Monday, October 03, 2005

Teaching a lesson in a progressive school

Last week I taught my first student-teaching lesson. The teacher I work with collaborates with two others on her lesson plans, a special ed teacher and another 11th grade humanities teacher. They meet to plan lessons in the afternoons, and usually I'm at class then, so I don't get to input a lot. They are open to my suggestions, up to a point.

For example, the kids' writing is terrible. I mean scary terrible. One essay I just read was almost unintelligible, in that the students' words seemed to have been scattered randomly throughout the "sentence," which went on for like four lines and counted as a paragraph. The girl is bright and articulate, and to my knowledge does not have any type of learning disability.

I suggested I could do some mini grammar lessons in class, and my teacher thought it was a nice idea. She does support the idea of grammar, and recognizes that the kids are pretty weak writers. Although I don't think she has the same fear in her heart that I do for them. But the thing is, she won't let me give any grammar quizzes. The school as a whole is sort of "against" quizzes, although some teachers use them I guess. It's difficult to assess whether the kids have learned the specific principle you taught when you can't quiz them on it specifically. Also, there is every reason for the kids to tune out when I try to teach it to them, since they are not really accountable. But this is a small frustration only.

On Friday, I taught the whole lesson. It was about the Declaration of Independence and what Thomas Jefferson meant when he wrote, "all men are created equal." We read some of his ambivalent and conflicting views on slavery, and talked about what why he was so conflicted.

This is a really difficult topic because you have to closely examine the American situation at the time. Jefferson was so steeped in the politics of his time--the revolution, trying to maintain colonial unity, condemning slavery while assuring southerners of its preservation, a slaveowner himself, a man of thought in an age of events. He saw slavery, and saw its injustice. He saw how it contradicted with his ideals of equality for all men. So he changed the game by claiming that African-Americans were...not quite men. Sort of pseudo-men, perhaps evolutionarily stunted. It was his awful compromise between reality and idealism.

However, in class we hadn't talked about the revolution yet. We hadn't talked about the different ways that the northern and southern colonies developed and why. We hadn't talked about the fragility of the revolutionary will. We hadn't talked about northern attitudes toward slavery and toward Africans.

Why, then, did we do this lesson when we did?

Because although it is a history class, the class is based around themes, not history.

The themes for this unit (colonial founding through the early American period) are roughly as follows:
the racialization of savagery
race as a social construct
what freedom means to different peoples

It's difficult to find room in there for things like a) the development of the colonies, b) events leading to the revolution, c) ideas leading to the revolution, d) dissent regarding the revolution, e) the war itself.

I would imagine that the kids have had many classes based around themes like this. One girl said in class today, "how come we always have to learn about race?" Not that it isn't an important topic, especially in American history, but I think the sentiment stemmed from theme overload.

Another hint that they haven't really learned a great deal of content, in the past or so far this year, is that they don't know a lot of content. I'm pretty sure a lot of them don't know what "Europe" is, or at least the difference between "Europe" and "England." When I talk to them, they try to reconstruct the facts of history logically, from the themes we learned about.

My teachers and others want kids to understand the "big ideas" in history, rather than memorizing facts and details. But I just don't think you can teach these big ideas directly. They are empty and meaningless by themselves. You teach the small stories, the facts, the dates, the chronology, the events, and then out of these, patterns begin to emerge. That's the beautiful part, when the students start to see them. It's like giving them tree after tree after tree, and suddenly they realize it's a forest. Or it's like that painting, by...Seurat? The one with all the little dots. There is no picture without all the dots!

It's funny, because I feel that the teaching strategy I am suggesting is actually more constructivist than my constructivist teachers. It doesn't involve lots of group work, and it doesn't shun facts, and there would have to be a lot of teacher support and prodding, but I think students could come up with a lot of "big ideas" on their own, without us directly telling them. Giving them the facts, rather than a somewhat revisionist thematic interpretation of the facts, actually gives them more power, and a forest full of trees.

In my lesson during the first block, we read a lot of the primary source documents out loud together, and then I led a discussion about them and we took notes together. This was roundly condemned as the wrong approach, and so the next period I had to let them read and interpret in groups. As usual, they wasted a lot of time and I don't really think they understood it. Not that I'm sure they had totally understood it in the first block, since they didn't have the proper historical background and I can't give them quizzes, but at least I got some reasonable answers out of the class discussion. In the second block, everyone got something different, depending on their group. It was so frustrating. I don't want to learn to teach like this because I don't think it's right. But I can't contradict the teacher. But I need the practice. It's an education grad school moral dilemma. The best kind.

