What K-12 Textbooks Are Like Now: A Sample lesson on the Declaration of Independence

[Begin lesson.]

We hold (Did you know that Thomas Jefferson invented an automatic letter copying device? It’s pictured here. Higher-Order Thinking: how are letters different from email?)

these truths (Cross-curricular Connections–Math: Truth tables are used in logic. Al-Farabi, pictured here, is considered, in the Islamic world, the father of logic. Critical thinking: do you think it is logical to jump off a bridge? Why, or why not?)

to be (Peer Response and Collaborative Learning: ask your neighbors what they would like to be when they are adults. Having trouble with this assignment? Check out the online Occupational Outlook Handbook published by the Department of Labor. Working with a classmate, draw some pictures, write a short story, or choreograph an interpretive dance showing you in the job you hope one day to have!)

self (Social-emotional Learning: A positive self-image is important. Brainstorm a list of ten of your most admirable characteristics. A personal characteristic is called a trait. Remember: you are special.)

evident (Document-Based Questioning: Like detectives, historians use evidence. Look at this diagram. What clues can you find suggesting that the people in this village depend on the ocean for their livelihoods?),

that all (Multimedia Group Activity–Language: The word potpourri comes from French words meaning “rotten pot.” It was a sort of stew into which you could put ALL the leftovers. It’s now used for a collection of dried plants, including flowers. Use our Digital History Resource online to make a potpourri with your neighbors. Make sure that every student gets a turn to put ingredients into the potpourri.)

Now, practice standard CC$$.ELA.L.666.00b by answering the following multiple-choice questions about the selection.

[end lesson]

In short, K-12 textbooks now read as though they had been designed by gerbils on methamphetamines. But they weren’t. They were designed by marketing people who wanted to lard the text with headings containing the buzzwords that are hot on the education midway this carnival season. No curricular continuity. No coherence. No wonder that our kids have the attention spans of Donald Trump at an intelligence briefing after snorting Adderall. But hey, those textbooks are aligned will Bill Gates and David Coleman’s backward, prescientific, puerile bullet list of “standards.”


About Bob Shepherd

interests: curriculum design, educational technology, learning, linguistics, hermeneutics, rhetoric, philosophy (Continental philosophy, Existentialism, metaphysics, philosophy of language, philosophy of mind, epistemology, ethics), classical and jazz guitar, poetry, the short story, archaeology and cultural anthropology, history of religion, prehistory, veganism, sustainability, Anglo-Saxon literature and language, systems for emergent quality control, heuristics for innovation
This entry was posted in Ed Reform, Humor, Teaching Literature and Writing. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to What K-12 Textbooks Are Like Now: A Sample lesson on the Declaration of Independence

  1. Madeleine Murphy says:

    Thank you for this. Also – your comment on “unlearning,” at the top, reminds me of my favorite quote about education, from Shaw’s “Major Barbara” – when a character has a revelation that leaves her feeling troubled, her father says “That is because you have learned something. That always feels at first as if you had lost something.”


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