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October 1, 2001
Vol. 59
No. 2

EL Extra

Welcome to EL Extra. We have designed questions to help you and your colleagues foster meaningful discussions around this issue of Educational Leadership.
These questions will not cover all aspects of this issue, but we hope that they will help you generate a conversation around key ideas. Feel free to adapt the questions to be more relevant to your school or school district. Although you can consider many of the questions on your own, we encourage you to use them in pairs, small groups, or even large study groups.

Why Worry About Content?

  • Utility—enhancing employment, educational advancement, and decision making;
  • Social responsibility—helping students make intelligent social and political decisions;
  • Intrinsic value of the knowledge—having cultural and historical significance;
  • Philosophical value—helping students reflect on what it means to be human; and
  • Childhood enrichment—enhancing the experiences and values of childhood.
Can you think of other criteria that would be more important for your school? Individually rank the criteria in order of importance and compare your rankings as a group. If your district does not use a set of criteria to make curriculum decisions, consider developing your own or adapting those that your group found most important.

The Gatekeeper Class

Robert Moses (p. 6) calls algebra the “gatekeeper” subject in schools, because it either opens or closes the door to higher-level math classes for students. Is this a true statement for your district? How are you ensuring that all students have access to higher-level math classes in middle and high school?
To help students learn, Moses says that “the hard work in developing curriculum is to think about kids’ minds when creating ways to approach math.” Teaching subtraction using subway rides to represent relative positions on a number line is one way to use students’ experiences to bring the curriculum to life. Think of a concept that you teach. Reflect on how it can be presented experientially. What did you come up with? Was it easy to think of practical ways to teach abstract concepts? Or do you agree with Robert Moses that this is “the hard work” of curriculum development?

Commercialism in Schools

Alex Molnar and Joseph A. Reaves report the results of the fourth annual report of Commercialism in Schools in, “Buy Me! Buy Me!” (p. 74). Conduct a survey of commercialism in your school or district using the categories from the article: program sponsorship, exclusive agreements, incentive programs, appropriation of space, sponsorship of educational materials, electronic marketing, privatization, and fund raising.
Do commercial companies participate with your school in these categories? Think back a few years. Has the commercial presence in your schools increased or decreased? Poll your colleagues about this issue. Is commercialism in schools good or bad? Does it help you reach your goal of improving student success, or is it an intrusion that targets students to make them “cradle-to-grave” consumers?

This article was published anonymously, or the author name was removed in the process of digital storage.

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