31 Comments:

At October 03, 2005 5:29 PM, Anonymous Portnoy's Complaint said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At October 03, 2005 6:27 PM, Blogger Jenny D. said...

Awesome. You worked hard to teach that lesson. Wow.

Believe it or not, there are lots of us out here in Ed Schools who see the world as you do, and see education like you do. You'll run into plenty of loons, but there are very smart people trying to do things better too.

 
At October 03, 2005 7:54 PM, Anonymous Math TA said...

I have to admit, I was kind of puzzled when I read this:

"It's difficult to find room in there for things like a) the development of the colonies, b) events leading to the revolution, c) ideas leading to the revolution, d) dissent regarding the revolution, e) the war itself," considering that "what freedom means" to various people is one of the key themes of the unit.

Of course, it's not a complete story, but freedom is one of the reasons people left Europe to colonize the "new" world. For some, it was political; for others, religious; for still others, it was economic freedom that caused them to set out across the ocean. It's no stretch to connect the other items in the list to the concept of freedom in one way or another, either.

Oh, and I just wanted to say that I was ecstatic to find someone in ed school somewhere who wasn't a radical constructivist. I teach math, and there you find one of the worst failures of constructivism. I mean, it's hardly realistic to expect our children to essentially teach themselves 2000 years worth of mathematics, modulo a dark age or two, all in the span of just over a decade? None but the most gifted could be expected to succeed; I have students who can't multiply 2-digit numbers without a calculator, for example.

Keep it up. I'm trying to do my part, too, by scientifically studying collegiate mathematics education and looking for ways to improve the way we teach. Finding this blog made my day. :D

 
At October 04, 2005 5:11 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like the Seurat metaphor. You should put it into a really snappy four-word title and write a best-selling book.

 
At October 04, 2005 9:14 AM, Blogger newoldschoolteacher said...

To Math TA:

You're totally correct. The idea of freedom is very important for this period, and all periods, in American history. My point was that you don't teach a lesson called "the idea of freedom." You teach a lesson about "the actions of the British crown that made the colonists want to revolt." From this, the kids would be able to EXTRACT what freedom and liberty was to the colonists. Similarly, you can teach a lesson about the early wars between colonists and Native Americans, reading about the motivations on both sides. From this, your students could extract the meaning of freedom to those particular tribes. The idea is not to be too heavy-handed in teaching interpretations rather than facts. Thank you for your comment. I should try to slow down and be more even-handed. I'm becoming as reactionary as my adversary.

 
At October 04, 2005 9:57 AM, Blogger Jenny D. said...

I'm adding you to my blogroll as Newold Teacher. Or do you want Oh Snap?

let me know.

www.drcookie.blogspot.com

 
At October 04, 2005 10:02 AM, Blogger newoldschoolteacher said...

Jenny D--

I really haven't figured out this blog thing yet, so I don't know how to send you a message other than this way.

Anyway, most people have been listing it as newoldschoolteacher, but you can do whatever you want. It's no big deal.

Thanks!

 
At October 04, 2005 7:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I guess I'm not sure what you meant in your original post, then. If you wanted to cover, say, the formation of the colonies, wouldn't you then teach the lesson titled "formation of the colonies," and then expect the whole "what freedom means" concept to fall out on its own? Maybe I'm just betraying my lack of knowledge of what goes on inside ed schools.

If you mean that the kids are supposed to figure out "what freedom means" without you ever mentioning the word "freedom," then, I think that's ridiculous. History, in particular, is a subject in which there are lots of different directions one can go with the same material.

Consider medieval medical tests as a primary historical source, for example. Clearly, one can use this as a basis for the history of medical thought in the period. (I'm mentioning this because one of my undergrad professors used these as primary sources for a PhD dissertation.) One can also use it as a launching point for a study on attitudes toward women in the period, as becomes apparent after you read a couple of them. Chances are good that a surface reading of the texts, or any single text by itself, will not lead you to a theory of misogynism in medieval Europe. Either you already have to be thinking about these things, know where to look for them, or be guided to them.

 
At October 04, 2005 7:19 PM, Anonymous Math TA said...

