Nancy Jester’s t-shirt response

From our Emails >>

nancyjesteradThere’s an interesting discussion going on in the Get Schooled blog at the AJC. What a great exercise of The First Amendment! I am always refreshed to see a robust dialogue even though we may disagree. Here’s some clarity on a few issues.

The t-shirt has been around since last November. Last May and July, I wrote articles about The Bill of Rights.

http://whatsupwiththat.nancyjester.com/2013/05/13/459/
http://whatsupwiththat.nancyjester.com/2013/07/03/485/

As indicated, I am not a fan of Georgia’s K-5 Social Studies curriculum. My specific critiques remain these:

1. I think it is inappropriate to teach children about expanding rights and freedoms before discussing the freedoms and rights as documented in and protected by The Constitution and The Bill of Rights. Expanding rights is discussed in third grade but The Constitution and Bill of Rights are not in the standards until fourth grade.

In third grade: SS3H2: The student will discuss the lives of Americans who expanded people’s rights and freedoms in a democracy.
a. Paul Revere (independence), Frederick Douglass (civil rights), Susan B. Anthony (women’s rights), Mary McLeod Bethune (education), Franklin D. Roosevelt (New Deal and World War II), Eleanor Roosevelt (United Nations and human rights), Thurgood Marshall (civil rights), Lyndon B. Johnson (Great Society and voting rights), and César Chávez (workers’ rights).
b. Explain social barriers, restrictions, and obstacles that these historical figures had to overcome and describe how they overcame them.

In fourth grade: SS4H5: The student will analyze the challenges faced by the new nation….
a. Identify the major leaders of the Constitutional Convention (James Madison and Benjamin Franklin) and describe the major issues they debated, including the rights of states, the Great Compromise, and slavery.
b. Identify the three branches of the U. S. government as outlined by the Constitution, describe what they do, how they relate to each other (checks and balances and separation of power), and how they relate to the states.
c. Identify and explain the rights in the Bill of Rights, describe how the Bill of Rights places limits on the power of government, and explain the reasons for its inclusion in the Constitution in 1791.

2. The standards are clearly being used to promote a social agenda. Why is this necessary? Can we not simply teach American history without inserting “the lives of Americans who expanded people’s rights”? By using that framework, the standards are open to legitimate criticism regarding who is “in” and who is “out”.

3. The discussion about “expanding rights” and social movements does not belong in third grade. The lessons represent an overly simplified view of the implications (good, bad and indifferent) because they are directed at eight and nine year olds. The subject matter needs context and robust discussions that can only happen with older children.
As some have pointed out, teachers can enrich the curriculum. That’s true. I have had two children experience this curriculum so far; both with excellent teachers. I’ve seen the textbooks, the homework and the projects as they relate to the third grade curriculum. They have all reinforced the agenda being taught.

There’s nothing new here but I am thrilled that this subject is getting the attention it deserves. The t-shirt is meant to be fun and bring up the discussion about how we teach The Bill of Rights in Georgia.

– Nancy Jester

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26 Responses to Nancy Jester’s t-shirt response

  1. Three questions for Nancy Jester:

    (1) Do you also object to children being taught about Martin Luther King, Jr. during 3rd Grade? (MLK certainly is someone who expanded people’s rights and freedoms in a democracy.)

    (2) During which grade do you actually believe children should first be taught about Paul Revere, Frederick Douglass, Susan B. Anthony, Mary McLeod Bethune, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Eleanor Roosevelt, Thurgood Marshall, Lyndon B. Johnson, and César Chávez?

    (3) You ask “Can we not simply teach American history without inserting ‘the lives of Americans who expanded people’s rights’? Please explain how you would teach the truly awful parts of the Constitution (3/5th compromise, no voting rights for women, etc.) without also teaching about the great Americans who changed the Constitution.

  2. Beverly Fraud says:

    Well the first thing that comes to mind to me, when reading this standards, is that I thought we lived in a constitutional republic, not a democracy.

    It does to me seem to be an important distinction. After all, if the US had been force to wait until a majority of its citizens had to agree to certain expansions of rights, might not some of the very people mentioned in the standards been mere footnotes in history, rather than seminal figures?

