In Re: Curriculum for the 21st Century: a reply to C.D. Rinck Sr.’s Letter to the Editor, March 21, 2018.
D. Rinck of Mission, KS, has a valid point. He asked, “ What happened to all those government checks and balances I was taught in high school?”
He goes on reflecting on his own education, “”They must have suffered the same fate as diagramming a sentence as I learned in English Class.”
Rinck should be concerned. Having taught for nearly 30 years before retiring in 2015, I have taught both—how to diagram sentences and the US Constitution. I also taught journalism.
The Constitution provides the clear separation of powers as a means of preventing any one branch from taking control. The checks and balance system is critical to a democracy including the republican democracy of the United States.
At no point should one branch have power over any other branch. In Sen. Jeff Flake’s comments to the National Press Club last week, the same topic of checks and balance is referenced.
Flake said, “Defending democratic institutions ought not to be a controversial idea, and hasn’t been until very recently. But recognizing that our institutions are under threat from within, with clarity, seems to me a basic obligation of the Article I branch of government—the congress, whose power is, in theory, equal to that of the president’s…”
Jennifer Rubin, from The Washington Post, was published in the KC Star editorial, “The problem: Flake can’t win in today’s Trump GOP” also focused on checks and balance.
American textbooks include the principle of checks and balance as a primary theme to be taught in civics and government classes. The class used to be taught juniors not freshmen as it is today. (And as an aside, I question whether freshmen are developmentally prepared to discuss the theory or to fully comprehend the value of the US Constitution.)
The American checks and balance system has also included an additional watchdog—freedom of speech that includes professional journalism. I taught journalism as the social responsibility as I was taught at MU during the mid-1970s. Journalists are to report the news objectively not subjectively, unless in editorials.
Our schools must teach students how to be critical readers, good communicators, and independent thinkers. I am concerned that emphasizing technology education and student achievement testing undermines what education must be.
Language curriculum needs to include sentence diagramming again. Diagramming teaches students how words communicate. Students need to understand value of the word, the difference in denotative and connotative meanings, and how to write clear statements. Sentence diagramming teaches analysis of language.
An example of applying critical reading and understanding language’s structure as evidenced in today’s KC Star article, “Trump’s phone call to Putin raises hackles,” about the President congratulatory phone call to Putin included one biased word: stubborn. Look at the paragraph.
“Trumps comments came five days after the White House imposed sanctions on Russia for its meddling in the 2016 election and other “malicious cyber-attacks.’ It widened what has become a familiar gulf between the Trump administration’s tougher actions and words toward Russia and Trump’s own stubborn reluctance to criticize Putin.”
Let the facts speak without adding the opinion.
Of course, our school’s curriculum and the emphasis placed on education must be a priority for our society, too. Our students will be left behind if the curriculum does not teach the skills to be critical readers, analytical thinkers, and good communicators.