Whoops. I wrote that last comment. :P I meant to click "preview", not "publish!"

 
At October 04, 2005 9:21 PM, Blogger newoldschoolteacher said...

Portnory,

I removed your post because I don't believe in innate racial differences. Both science and experience have shown the concept to be false. If you wish to debate this topic, that's fine, but this particular blog is not the right forum.

Thank you.

 
At October 04, 2005 9:31 PM, Blogger newoldschoolteacher said...

math ta,

I think we agree here, but are misunderstanding one another. The idea is not to ignore concepts like "freedom," but instead to ground them in fact, so that they actually do mean something. It's the difference between studying all the Intolerable Acts, the Stamp Act, the Sugar Act, and the quartering of soldiers, and reading Common Sense and THEN discussing/teaching what freedom meant to the colonists versus just discussing/teaching what freedom meant to the colonists without all that backup in real events and people.

 
At October 04, 2005 10:57 PM, Blogger Elliot said...

The experience you're describing isn't "progressive" -- it's a bastardization of progressivism that would have Dewey and Piaget cringing in the grave.

The idea of having the student construct his or her own knowledge and thereby deeply ingrain the concepts in such a way that they contribute to overall intellect is sound. But that requires that the student has the building blocks of that knowledge -- the facts, the chronology, etc.

There are two extremes, it seems, at the moment; One says you teach all "theme" and no detail, the other says you teach all detail and no theme. The most effective method seems to lie somewhere in the middle: Using details and facts as an avenue to critical understanding.

Your school isn't progressive by any accurate reading of the word, it's simply missing the mark altogether.

 
At October 05, 2005 7:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To the Administrator:

You brought up the subject of race, I am merely responding to it. (and will continue to do so).

The fact that you believe something to be false does not justify you from removing it from a discussion board, even from your own blog. As long as the post is not abusive, and is reasonably on point, its removal from consideration only serves to not allow other people to consider its validity and discuss it if they want to, which is how freedom of speech is supposed to operate. An idea can be right or wrong, it can be discussed or ignored, but to not allow others to see it is indicative of the kind of not-open-to-discussion closedmindedness that keeps beauracratic institutions from solving their problems, which of course, is part of the problem in our schools..... My guess is that you are uncomfortable with the idea of racial differences. But here are some links to the latest research on race (sorry, the links didn't make it through the cut and paste, but they are easily googled). What if someone on this board would like to read them? Are you going to deny them that opportunity?

2 Scholarly Articles Diverge on Role of Race in Medicine  NYT, March 20, 2003

"A view widespread among many social scientists, endorsed in official statements by the American Sociological Association and the American Anthropological Association, is that race is not a valid biological concept. But biologists, particularly the population geneticists who study genetic variation, have found that there is a structure in the human population. The structure is a family tree showing separate branches for Africans, Caucasians (Europe, the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent), East Asians, Pacific Islanders and American Indians.

Race Is Seen as Real Guide to Track Roots of Disease, NYT, July 30, 2002

"Challenging the widely held view that race is a 'biologically meaningless' concept, a leading population geneticist says that race is helpful for understanding ethnic differences in disease and response to drugs. The geneticist, Dr. Neil Risch of Stanford University, says that genetic differences have arisen among people living on different continents and that race, referring to geographically based ancestry, is a valid way of categorizing these differences."

A New Look at Old Data May Discredit a Theory on Race NYT, Oct 8, 2002

"Two physical anthropologists have reanalyzed data gathered by Franz Boas, a founder of American anthropology, and report that he erred in saying environment influenced human head shape. Boas's data, the two scientists say, show almost no such effect. The reanalysis bears on whether craniometrics, the measurement of skull shape, can validly identify ethnic origin…

" ‘I have used Boas's study to fight what I guess could be considered racist approaches to anthropology,’ said Dr. David Thomas, curator of anthropology at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. ‘I have to say I am shocked at the findings.’

"Forensic anthropologists believe that by taking some 90 measurements of a skull they can correctly assign its owner's continent of origin - broadly speaking, its race, though many anthropologists prefer not to use that term - with 80 percent accuracy."


http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2005/07/0718_050718_ashkenazim.html
“Researchers at the University of Utah's anthropology department investigated a possible link between genetic illnesses and above-average intelligence in Ashkenazi Jews. They suggest both are the result of natural selection for enhanced brainpower.”