  3. Beverly Fraud says:

    How about a nice, in depth, robust discussion on whether or not the 14th Amendment to the Constitution allows parents to opt out of CRCT testing for their child, without any attempts at retribution or retaliation by school system officials?

    Historical events AND current events combined! Sounds like a win/win to me.

  4. Anonymous to protect myself says:

    I have a child in the third grade, and the big problem here is the way these issues are being attached to one or two people. The only issues picked for the test are instances where a progressive worked to further rights. It’s only one side of the story, told in a narrative that is inherently biased.

    Why not Thomas Jefferson?
    Why not Abraham Lincoln?
    Why not Henry Ford?
    Why not Thomas Edison?
    Why not Booker T. Washington?
    Why not James Monroe?
    Why not Calvin Coolidge?

    There are no inventors on the list, no business people, only activists. In the literature for each of these figures of history, the word “Activism” is listed as ONLY a positive thing, and treated as if activism unto itself were the best possible calling. These figures are venerated as if they had done no wrong, in the same way Christopher Columbus was when we were kids.

    I’m fine with third graders learning about great figures in history, especially those who sought to better the country by nonviolent means. (Warren Harding went to Birmingham himself to stop the lynching of African-Americans, and MLK, Jr should be part of this discussion, IMHO.)

    The big problem here is presentation and the choice of material, not content. It’s like teaching kids to be vegetarians when they grow up by denying them any sight or smell of meat. It’s not allowing them to formulate any ideas or come to any conclusions on their own, which is one of the major problems with the current educational system in America (Goals 2000, NCLB, and RT3!!)

  5. thedeal2 says:

    First, I don’t know why people who criticize the curriculum don’t realize that elementary kids are getting social studies only 2-3 times per week for about 45 minutes each class. There isn’t time to do this deep dive into college level analysis on 1000 historical figures. Get back to the basics, people. Smaller class sizes, teachers who are paid a respectable wage with some benefits, reduced administrative bloat. Once classrooms are fully funded and administrative costs are down, the sinking ship will be stabilized and you can focus inward on any curriculum issues at hand. If Nancy is turning into the curriculum candidate, she has lost my vote entirely. If she moves further into politicizing this position, I will begin to actively campaign against her.

    I had counted on her to be a non-partisan candidate who used her own experience on the board in DeKalb to push for lower class sizes, balanced and open budgeting, and reducing administration size and pay. Anyone, literally anyone, could campaign with the “platform” she is putting out now: 2nd amendment, down with Common Core, social agenda in social studies, insert Fox News talking point here. What I wanted from her was her war stories and experience in the trenches in DeKalb and how she planned to push for reforms to get Georgia out of the bottom 10% of the nation’s school rankings.

  6. Anonymous to protect myself says:

    My third grader goes over this information each and every day, and has a ‘specials’ on it once a week. Just FYI.

    From a curriculum standpoint, the current system does nothing to further the thinking of the child, and only falls on the rote memorization popular in the early 1900s in schools. In a way, her point of trying to teach student the value of the issues before assigning them to people in history is much more progressive than anything else.

  7. teachermom says:

    Boogeymen. Really? Disappointed in NJ. Sad that we don’t have anyone who is what I had hoped her to be.

    @Anonymous, in my classroom we encourage students to engage in higher level thinking and discussion constantly. I also have a daughter in middle school who has come home and discussed events she learned about in history and social studies. It was obvious she had been encouraged to engage in higher level and more rigorous thinking by her teachers.

    This partisan rhetoric totally detracts from the real issues facing teachers and the students that they teach today. I agree with thedeal2. We don’t need to go off on a tangent now.

  8. Beverly Fraud says:

    I would suggest @thedeal2 that opposing Common Core is not mutually exclusive with reducing class size. In fact one could say it goes hand and hand. After all, how do bureaucratic, one size fits all, top down programs such as Common Core get implemented?

    With LAYERS of bureaucracy that quickly become opaque; with money that COULD be use to reduce class size.

    We need to dissuade ourselves of the notion that Common Core is “just a set of standards.” The standards are actually a Trojan Horse whose purpose is to allow an unprecedented influence of centralized planning (re: federal government/private corporations) into the lives of children.

