Thursday, February 26, 2009

Test Side Effects - Africa doesn't exist

Here's the gist of a conversation from today.

Upon hearing of a wonderful middle school project on Africa, this coach sent it off to her middle school teachers, suggesting that it would be a lot of fun, etc etc. The response she got back, "We wrote Africa out of the curriculum three years ago."

They are devoting more time to Western Civilization topics. Nobody else has picked up the topic, either, although one person does refer to it in a geography class.

This HAS to be because Africa doesn't appear on any state tests. Why else would you stop talking about the world's second largest continent? It has both the largest and the smallest countries, deserts, rain forests.. and AIDS, and Darfur, and ... oh my. We've heard speakers at TED talking about how Africa is the world's hottest emerging market, too.

Oh, and they're now debating removing the Middle East next. I HAVE to believe that SOMEBODY at the high school will at least address that topic, tho. Don't you? But, who will do Africa?

Can you hear me screaming? "Wait, Jim. Investigate first. Maybe they DID just shuffle it around to another grade."

Yes. That's it. That's what's happening. I overreacted. Hopefully.

6 comments:

Karen F said...

Sad. Lest you think this is just an American problem. I actually taught in Africa, and the curriculum was European history -- nothing on Africa. Again, this was due to testing. I rebelled and did a 6 week substitute unit on Africa though. I'm sure I couldn't get away with that here.

Louise Maine said...

I am tired of my kids only learning about the US. Really, there is so much else to understand. Add to the fact that many students do not know anything about Darfur. It is sad.

Tim said...

In most places, the curriculum also ignores Central and South America as well. This despite the fact that Brazil, among others in the region, is a fast growing economy and many of our students have ties back to that area of the world.

As you point out in your example with Africa, we need broaden our approach to studying the world, not narrow it. And standardized tests almost always have the effect of narrowing the curriculum.

Heather Weisse Walsh said...

How unfortunate! Although - - there is some hope - - I worked on a videoconference project today with three middle school classes (PA, MD and NY) and Global Education Motivators that focused on African Development: Challenges and Strategies. The kids put together some AMAZING presentations that not only looked in geography basics, but also political and social climate... They received tremendous feedback.

Anonymous said...

I believe most of Africa does not exist. I believe it was a place some major Governments made up to pin the blame on. How would it look if the United States developed AIDs..? Or if China had developed freakishly large misquitoes..? A fake continent. Afakecontinent. Afrakeconta. Africa. It all comes together. Color the side of your hand with a Crayola marker, then pouns a piece of paper. What does it look like to you..? Africa..? Back when Africa was invented, we weren't the cleanest people. Tar, or dirt, was on someone's hands when they were looking for someone to blame on all the tigers eating people. They slammed their fist down in fury, and created Africa. Do you honestly belive there are that many starving people in one continent, and their not doing anything about it..? We have starving people here, but when you fill a whole continent with world hunger, we don't look so bad. We blame all our diseases on Africa. We compare our crappy economy to Africa so we look rich. It's all one big international conspiracy, derived from many years ago.

Jim Gates said...

Wow - I let this one go through so I'd remember that there still are some majorly disturbed people in this country. Sheesh...