Brain May Still Be Evolving, Studies Hint

By NICHOLAS WADE
http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/09/science/09brain.html?ex=1128657600&en=989dab4bc02beacb&ei=5070

Two genes involved in determining the size of the human brain have undergone substantial evolution in the last 60,000 years, researchers say, leading to the surprising suggestion that the brain is still undergoing rapid evolution.

A new allele arose about 37,000 years ago, although it could have appeared as early as 60,000 or as late as 14,000 years ago. About 70 percent of people in most European and East Asian populations carry this allele of the gene, but it is much rarer in most sub-Saharan Africans.

Study Finds Genetic Link Between Intelligence and Size of Some Regions of the Brain, NYT, November 5, 2001

"Lunging into the roiled waters of human intelligence and its heritability, brain scientists say they have found that the size of certain regions of the brain is under tight genetic control and that the larger these regions are the higher is intelligence."

Y Chromosome Bears Witness to Story of the Jewish Diaspora, NYT May 9, 2000

"With a new technique based on the male or Y chromosome, biologists have traced the diaspora of Jewish populations from the dispersals that began in 586 B.C. to the modern communities of Europe and the Middle East. The analysis provides genetic witness that these communities have, to a remarkable extent, retained their biological identity separate from their host populations, evidence of relatively little intermarriage or conversion into Judaism over the centuries."

For Sale: A DNA Test to Measure Racial Mix, NYT, October 1, 2002

"A company in Sarasota, Fla., is offering a DNA test that it says will measure customers' racial ancestry and their ancestral proportions if they are of mixed race."

Genome Mappers Navigate the Tricky Terrain of Race NYT, July 20, 2001

"Scientists planning the next phase of the human genome project are being forced to confront a treacherous issue: the genetic differences between human races."

Gene Study Identifies 5 Main Human Populations NYT, December 20, 2002

"Scientists studying the DNA of 52 human groups from around the world have concluded that people belong to five principal groups corresponding to the major geographical regions of the world: Africa, Europe, Asia, Melanesia and the Americas. The study, based on scans of the whole human genome, is the most thorough to look for patterns corresponding to major geographical regions. These regions broadly correspond with popular notions of race, the researchers said in interviews."



The Palette of Humankind NYT, December 24, 2002

"Humankind falls into five continental groups - broadly equivalent to the common conception of races - when a computer is asked to sort DNA data from people from


Charles Darwin’s the Descent of Man

"... the various races, when carefully compared and measured, differ much from each other -- as in the texture of hair, the relative proportions of all parts of the body, the capacity of the lungs, the form and capacity of the skull, and even the convolutions of the brain. But it would be an endless task to specify the numerous points of difference. The races differ also in constitution, in acclimatization and in liability to certain diseases. Their mental characteristics are likewise very distinct; chiefly as it would appear in their emotions, but partly in their intellectual faculties."

When I say that there is no longer any serious scientific debate about whether racial differences exist, only the degree and kind of those differences, I mean it:



I'll say it again. The reason why facts are often ignored in favor of general concepts and themes is because the facts that are available to us don't always support the prevailing ideology. If facts contradict the ideology to which we are trying to indoctrinate our children, whether that ideology be creationism that flies in the face of evolutionary theory, or modern theories on race that fly in the face of evolutionary theory, then you essentially have to find a way to justify not teaching the facts.

The facts need to be on the table so that our children can consider the possibility that differences in behavior are not all neccearilly the result of culture or environment.

 
At October 05, 2005 9:09 PM, Blogger TangoMan said...

I agree with the writer of the lengthy comment about race. Further, newoldschoolteacher's comment:

Both science and experience have shown the concept to be false.

Is demonstrably false and I've a whole blog and 1,000s of academic papers backing up the claim.

If she doesn't believe in evolution I'd be very interested in reading any posts she cares to make for how Intelligent Design should be taught, for that seems to be the road that she's on - that Homo Sapiens has been immune to evolution, or that evolution stopped at the neck. Personally, I don't see a middle ground - one either believes in evolution or not. There's no such thing as a little bit pregant.

 
At October 06, 2005 5:18 AM, Blogger Instructivist said...

"The experience you're describing isn't "progressive" -- it's a bastardization of progressivism that would have Dewey and Piaget cringing in the grave."

This is fascinating!

It sounds like a rerun of the great Communist experiment.