    You think school systems that will be tasked with collected unprecedented amounts of data (with FERPA laws stealthily changed to allow its sale to 3rd parties without the parents’ consent) are going to be interested in reducing class size and creating transparency?

    Having someone who understands these issues AND how they actually relate to “troops on the ground” issues like class size could be a valuable asset in a statewide office.

    And if someone were to criticize such a thinking as being “obstructionist” the proper response might well be, “Good! We have some oligarchic/federal influences that NEED to be obstructed!”

    Don’t know if NJ is the single best person for the job, but the fact she is willing to see the big picture shouldn’t automatically disqualify her.

    Perhaps she should do a series of T-Shirts. Maybe to promote literacy standards, a George Orwell 1984 T-Shirt with the caption “Bill Gates Is Watching You.” Or to promote economic literacy a T-Shirt with the caption “Your child: A Wholly Owned Subsidiary of Pearson Educational Publishing”

  9. Pingback: Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for April 21, 2014 – Georgia Politics, Campaigns and Elections

  10. Stan Jester says:

    Allow me to provide some context for all of this. Long before Nancy was a candidate for State Superintendent, Nancy wrote this article on The Bill of Rights. I created that shirt in November because I thought it would be a good way to remember the 2nd Amendment and I could put Nancy’s name on it.

    Out of the blue on Friday, Maureen posts an article about the shirt saying, “I understand this T-shirt’s theme could appeal to some voters, but it also has the potential to run off others who may question why bearing arms is being referenced in any form in a race for state school chief.” The commenters were off to the races and they were all over the place. This post in DekalbSchoolWatch is Nancy’s follow up to the 100+ comments on the AJC Get Schooled post.

    dsw2contributor posed some good questions. I will provide Nancy’s response to those questions next.

  11. Stan Jester says:

    dsw2contributor, Thank you for those questions. Nancy’s response to those questions are inline.

    (1) Do you also object to children being taught about Martin Luther King, Jr. during 3rd Grade? (MLK certainly is someone who expanded people’s rights and freedoms in a democracy.)

    Sadly, Martin Luther King, Jr. is not listed in the third grade standards. I would not object to children being taught about Martin Luther King, Jr. in 3rd grade. Interestingly enough, California’s curriculum includes (and tests) the contributions of Anne Hutchinson, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, and Martin Luther King, Jr.. (In California, they call the subject History-Social Science.)

    (2) During which grade do you actually believe children should first be taught about Paul Revere, Frederick Douglass, Susan B. Anthony, Mary McLeod Bethune, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Eleanor Roosevelt, Thurgood Marshall, Lyndon B. Johnson, and César Chávez?

    The nine people that are referenced are specifically put in the 3rd grade, Georgia standards, as people who “expanded” rights. That is the context given to our third graders. Keep in mind, the 3rd grade standards do not contain The Bill of Rights.

    Again, as I wrote almost a year ago in two separate articles, I stress that I do not believe it is appropriate to discuss “expanding” rights before having ever taught children what rights are, where they come from, and the documents in which they are enshrined. We have the cart before the horse in our standards. I believe strongly that we must first teach about the founding documents of our nation, including The Bill of Rights, before discussing the expansion of rights.

    The actual list of people isn’t the fundamental problem. Not teaching 3rd graders about The Bill of Rights and then having a curriculum about expanding rights is the problem. They could have picked another 9 people and it would have been equally problematic.

    If the standards were ordered properly and we had robust standards for teaching about our founding documents, then we could debate when and, in what context, we should discuss the various social movements and individuals that had profound cultural impact on our understanding of rights. I think that discussion should be an important public task for the State BOE, Superintendent and Department of Education. There should be transparency and disclosure at every turn. Off the cuff, I think that FDR, LBJ and Cesar Chavez might be best discussed by older students. They are complex figures and there are a variety of opinions on their contributions during their lifetimes and beyond. FDR did intern Japanese Americans during WWII. LBJ’s legacy is not exclusively the Civil Rights Act. It is also marred by his own, documented racism and entanglements in Vietnam. If we are going to talk about FDR and LBJ, we must discuss their complexities. I don’t think third grade is the right place for that.

