there's an undertone in the argument you reference (that knowledge is somehow "left" or "right") that is also anti-instruction. "Brilliantly Obvious" just offered an excellent debunking of that idea, I think.

An additional observation: I've know Don Hirsch for 30 years. I seriously doubt that I've heard him harbor warm feelings for conservative political causes.


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Brings me back to my inner city high school in the late 1969s. We sat in the round at tables(not desks) and the teacher was the “facilitator “. I thought if I know as much as you (ie you don’t need to teach) , why are you being paid and not me?

But then again, I was a pretty snotty kid

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Thank you for this reflection. I think some might continue to push a potentially even more extreme position, jumping off the word "accountable" in your last paragraph. I'd be interested to know how you would write the next paragraph if the header question was, "(Why) Is it necessary to hold students accountable for this knowledge?"

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Brilliant article. As a high school teacher in Australia, I'm mostly just gobsmacked at how sophisticated that year 2 curriculum sounds.

Only thing I'd quibble with is the idea that this is an idea that "The Left" holds. I don't think the average trade unionist or socialist organiser has strong opinions against a knowledge rich curriculum. This is an opinion of education academics and academic-adjacent professional opinion-havers. It's important not to assign these people more popular support than they really have outside of their carefully curated twitter feeds.

Intelligent working class people the world over value the knowledge they have and want their kids to have the same.

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Hi Natalie -

First, I want to thank you for the continual work that you do to defend common knowledge in the interest of all American children and their/our future. There are so many aspects of this article I want to touch upon with support, but I won't for fear of blabbing. The pushback is jaw-dropping though.

I find it perplexing that everything we know about common knowledge is supporting by the vast amount of research that has been carried out over decades to give us the Science of Reading, and yet, there is still push back. I just don't get it because it seems so logical to me.

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