Civics & the Ed Schools; Ripe for Vast Improvement

I have a special interest in Civics education. My high school civics/government teacher drilled the Constitution, Bill of Rights and the Federalist Papers into our small brains. This Vietnam Vet worked very hard to make sure that we understood how the US political system worked, or not.

While reading the ongoing pervasive spying news, including the battle between the CIA and its Senate “oversight” committee, I read with interest the recent University of Wisconsin-Madison “Associated Students of Madison” spring, 2014 election results. One piece of data somewhat surprised me: the UW-Madison School of Education lacked any declared candidates.

Conversely, Julie Underwood, Dean of the UW-Madison School of Education has been quite active in the political scene, while dealing with criticism of ed school standards and practices.

Do schools of education provide civics training, or do they assume that students learn about our government and their role as citizens in high school? A friend well steeped in the education world and with children recently remarked that “you can no longer count on the public schools to teach our kids the things they need to know”. I’ve been pondering this statement in light of the recent ASM election.

Madison Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham recently jumped into the state academic standards rhetorical battle with a statement that included:

“Politicizing the creation of learning standards, while simultaneously abandoning the broadly-supported Common Core State Standards, will not serve the students of Wisconsin well. Rather, such moves will only serve to cause confusion and uncertainty,” Cheatham said.

Students would be better served if legislators focused on a fairly-funded public school system “that maintains a relentless focus on implementing consistent, rigorous standards,” Cheatham said.

Yet, education is inherently political, encompassing substantial spending with, to be charitable, challenging results.

Education spending, policies and curricular choices have long been “politicized”. The Wisconsin DPI’s decade plus implementation of the criticized WKCE reveals the challenge of improving standards for our students. How many million$ have been wasted?

It appears that Ms. Underwood and Ms. Cheatham’s landscape is ripe for vast improvement.