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Nonfiction Matters
Inside Nonfiction Matters

Learning From Joe Hill

I Don’t Get It

I really am not understanding the apparent tension that Monica’s post and the lack of other posts from teachers here suggests. The undeniable fact is that, outside of some wonderful private schools, students in primary grades are not getting enough social studies or science — content, and in many cases there are not getting any at all. The idea that you "learn to read, then (in later grades) read to learn" holds sway. If this is entirely NCLB’s fault, why are we arguing with each other, we should be marching and protesting, hand in hand, together. You cannot eviscerate, you cannot hollow out, these early years of our children’s school experience and expect us to sit back and take it. I don’t just mean that we need to fight with the government, I mean we as parents, as teachers, as librarians we need to say you cannot steal our children’s right to knowledge, that is not education it is theft.

But while, of course, I will be at NCTE and ALAN all weekend, I just am not convinced that NCLB itself is the reason. I have too often heard theories such as the idea that you start with the personal, so that kids only graduate to the outside world by fourth or fifth grade. I have too often heard that teachers do not feel prepared to deal with, say, world history, cultures long ago and far away. I have met with too many teachers hungry to learn so that they can teach. I am not blaming tearchers, Monica, but I am saying there is a problem, there is a gap in the training for primary school teachers which means many feel less prepared than they would like when it comes to anything outside of Language Arts and Math. 

So if Monica is speaking for teachers far and wide, if the enemy is just testing, folks we’ve got to listen to Joe Hill — don’t mourn, organize. We must speak up as a united front who will not let our children be deprived. But even as we campaign, I do think we also need to keep examining ourselves, as parents, as authors, as teachers, as librarians to see how we have collaborated with the removal of content from these crucial early years.