Actually existing Communism is/was a horror. The original ideas are all said to have been good, but somehow the implementation never works.

At some point you have to ask yourself if it's solely faulty implementation or is there perchance something wrong with the original ideas themselves. Something that seems impossible to implement properly has at the very least little practical value. This much seems certain.

 
At October 06, 2005 5:42 AM, Blogger Norma said...

Good post. My children are 37 and 38 and I recall that one of the most frustrating things about thematic or project learning (usually in groups) as I observed when they were in grade school was that they knew no facts to use as a foundation. Call it souffle learning--looks pretty on the outside but there's just hot air on the inside. So if you're fighting this battle, it probably pre-dates your instructors and teaching colleagues.

To this day, I doubt that my kids could tell you which came first, WWII or Vietnam or Korea. They probably know WWI came before WWII, however.

 
At October 06, 2005 7:22 AM, Anonymous Rag Time said...

Yo, TangoMan, appreciate the backup. See you back at the blog.

 
At October 07, 2005 10:21 PM, Blogger Instructivist said...

"My children are 37 and 38 and I recall that one of the most frustrating things about thematic or project learning (usually in groups) as I observed when they were in grade school was that they knew no facts to use as a foundation. Call it souffle learning--looks pretty on the outside but there's just hot air on the inside. So if you're fighting this battle, it probably pre-dates your instructors and teaching colleagues."

One of the fallacies of the progressive/constructivist ed creed is that one can do "critical thinking" without having something to think about. Educationists set up this bizarre false dichotomy between content and "critical thinking" and come out in favor of "critical thinking" at the expense of content. The two must go hand in hand.

You mention the project method. This method was made wildly popular in 1918 by William H. Kilpatrick. Kilpatrick was a disciple of Dewey at Columbia University' Teachers College and the most infuential and damaging figure ever in education. TC served as an incubator of the creed and its acolytes spread the gospel far and wide.

I highly recommend Left Back by education historian Diane Ravitch for an account of the bone-chilling one-hundred-year history of progressive education. The anti-intellectualism of the chief proponents of the creed is breath-taking.

For starters you may want to do a search on the Cardinal Principles.

 
At October 09, 2005 11:57 AM, Anonymous particleman said...

Another underlying contradiction inherent in championing this teaching method as constructivist is that the knowledge comes pre-packaged and pre-constructed. The authors of the curriculum (who have learned about the topic through this or some other method) have gathered and analyzed the evidence and drawn a broad conclusion (i.e. the relevant "big idea"). It is through this lens that students are to learn the thoroughly pre-chewed material.
Of course, any choice of structure for a lesson involves some amount of pre-analysis by the author of the lesson. The structures inherent in the content (in this case probably some combination of chronology and geography), however, seem to be the most neutral with respect to the author's viewpoint. The author of the curriculum has his or her chance to contruct the "big ideas" from evidence he or she knows, why would a constructivist deny a student that same opportunity?

 
At October 11, 2005 2:38 PM, Anonymous Dana Huff said...

I have to disagree with you all. It's his blog, and he can remove comments from anyone for any reason. You comment here because he allows it. You could easily use your own blog as a forum for your ideas.

That said, I was interested in this post because I teach the Declaration in American Literature. One activity I like to do with students is to let them pair up and read the Declaration from their text along with the rough draft of the Declaration, which can be found in lots of places online. They are often very surprised by the differences, not just in diction, but also the passage on slavery that was deleted. I'm not sure if that would work for what you were trying to do, but my students found it to be an interesting and enlightening activity.

 
At October 11, 2005 2:44 PM, Anonymous Dana Huff said...

I'm sorry! I didn't read enough to realize your gender and made the classic blunder!

 
At October 12, 2005 9:40 AM, Anonymous Kimberly said...

No wonder these types of "progressive" teachers hate standardized tests. We keep focusing on those damn trees - sometimes down to individual leaves - while they keep trying to convince students that seeing the forest as a whole is the only important goal.

 
At October 13, 2005 1:34 PM, Blogger simbiotic said...