    (3) You ask “Can we not simply teach American history without inserting ‘the lives of Americans who expanded people’s rights’? Please explain how you would teach the truly awful parts of the Constitution (3/5th compromise, no voting rights for women, etc.) without also teaching about the great Americans who changed the Constitution.

    It would be helpful to put a framework up first that is age appropriate and develops a linear understanding of the facts. Surely, we can teach who, what, when and where without the labels. With some of the more complex historical figures being, exclusively labeled as “heroes” for our third graders, it obscures the full understanding of their place within the social, cultural and political developments of our nation. (See my comments above about FDR and LBJ).

    I would prefer a curriculum more similar to Texas’. They have a transparent, public review of their standards before approving them. In addition to their curriculum documents, they have an alphabetical listing of all individuals listed within the curriculum to provide an additional level of disclosure and transparency.

    — Nancy Jester

  12. DSW2Contributor says:

    Thanks for the background, Stan.

    I’m fascinated by how the AJC ran this story right when GA-DOE was going to release the news of Dekalb’s horrid performance on the College and Career-Ready Performance Index (CCRPI)…. Georgia DOE gave the CCRPI results to school districts two weeks ago, so The Palace knew bad news was going to be break this week — teachers were given a heads up about the CCRPI last week.

  13. Here’s a comment I posted about the CCRPI results on Maureen’s blog, at 4:41 p.m. Apr. 18, 2014 (last friday):
    http://www.ajc.com/weblogs/get-schooled/2014/apr/18/making-grade-georgia-schools-find-out-their-scores/#/comment/p1/c2072842/

    “One of our goals will be finding and highlighting the schools that are defying expectations.”

    Maureen, that’s great that that AJC is going to try to find good news — I hope you will be successful at finding schools that have defied expectations. (The GA-DOE shared the CCPI results with school districts two weeks ago, so districts with the success stories you are looking for are already aware of them.)

    However, the release of the CCPI results also presents an opportunity for the AJC to actually document the damage that Cheryl Atkinson did to Dekalb schools during her brief reign.

    For example, you previously reported (http://blogs.ajc.com/get-schooled-blog/2013/02/28/cheryl-atkinson-takes-new-post-after-dekalb-success-for-at-least-one/) that Cheryl Atkinson went to work for the “Success for All” (SFA) after she abandoned her DCS job. At DCS, Atkinson directed that millions of dollars of federal Title-I funds be spent on “SFA”.

    How about a follow-up AJC article about how spending those millions of dollars of TAX MONEY helped improve student performance? (Answer: they didn’t.)

    If you dig into, you will find a classic conflict-of-interest and/or scandal story: Atkinson did her Ed.D. thesis on SFA, then moved around to different school districts where she was able to send federal money to SFA, before ultimately landing at SFA.

  14. And now that the CCRPI results are public, the public knows that Dekalb -AGAIN- performed the worst of all metro-area districts. Per the AJC:
    http://www.ajc.com/news/news/local-education/elementary-and-middle-school-performance-improves-/nfdzc/

    “Among districts in the heart of metro Atlanta, Atlanta Public Schools got higher grades on the elementary, middle and high school level. Cobb was up on the elementary and middle school level and down on the high school level. DEKALB WAS DOWN ON ALL THREE LEVELS. Fulton was up on all three levels. Gwinnett was down on the elementary level and high school level, but its middle school grade was up.”

    DCS is down on the elementary level because elementary schools lost a year doing “Success for All” — anyone have succinct explanations for why the middle and high school levels were also down?

  15. thedeal2 says:

    If the t-shirt was created and sold when Nancy was a candidate for this election, she knew it would be brought up at some point. I don’t accept the “wow, what a surprise this is causing such a stir” type of response from the Jesters. When you put gun rights on a shirt when you are running for a school-related position, you had better expect some controversy. No doubt here in Georgia you will also get loads of support, but it’s pretty obvious that was the point. Common Core has been coming down the tracks for years, and it is only when she is trying to win a statewide election that Nancy brings it up because she knows it will bring her much-needed publicity. Common Core, social studies curriculum conspiracy theories, gun rights, hmmm, wonder who Nancy is pandering to? If Nancy were running as the Nancy who was on the DeKalb BOE, I would be all in, and so would lots of other people in DeKalb. If she can shift her focus this quickly from the classrooms and students to politics, I, for one, am staying far away.

