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Curriculum proposals approved by Dist. U-46
By Seth Hancock
Three high school curriculum proposals regarding English Language Arts courses were approved by the Board of Education in School District U-46, but biased resources planned to be used for the courses caused split votes on two as votes were taken on Monday, Nov. 21.
Proposals regarding communications and theater classes were approved with 5-2 votes, Cody Holt and Jeanette Ward voting no, while the publications proposal was unanimously approved.
Ward has opposed some resources and curriculum proposals in the past based on “clear-cut bias” she sees in the textbooks and has given a plethora of examples showing that bias. Those supportive of previous resources that Ward has shown bias in have never denied the bias but have given their support based on what they feel is a need for new resources.
For these three proposals Ward was the only board member to explain her votes including on the publications proposal which she voted for as the curriculum framework “looks great, and so do the texts.”
Had the vote been “simply on the frameworks presented,” Ward said she could support all three but because the resources are tied to the proposals she could not vote for the two that included biased lessons.
“I cannot ask taxpayers, many of whom disagree with the prevailing bias, to pay for these resources,” Ward said.
The total estimated cost for resources for the communications proposal is $38,157, and for publications it’s $333,365. Previously the theater resources were estimated to have an initial cost of $27,789, $2,200 annually, but Suzanne Johnson, assistant superintendent, said “it was identified that the initial proposal had an error in the cost estimation” and the new initial cost estimate is $43,778.
After reviewing the resources from the planned communications and theater textbooks, Ward posted evidence of bias from those resources on social media prior to the meeting. The theater proposal included two monologue books, “One on One: The Best Women’s Monologues for the 21st Century” and “One on One: The Best Men’s Monologues for the 21st Century,” which, for the time being, have been removed from the proposal.
Ward’s post showed that those two resources included sexually explicit material as well as monologues that are littered with profanity, including frequent use of the f-word.
“I did receive concerns from several board members in regards to the monologues” and “in reviewing some of those concerns, listening to board member feedback, I did reach back out to … the team that put this together and I asked them to go back and revaluate,” said U-46 CEO Tony Sanders.
However, those resources may still be used as Sanders said “certainly they can consider” them, but “if they do come forward I’d like to have a full rationale for the board as to why, or to seek out other resources that might be more appropriate.”
Although those troubling resources are currently removed from the theater proposal, Ward could not support the proposal based on the textbook “Theatre in Your Life.” That textbook shows an interest to not only teach theater but also social causes that promote group-think based on race, sexual orientation, gender and other sub-groups.
The theater textbook includes a glowing lesson on Agusto Boal, who was on open Marxist, as well as teaching that theater is to “be used to address serious social issues and to bring about needed changes in people’s lives” and for “social consciousness, providing tools for change.” It also focuses on collectivism rather than the individual as it states theater should be used “to explore group solutions.”
On the communications proposal, “The Art of Public Speaking,” 12th Edition textbook asks students to question the fundamental principles of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
That text includes a lesson pertaining to so-called “insulting and abusive speech” and wants students to ask: “Do you believe society should punish such speech with criminal penalties?”
The book also promotes moral relativism, a believe that there are no objective truths, in a lesson titled “Avoiding Ethnocentrism,” and it also makes a claim that U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) was presenting “a plan to improve wages for American workers” when she pushed for increasing the federal minimum wage. There is debate on whether increasing the minimum wage actually helps workers as a group of over 500 economists, including four Nobel laureates, submitted a letter opposing a minimum wage increase to President Barrack Obama in 2014, and reports from the Congressional Budget Office have shown that there could be job losses in the hundreds of thousands if there was an increase.
Ward said she will always oppose proposals using texts that compare sexual preference to race or includes celebrations of Marxists, leftists and moral relativists.
“There are a myriad of different political, religious and social beliefs represented within U-46 families,” Ward said. “Leftism and moral relativism are the common factors in the resources I’ve opposed. Moral relativism claims that there is no objective truth, a claim which is patently absurd because it itself is a truth claim.”
The use of biased texts makes it harder for teachers according to Ward who noted that some of her colleagues have previously supported biased resources in the past by saying everyone can find something they disagree with, but she’s “not talking about little nuggets of disagreement here and there. What I see is clear-cut bias.”
Ward added: “To support biased textbooks and resources is a disservice to the good teachers of this district who know their job is to teach kids how to think, not what to think. They have to put in the extra time, extra work, to find resources to counter the bias presented in those resources.”
Along with those curriculum proposals, the board approved $7.8 million in itemized bills as well as to convert Elgin’s Creekside Elementary School Title I plan from a targeted assistance model to a school-wide model. Both were approved unanimously.