Journal of Educational Controversy


Thursday, October 21, 2010

New Issue of the Journal of Educational Controversy Now Online

The Journal of Educational Controversy is pleased to announce that the Summer 2010 issue titled, “The Professions and Scholarly Communities: Creating the Public’s Questions and Understandings in the Public Square” is now online.

Controversy addressed in the issue:

Professionals and scholarly communities in all fields bring a special expertise to the discussion of ideas in the public square of a democracy. At times, democratic decisions or views widely held by the public conflict with sound professional knowledge of the professional or scholarly community, and challenge the integrity of the choices that a professional must make in a particular case. At other times, the professional is faced with a conflict within the profession itself between deeply entrenched traditions and the challenges posed by newer paradigms. Under both circumstances, the professional is left with a decision about the ethical path to follow and the result will influence the public’s understanding and questions. This issue of the Journal of Educational Controversy examines instances where professionals are faced with a dilemma that either pits a democratic decision against the expertise of professional standards or a conflict within the profession itself when traditional paradigms are challenged. How does the professional examine the choices that would have to be weighed and consider the most ethical position that should be taken?

Following is a list of the articles featured in the journal:
Privacy and Library Records, a case study in Whatcom County
Joan Airoldi
with introduction by Daniel Larner
Ethical Breach and the Schizophrenic Process: Theorizing the Judge and the Teacher
Heather Greenhalgh-Spencer
Bryce Bartlett, Hausch, Blackwell, and Saunders

Next Issue: The Education Our Children Deserve
We invite readers to contribute formal refereed responses to our Rejoinder Section or more spontaneous responses on our journal’s blog.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Time for a Serious National Conversation on the Public Purposes of our Schools: An Interview with Bill Ayers

Readers will find the interview with Bill Ayers from an interesting departure from the mainsteam media's superficial coverage of our national debate on school reform. We reprint it in its entirety with permission from In his interview, Ayers talks about the public purposes of schooling -- something often left out of the economic and privatized goals that have dominated the national debate -- and the real social and human conditions that need to be addressed. For readers who would like to read the article we published by Bill Ayers in our special issue on "Schooling as if Democracy Matters," go to: "Singing in Dark Times."

Back to School: An Interview With Bill Ayers
Friday 01 October 2010

by: Maya Schenwar, Executive Director, t r u t h o u t Interview

Reprinted by permission from

As the 2010-2011 school year grumbled to a start - and millions of public school students settled into overcrowded, underfunded, under-resourced classrooms - I sat down in Chicago with education theorist and activist Bill Ayers to discuss true democracy, false reform and his latest book (co-authored with cartoonist Ryan Alexander-Tanner), "To Teach: The Journey in Comics." In an educational culture increasingly permeated by top-down marketplace values, Ayers, who taught primary school for years, still believes in the possibility of a schooliverse where every teacher is respected and every student is valued as a full human being, where collaborative learning and growth trump the school-eat-school "Race to the Top." And by the end of our conversation, I did, too.

Maya Schenwar: In "To Teach," you talk about how a good school is defined by good teachers. What do you think of this practice that's been circling the country, of "reconstituting" schools and firing all the teachers? Does that logic work?

Bill Ayers: Not at all - not even close.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

More on the Tribal Sovereignty Curriculum: Since Time Immemorial

Since we posted an outline of Washington State’s new Tribal Sovereignty Curriculum on this blog, we have received many e-mails for more information. Shana Brown gives us a first-hand account below of her involvement with the curriculum both as a teacher and lead contributor to its development. Shana also provided us with a nine-page report that gives more details. We have added a link to the report and the webite where readers can find the curriculum following her post along with a short bio to introduce this committed teacher to our readers.

Shana's personal story comes at an opportune time for me. Just the other day, students in our teacher education program brought up some searching questions about the profession they are about to enter. They are young, idealistic and committed, but also somewhat anxious about the reality of the world they are about to experience. They want to make a difference in this world and are searching for answers to their existential questions. Shana's story of life as a teacher, sometimes lonely, sometimes exhilarating, is a deeply honest and insightful account on ways teachers can make a difference in community with others. Her story will not only speak to our students' search for the meaning of the profession they are about to enter, but hopefully also to the politicians, media and think tanks that have exploited real problems and real social and human conditions by resorting to a simple campaign of "teacher bashing." Thank you for your story Shana.

Since Time Immemorial: Tribal Sovereignty in Washington State Curriculum

By Shana Brown

It’s been awhile since I reflected in writing about STI: Since Time Immemorial. I’ll post the articles I’ve written and co-written for a lot of the background information, but as far as what I’m feeling now regarding the curriculum, how I feel as a teacher, tribal person, parent…well, that deserves a bit of writing.

When I started this project, I felt very alone in it. I was trying to get my teacher colleagues to include tribal perspectives in history and literature, trying to get myself to do the same, and it never quite matched my vision of what it ought to be.

And that gets us in trouble, we teachers. Always thinking about the way our classrooms, lesson, students, and the world ought to be.

But it is what keeps us honest, too.

And when we’re honest about what we can and cannot do, we become one among those rare, incredibly lucky teachers whose visions becomes actualized. And the thing I have concluded through this immense exercise that I began almost twenty years ago is that if we depend just upon ourselves to realize whatever our educational vision happens to be, we will fail. Big.