I consider myself a progressive educator, and have used thematic approaches and project-based learning in my classrooms. That did not prevent me from teaching events, dates, chronology, etc. I think it is easier to organize units around chronology or country/region, but in trying to teach a couple hundred years of world history in one year, one still has to be very selective about the people and events that get covered. There does need to be some balance between giving students a common set of facts with which to enter adulthood and the skills with which to analyze both current and historical events. I expected my students to understand historiography and apply economic, political and social lenses to the "facts" of history. Finally, I think a lot educators look at project-based learning as an end in itself, rather than a means of assessing student's knowledge and skills. My projects were culminating assessments that required students to demonstrate what they knew and could do. While I did use pen and paper exams to gauge factual knowledge, and essays to assess understanding, I found projects were a good opportunity to see that information in action through activities such as research, debate and presentation. I did a thematic unit on revolution based on French, Russian and Chinese Revolutions. After studying each revolution we conducted mock trials of key players. After three sets of trials their understanding of social, political and economic context deepened, as did their logic and argumentation skills. These are also interesting opportunities for students with different skills sets and performance levels to demonstrate higher order thinking, e.g. a low level reader who can absorb key ideas through preparing witnesses for trial. I think the criticisms you make are not of progressive education, but of progressive educators who do not have deep content knowledge and/or pedagogical skills.

 
At November 24, 2005 5:57 PM, Anonymous Wong Online PoKér Hu said...

That is the reason why teaching is more of a vocation. The challenges being presented everyday are tougher that people think. Teachers are subjected to problems encountered in all sides of the world. In tackling this, teachers must be able to realize that it is more than learning that they are trying to promote.

 
At January 07, 2006 4:14 AM, Anonymous Jim said...

wow awesome you're doing a good job

 
At May 29, 2006 10:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excelent post! i'm training to be an ESL teacher now, and one of my grad school teachers teaches us using constructivist pedagogy. Accck!! I sense this is all a bunch of lefty-brainwashing of future teachers. Your post has encouraged me to stick with it; you are so right to teach facts and stories and let the students notice the patterns. Duh.

On class breaks i talk to undergrad students, some fresh out of high-school. They tell me they've lost the will to question, because high-school teachers only reward "progressive" behavior. This is a bad sign, but if us newbie teachers or teachers-in-training cut-and-run then that could be worse for the next generation.

 
At May 07, 2007 6:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Even if I do agree that this school's "progressiveness" will leave these students bored and clueless (and I do), to blame it on constructivism misunderstands constructivism. Schema theory is about building understanding. No understanding is being built in this school. Dewey promoted experiential learning. Having a vague conversation about race is silly and next to pointless. A meaningful conversation about race in America on the other hand is most worthwhile. But that is not possible without a schema/ framework of understanding.
I am a non-grading progressive educator and I would be horrified by the school described.
That said, to suggest that progressive education is responsible for the ills of American education is just silly. It really has never been tried. Since the 30's, people have been arguing to go back to basics. If you argue that point, you would have to acknowledge that this has been the case at least since the early 80's. This is a generation of traditionalist/ teacher dominated education. Indeed, I would argue that progressive education in America has never been tried. Even if our teachers have constructivist ed. profs, when placed in schools they are assigned curricula to teach, handed textbooks, and are told to "cover" a certain era.
Don't conflate poor teaching with progressive education or constructivism.

a. mcd- phila.

 
At September 18, 2007 4:36 PM, Blogger Anna said...

I am an educator experiencing similarly conflicting attitudes towards progressivism, but I just want to comment that even though it is difficult to implement well, I still think that it is worth fighting for. I believe that attending progressive schools made me and my classmates the compassionate, thoughtful, intelligent, successful (if immodest) people that we are in spite of and BECAUSE of its flaws and thought-provoking contradictions. Even if I did not memorize many dates in school, I developed an insatiable hunger for knowledge that has been my driving force throughout life.

I regret none of it.

In addition, I wanted to briefly respond to the post regarding race. It is imperative to understand (and to teach children) that the social constructionism vs. essentialism debate is NOT to be confused with the nature vs. nurture debate. Something can have a biological basis AND be socially constructed. For example biological sex has a biological basis (genitalia, physicality) whereas gender (clothing, make-up, desires, behavior) is a total social construct. Similarly, race, families, motherhood/fatherhood, sexuality, criminality, mental illness, etc. all have biological bases (relevances or correlations) while simultaneously existing as complete social constructs.

 
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At May 12, 2009 11:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just read your blogs about student teaching. I'm curious to see where you ended up. I'm also in school and have a hard time giving in to the progressives. Luckily I'm allowed to combine pieces I agree with.

 
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