  16. Stan Jester says:

    Good Morning TheDeal2.
    I make fun t-shirts from time to time and give them away to friends. This design was in the back of my mind for a long time. After Nancy announced she was running, I ran this shirt design by Nancy and some other people. I thought people would talk to each other about Nancy’s fun shirt to remember the 2nd Amendment. I intended on doing a fun shirt for all ten amendments, but I never got around to it. Even though there’s no gun on the shirt, it was brought to our attention that some people may not like it. We figured we would get some hate mail out of it, but we didn’t think it was going to blow up like this.

    I don’t speak for Nancy, but I would like to point out that the State Superintendent is a different job than the Board of Education. All those issues you brought up aren’t in the purview of the BOE. They are, however, relevant to the State Superintendent, so Nancy has weighed in on them. If you want to see Nancy’s “FOCUS”, at her website you can see the five things she is focused on. It will come as no surprise that “Financial Integrity” is number one.

    http://www.nancyjester.com/focus/

    Financial Integrity
    Opportunity and choices.
    Consequences
    Upgrade our funding formula
    Standards

    dsw2contributor,
    Nancy’s response to your questions is caught up in the filter. Hopefully DSW can release it.

  17. Thanks for letting us know this was caught in the vigilant spam filter, Stan. We are not at all sure why this was caught in the filter. Perhaps it is a URL that the blog filter has not seen before. But, we are just now taking a look at comments (and spam) for this morning so we have now released Nancy’s answer from the filter.

  18. Beverly Fraud says:

    Quote: “If she can shift her focus this quickly from the classrooms and students to politics, I, for one, am staying far away.”

    Question @theDeal2. How do you think the politics of education is somehow separated from the day to day realities of the classroom? The simple fact is, it is NOT.

    Lack of support of the classroom teacher in matters of discipline: In part ABSOLUTELY driven by POLITICAL attempts to “keep the numbers down” particular for some sub groups of children.

    Administrative RETALIATION (via abuse of the evaluation instrument) In part ABSOLUTELY driven by POLITICAL attempts to “keep the numbers up” in terms of test scores, promotion rates, graduation rates, etc.

    Politics has INVADED the classroom, and is literally cutting teachers off at the knees in their ability to maintain the sanctity of the learning environment. It’s good to have candidates that understand this, rather than those who merely spout “reform du jour” like the Alisha Morgans of the world.

  19. Teachers — please weigh in with your thoughts on DeKalb County Schools’ poor performance on CCRPI! There are three (3) low-risk ways to do this:
    1. (Lowest personal and professional risk if you follow DSW’s cautions) Send your thoughts to DeKalb School Watch, P. O. Box 660221, Atlanta, GA 30341 on plain paper (handwritten is okay) with no identifying information. If you choose to use a computer:
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    *Do NOT use or connect to DCS Internet connections, even with your own personal laptop or tablet or smartphone.
    OR
    2. (Low personal and professional risk if you follow DSW’s cautions) Send your thoughts, with no identifying information, to DSW’s e-mail address: DeKalbschoolwatch@gmail.com.
    *Do NOT use DCS-owned equipment (i.e., classroom or school-based computer; DCS laptop, even if you take it home each night; DCS-provided flash drive; DCS-owned printer; DCS-owned scanner).
    *Do NOT use or connect to DCS Internet connections, even with your own personal laptop or tablet or smartphone.
    *If you do not have a home computer, laptop, tablet or smartphone — or if you do not have a home connection to the Internet — go to your nearest public (NOT school) library. DeKalb Public Library branches have computers you may use and an Internet connection you may use, whether or not you use the library’s computers.
    *If you have your own laptop, tablet or smartphone, a growing number of fast-food chains and coffee shops also offer a connection to the Internet.
    OR
    3. (Low personal and professional risk if you follow DSW’s cautions) Comment electronically on DeKalb School Watch.
    *Use a pseudonym instead of your real name where the comment box asks for your name. Providing an e-mail address is required, but it will not be printed or otherwise publicly available.
    *Do NOT use DCS-owned equipment (i.e., classroom or school-based computer; DCS laptop, even if you take it home each night; DCS-provided flash drive; DCS-owned printer; DCS-owned scanner).
    *Do NOT use or connect to DCS Internet connections, even with your own personal laptop or tablet or smartphone.
    *If you do not have a home computer, laptop, tablet or smartphone — or if you do not have a home connection to the Internet — go to your nearest public (NOT school) library. DeKalb Public Library branches have computers you may use and an Internet connection you may use, whether or not you use the library’s computers.
    *If you have your own laptop, tablet or smartphone, a growing number of fast-food chains and coffee shops also offer a connection to the Internet.