Kafka says that “…the book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us.” If for Kafka the book is the remedy for our inner being, our inner truth, then it is the act of communing that is the remedy for the isolation that stems from being an army of one. As it turns out there were dozens of teachers plugging away at making their little corner of the universe a little better, a little more inclusive of tribal history, a little more truthful. As it turns out, there were dozens of tribes plugging away at making their histories known. As it turns out, the teaching of tribal history and tribal sovereignty was an idea whose time had finally come.

For a very large reason, a kind of harmonic convergence occurred over Washington State beginning in 2005 with the passage of House Bill 1495. John McCoy’s sponsored bill was the “giddyup” that we needed to bring all of us together. The “Us” became OSPI (Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction), Federal Title programs, state legislature, teachers, school districts, the state AG’s office, tribal attorneys, state library associations, the state’s Secretary of State’s office, tribes, tribal schools, tribal libraries, and the list just continues. We’ve received funding from federal, state, and tribal agencies, and most recently we added the Gates Foundation. And then we joined other states in their varying degrees of tribal history inclusion, namely Montana (Regional Learning Project) and Wisconsin (Indian Land Tenure Foundation). I tell you, the more who were interested, and who in turn invested their time and money into our efforts, became overwhelming. I’d find myself giggling while en route to whatever training, presentation, or function, I’d happen to be attending, giddy with the fact that what I’d envisioned so long ago was coming true. Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. Yes, Virginia, there are other like-minded individuals, who can nod and make it so. I’m smiling and giggling right now, in fact.

My words of wisdom: it may take awhile, but don’t give up. Really. It happens. It can and it will. And sometimes it happens all discombobulated and backasswords, but really—have faith. If Ray Kinsela taught me anything it is that sometimes when faith is all you got, it’s all you need. We started with a flickering of an idea when it came to our curriculum initiative, and we had no funding. Now we’re staring at a regional, multiyear effort that has a generous budget.

Now, the curriculum itself. In the articles I explain the rationale and the mechanics of it, but I’m still fearful that it’s not good enough. Hell, I know it’s not good enough purely because many of the lessons haven’t been tried. Remember how I said some things happen bassackwards? Well, the writing was one of them. I wrote, then my curriculum partners wrote, but without pilot schools to try them out. Then, we got pilot schools, but no real budget to support them the way we wanted. That meant only a few of the lessons were vetted properly. Then, we got the budget to support them, but after the pilot ended. So now, we have the budget to pilot and evaluate, get the lessons out to the tribes for them to see, too. But there’s still a big chunk of it that needs to be scrutinized, edited, and reworked. For example: I have a GREAT idea for how we can take the history of Celilo Falls on the Columbia river and transform it into a storypath, a la Margit McGuire from Seattle University (look her up. She’s great.) But, time for a teacher is short, and so I had to resort to recording my suggestions on what to do with the unit in order to develop it further. So, perhaps one day I’ll be able to continue it, but it’s going to take awhile. Another: some of the units just feel so “first-drafty” to me, but that, too will change as more people look ‘em over and say, “Hey! You really ought to change it to X,” or, “There’s a problem with Y.” I’m just lucky my ego ain’t locked up inside of my work. Okay, not locked up inside my work that much.

The cornerstone of our curriculum, though, is our saving grace: we don’t pretend to be the definitive voice on any one tribe’s history and definition of tribal sovereignty. Our curriculum compels its users to create and develop partnerships between school districts and tribes so that tribes can tell their own stories and begin trusting an educational system that was hurtful at best and genocidal at worst. Tribes are damned tired of having schools teach about them rather than with them. Our curriculum’s success depends on it. And how will you as teachers accomplish this? Hopefully, not bassackwards, but have faith that if it does happen that way it will probably be okay.

There’s a lot more to say, and my class will begin in 20 minutes and I have yet to make the photocopies I need (that part of teaching does not change. Ever.). I hope I’ll be able to chat with some of you as time allows. I’m very eager to find out what people think, how the work is used, not used, augmented, revised, and ultimately used.

There’s a whole other topic about the generosity of folks in this project. I think part of why it works is that no one wants to make any money on it. When you’re not worried about profit, the rest seems to flow easier. Kind of like growing up poor and not realizing it until your adulthood. You’re incredibly oblivious to just how difficult being poor actually is because you’re just so incredibly happy. It doesn’t matter that it’s your fifth meal mainly comprised of commodity cheese; you’re just happy you get grilled cheese sandwiches again!

Link to Report: Washington State’s Tribal Sovereignty Curriculum Initiative: Since Time Immemorial by Shana Brown and CHiXapkaid

Also see: Since Time Immemorial: Developing Tribal Sovereignty Curriculum in Washington's Schools by Barbara Leigh Smith, Shana Brown, and Magda Costantino

Link to the website: Tribal Sovereignty Curriculum Website

Shana Brown is a descendant of the Yakama, Snohomish, Stillaguamish, Squaxin, Puyallup, Muckleshoot, Tulalip, and Snoqualmie tribes. She was born and raised on the Yakama reservation, and despite her surroundings, was never introduced to any tribal history in the public schools. It has been her vision as a veteran English, Language Arts, history, and technology teacher of 22 years to develop curriculum that becomes part of the everyday experiences of all students, not just an ancillary tip of the multicultural hat. She has developed curriculum for the Washington State Historical Society, the University of Montana’s Regional Learning Project, and is the lead curriculum developer and writer for OSPI’s Since Time Immemorial: Tribal Sovereignty in Washington State, or STI. She currently teachers ancient cultures, language arts, and technology at Broadview-Thomson K – 8; her husband and two young children keep her busy, happy, and healthy.