Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Are you ready for public office?

Here's a quiz.

You're making dinner on a Tuesday night when the phone rings. It's the editor of your local paper who says he's contacting you, a School Board member, because no one else in the District called him back. On Monday, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, a reporter randomly asked seven students who were in Downtown, "What can you tell me about the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr.?"

They all answered, in one form or another, that he was celebrated for freeing the slaves. Three of the students were in High School and those three were also African American. Can I have your response?

"Eh. Who have you called so far? Any of the Principals?"

"Yes. They didn't return our calls. Do you have any comment that the District website make no mention of Black History Month which is coming up?"

"Well, the District website is about two years out of date, and furthermore I'm not sure that we've ever systematically celebrated any of the monthly celebrations. It's more of a classroom by classroom thing."

"So, about the kids we surveyed, is this indicative of the level of education the students are receiving in your schools?"

How would YOU answer?

I fumbled around for a bit and finally got something out. I feel bad that I had to throw my own kids in there, but I do know that my own children are products of the school system and they certainly know who Martin Luther King, Jr. was, and they learned about him in class (I think in Second and Third Grade). I did tell the reporter that they were somewhat unclear as to the difference between Abraham Lincoln and George Washington, however. At least that got a laugh. I'm more than a little mortified, actually. Darned kids these days. I wonder if they knew what state they were in, or who's president?


Bob & Muffintop said...

That was very kind of him to ambush you. What did he expect you to do? Singlehandedly rewrite the curricula to remedy this issue? Has it ever come up before? I'm sure it'll come up now.

If it's any consolation watch some of Jay Leno's Man on the Street interviews. Horrifying.

BTW- best wishes on the magazine article.

Anonymous said...

You could say:
"I think they were kidding with you"
That probably wouldn't work

Tara Marie said...

Yikes, that's a little scary. My 5 year old could have answered the question better--LOL. My husband is a history geek, so the 5 yo can also tell you the difference between GW and AL and can tell you details about AL's and MLK's assinations, which I keep telling the DH might be TMI for a 5 yo.

So, as a school board member how do you deal with this on the other end, who do you question as to why these kids can't answer this? Just curious.

Suisan said...

Bookwormmom--I always enjoy being ambushed. Not.

Tacoma--actually, I have a pretty good relationship with reporters. I make jokes with them off the record and then say, "OK. My quote is..." and for the most part they respect that. Part of the reason why the reporters call me is that a) I give them tons of background information about WHY such-and-such is an issue, and b) I always give them some sort of quote after we've talked about background off the record. Half the time the reporter really had no idea why someone tipped them a story. They're as interested in gossip as the next joe.

Tara Marie--Um, I don't know WHO to ask. Yours is a good question, actually. Because I'm not sure that Martin Luther King, Jr. is actually part of the formal curriculum under state law. The Director of Curriculum is very good at dealing with larger curriculum issues, but this seems more like a classroom level problem. And I think that falls to the Principals, but I'm not sure. I've been poking around since them trying to figure out what different levels are teaching about Civil Rights. So far I've learned that the elementary schools really do focus on Civil Rights, but I'm still unclear as to what happens at the Middle and High School levels. Another project!