Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Tale of Two Classes

Constitution Day is Friday and once again, I am letting the other teachers off the hook and presenting the mandatory “Constitution” lesson. I did the same last year and my feelings on the subject of “Mandatory Constitution” have not changed one whit.

Among today’s classes were two fifth grade classes. One a regular (not the Gifted and Talented class, but a bright bunch none the less), the other a 5th Grade Bi-Lingual class.

I start the first class with my standard lead about whether they have classroom rules and build up to explain the Constitution is the rules for the United States. Earlier one of the boys had expressed amazement that we had a biography of Hitler in the library and I use that comment as a springboard to discuss Freedom of Speech and Freedom to Read.

We talk about how Hitler may have been evil but he still changed the world for the worse while Martin Luther King changed it for the better. We talk about the fall of Nazi German lead to the creation of Israel and affect on their lives today. We also touch on the KKK, the war in Iraq, 9/11 Day and restrictions on airline travel. 35 minutes later I look up and realize my next class (5th grade bi-lingual) is at the door.

First class gets up to get books, second group sits down. Same lesson, same lead in and again we are sidetracked. Not on the lasting effects of Nazi Germany, not on why the KKK is allowed to assemble, not even on the effects of 9/11. No, we are sidetracked on “what country do we live in?” I get various responses ranging from Houston to Texas to Mexico. A few know that they live in the United States but it is not a universal answer.

Their teacher, whose Spanish, is better than mine helps interpret and by the end we think everyone knows where they live. I think about asking which continent but figure I had better quit while I am ahead and besides, I have yet another class at the door.

The Powers That Be that passed the Mandatory Constitution Law are the same Powers that mandated Bi-Lingual Education. Perhaps they know how to teach the meaning and importance of the Constitution to a group of 11 year olds who are not sure where they reside.

What is sad is that these are not recent immigrants; these children are mostly native-born American citizens. And what’s even sadder is that in about 8 years many will go off and become Cannon Fodder in whatever war we are fighting . I hope they figure out what the Constitution is before they end up dying to “Protect and Defend” it.

I also hope the Powers That Be take a long hard look at Bi-Lingual Education and make some radical changes.


Julie said...

Shocking, frustrating, and very sad. Ugh!

msabcmom said...

It sounds as if the bilingual program at your school is not very good. Ours in California overall were not good and that is why Prop 227 passed.

The problem with bilingual ed is that if you don't have a tight, strong system in place you just shouldn't have it at all. I believe that the best educational practice for non native English speakers is bilingual ed, even better, immersion programs. However, if it is not going to be true to the true bilingual or immersion model, don't even do it.

That being said, I can tell you that at our school, our English Only students would give you the same responses to US trivia. I think that teachers are so busy pushing the stupid state tests and trying to hit Language Arts and Math that they don't do much of anything else. This is very sad and the kids suffer for it.

For the last month, my second graders have been studying their community, state and country. I have been trying to push the memorization of their address, and name of the town, state and country that we live in. It has been hard but it can be done. I just found out that our 4th and 5th grade classes are putting on a Constitution Day event at our school and I found a way to squeeze my students into that program. I am not the biggest patriot but I do believe that the kids need to learn about where they live.

Kathy of the HavinsNest said...

You know, I work in a public high school, have children who graduated from that same public high school and have never heard of Constitition Day in regards to "Must See" teaching about the Law of the Land.

I wonder how it is handled here in Arlington since we definitely receive federal funds.

Rebecca said...

We watched Charlie Brown which was really a good solution to the Constitution Day problem. I find it insulting to be told to teach what I am already teaching, but I am also aware some people need to be told.

It was a good opportunity to discuss doing the right thing. Obeying because the government has asked us to observe the day, but also knowing we can say our opinion on the matter.

Which is "Why dont they have better things to do"