I always chuckle when schools or school districts develop mission statements.
A mission statement is something that everyone in an organization can instantly say. For example, during the 1960s, the mission of NASA was to “put a man on the moon and return him safely to earth.” Most school mission statements are philosophies which include teaching all students, preparing for the future, and on occasion, even saving the whales. After more than 40 years in education, my personal mission statement for teaching is pretty simple: teach kids what they need to know when they need to know it.
Recently, I read something that shocked me, and that is not easy to do. It was sent to me to me by a colleague who is a grade three teacher in a school in New York state. She indicated that the approved state English Language Arts curriculum, found on the Engage NY website, includes a book entitled Nasreen’s Secret School: A True Story From Afghanistan. The premise of the book is about a family in Afghanistan. The Taliban soldiers come and kidnap the father. The mother goes to find him and never returns. The daughter becomes a selective mute and later attends a secret school. It is full of violent illustrations including the kidnapping and the soldiers with guns. The students in grade three are usually 7 or 8 years old.
With all of the literature in the world, I am sure there is something that is more age appropriate for children who are still learning the city, town, county and state in which they live. I am not sure who is making these decisions, however they are misguided and inappropriate at best. Third grade students do not need to learn about war and the horrors of it. There is plenty of time for them to learn that. This is not what they need to learn and definitely not the time to learn it.
If reading this does not make you cringe at Common Core and all of the issues surrounding it. I do not know what will.
By Dr. John Metallo is a retired teacher and administrator. Among the positions he has held are principal of Albany High School and adjunct instructor at the University at Albany and SUNY Plattsburgh. He lives in Slingerlands and can be reached at 518-577-7530 or at [email protected]