    Only 2 DSW editors have access rights to DSW email. Only 2 DSW editors have a key to the P.O. Box. The information you send is safe and it is shredded after use.

    For statistical and organizing purposes only, please also include the following information:
    Grade(s) taught in 2012-2013; 2013-2014
    Subject(s) taught in 2012-2013; 2013-2014 (middle school and high school teachers only)

    If DeKalb School Watch doesn’t tell your story and provide the truth as it is experienced at the classroom level — who will?

  20. Another comment says:

    I can’t stress how true it is that key stroke programs have been bought by not only corporations, but give net agencies for over 20 years. I was at the management level of a government agency were they discused purchasing this and all software. I used to go back and warn my employees to watch what they did. Then they would complain that the security guards would come and hang out in our offices on the weekend and week nights., So we used to set up traps to catch security. For example my radio in my office never left 94. But I would come back on Mondays and find it set to V- 103, I never listened to V-103 in my life. This was a locked office. My office had a motion detector in it. I was told that if I came in after hours I needed to identify myself to security. After I found the radio changes and realized they were not only using the cubical offices computers, but mine. I would test to see if I could slip into my office. Sometimes I got a call asking if it was me, other times not. Which meant those were the ones in on the breakins to my office. I reported this all along with pizza theft and toilet paper theft cases to the head of security to fire his guards. Most white folks just don’t listen to v-103. This is where they really screwed up.

  21. Ann Barber says:

    For shame, Jesters. For shame. Go peddle your gun toting ideology away from schools and students. Or maybe you could sell your shirts in Sandy Hook or at Virginia Tech?

  22. Word Wall says:

    Shirt. Bad taste and a distraction from her good work on the old board.

  23. L. Lee says:

    Good grief. I’m so glad to have left Georgia politics. Although I share very different views than Nancy and Stan, I have so admired them as I’ve watched them bring things to the light over and over again. No more. For the first time, I find myself happy that Nancy is no longer on DeKalb’s BOE. How disappointing and sad.

  24. same old same old says:

    I am very late to this post, but I’m commenting in the hopes that Nancy will see this. Nancy, you remind me of the Teabag candidates who ran on platforms that it’s all about the fiscal responsibility and social issues are everyone’s own business and then flipped the script. When you were on the Board, I supported you. Even though you were divisive as hell, you spoke the truth and demanded accountability. I was sorry when you (and you alone) were ousted. However, what I see in this post is that you are just like the others who are concerned about social agendas (meaning civil rights for everyone). You probably call Common Core “ObamaCore” with your supporters. Your current platform seems to be something else entirely, with the point of view of the same people who support the Tea Party’s move to social engineering and exclusion. The T-Shirt is terrible. It’s professional looking and presents an unclear message, but that’s not the problem. Maureen was right, you will lose supporters over this platform. However, if this is who you are and what you are about, I’m glad you put it out there so I will know before I cast my vote.

  25. @same old same old
    We believe that both Nancy Jester and Stan Jester read DeKalb School Watch. Just in case Nancy doesn’t see this post, we will e-mail it to her. However, we are concerned that you may have made two significant typographical errors which change and confuse the intent of your post. E-mail us at dekalbschoolwatch@gmail.com and we will respond, showing you where the two significant typos are. It is, of course, your choice to decide if you want us to make the change(s) (or any other change) for you.

  26. Cedar says:

    Textbooks have had a Leftists/Marxist agenda for decades. Hate America first, hate capitalism also. Throw away the Classics and supplant them with inferior material and there you have your DeKalb County dilemma. Add to that a ton of bureaucracy and pathetic layers of useless pedagogy invented by too many people with worthless degrees (Ed.D.) and you have our current test scores and overall educational results. Shake or stir and serve.

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