Tuesday, July 10, 2007

A "progressive" educator

While I was in California the Oregonian had a news story about a former Portland schoolteacher who won some award for teaching about social justice. His name is Bill Bigelow, and I could be more specific about the award he won if the Oregonian search utility was not so horrendous. (It was a feature story just a few days ago, and entering "bigelow" in the search engine doesn't cough it up.)

Anyway, I've known about this guy for a long time. In the proud tradition of "progressive education," he used his position as a "global studies" teacher in Portland School District to indoctrinate the little schoolchildren in his anti-capitalist viewpoint.

The interesting thing is that these people think they are doing nothing wrong, and so they openly discuss what and how they teach kids to be budding socialist/activists.

I first heard of this guy when I bought a book from Powells titled "Teaching for Social Justice." which was a collection of essays from public school teachers about how they go about promoting social justice in their classrooms.

The title of this book is offensive in and of itself - and it also reveals how little its authors understand the appropriate role of our public schools. They actually believe it is their privilege to use the schools to re-shape society according to their values. And so they find nothing particulary remarkable about openly proclaiming that they "teach for social justice."

How about teaching math and science?

Anyway, Bill Bigelow has a chapter in this book in which he describes one of his favorite lesson plans in his Global Studies classes.

He plops a Nike soccer ball on the table and tells the class to write a paragraph or two describing the ball. Of course, the students write physical descriptions of the ball, and he reads a couple of them outloud.

Then, he tells the class about a "deeper social reality associated with the ball." He explains all about sweatshops and 6 year old children stitching soccer balls in Pakistan and the evils of global capitalism that exploits third world laborers....

and then asks the students to "resee the ball," and again write a "description" of it. He tells them they can write a poem, or write from the ball's perspective, or anything else they want.

Magically, the students, thus "enlightened" by Bigelow, give him what he is looking for. Such as:

"Number one in moneymaking.
Number one in sweatshop, overworked, and underpaid labor.

Increasing prices of products.
Increasing the number of factories.

Killing new styles promoted on TV.
Killing Pakistani kids' lives producing those products.

Eager to be paid milions of dollars.
Eager to be paid to survive winters and summers."

Bigelow, thankfully, no longer works at Portland Public Schools. He took early retirement, enjoys his PERS pension, and works for an outfit called "Rethinking Schools," which tries to teach educators all over the United States how to do what he has been doing.



Anonymous said...

These snakes infest our schools ... how do we get rid of them?

Anonymous said...

wasn't Susan Castillo talking about a plan for teaching "social justice" in Oregon public schools a few months. What should we expect from government schools except teaching about how the government is good and just (socially of course) and the capitalist free market system greedy and socially unaware/adverse. This is the socialist realm in which our public schools operate and all that they know. And they of course want to perpetuate it outside of their government schools.

Anonymous said...


I think the article you were looking for was in "The Portland Tribune".


On line reactions to the article were interesting. I was particularly interested in emigre Murillo's response.

Anonymous said...

Then, I read in the Oregonian that some town in Vietnam is BEGGING Nike to keep their "sweatshop" open ...

Dare!PDX said...

As someone indoctrinated by the PPS growing up I can offer you a little comfort.

All they build is apathy with their negativism. Those with intelctual depth figure out the difference between their fearmongering perspective and the reality of America's opportunity.

The real reason drop out rates are so high is becaue of this type of teaching. When I was sixteen and nearly didn't continue with Highschool it was the fluff that made it unbearable. The needless crap and social programing that got in a way of an education.

The biggest thing that used to get me in my highscool years was the fact that would fail a simple class because I wouldn't jumpt through their hoops. I would then go to either nightschool or summerschool and knock it out with ease. The difference - one held me to standards the other to participation.

I can tell you the teacher mentioned above wouldn't like me because I would ask follow up questions he wouldn't want to answer.

'Why is it that Pakistan lets a six year old work in a factory?Aren't they democratic?'

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