There are many misconceptions about the broad term “curriculum,” which is used to describe what educators are teaching, but it’s not easy to understand what one means using the term because of its many definitions. “Curriculum” has various meanings and interpretations including curriculum at the state or city level (i.e. core content), curriculum adopted by school districts or individual schools (i.e. a workbook or lesson book), curriculum as written by a curriculum writer (i.e. unit outlines), and curriculum as simply the lessons teachers use in the classroom at their own will.
A lot of people who have not worked in the educational field do not understand that teachers themselves are the ones that choose to teach certain lessons, and choose how certain events are depicted in the classroom. While state or city curriculums may mandate that a particular historical event is taught, or have students read a certain book, the state does not dictate how that event or book is interpreted and taught in the classroom.
The key to the power of the teacher regarding “curriculum” is how she uses the resources that may be required in the classroom. If the 1619 Project is mandated or adopted by a particular school, the moderate or conservative teacher can incorporate it, but do so creatively so that it does not corrupt the history students learn. Especially with the current trend of student-centered learning, it is easy for teachers to develop lessons without revealing their own bias. Teachers can set up a lesson using 1619 Project texts in congruence with texts that debunk it, and the students will naturally point out Nikole Hannah-Jones’s inaccuracies and imaginative history. It is all about the way the lesson is set up, and clever creativity is key. In the hands of conservative teachers, we need not worry about the 1619 Project corrupting our children.
State core-curriculums usually just guide teachers to teach, for example, Japanese Internment during World War II; it is then up to the teacher to find or create a lesson on that topic. Not all topics can be covered in the school year, so teachers also pick and choose what they teach a full lesson on, what is homework, and what just gets a quick definition.
Some schools may adopt a “curriculum” that teachers usually understand as temporary and often disregard as they have already produced a library of lessons that they worked hard on and are not going to abandon because their administrator is trying a new trend for a year. Unfortunately, teachers who are new or not creative often fall victim to doing what someone else tells them to, thinking they have no other choice; however, most teachers have the creativity to put their own take on lessons and even create their own.
Although every experience is different, and there are many unique situations, in most cases the teacher has the power of what is and is not brought into their classroom. The second most powerful force is the curriculum writer, also usually a teacher, who often creates unit outlines and pacing guides, and provides recommended resources. They also may create and/or finalize the exam for each unit. By changing the unit test, the curriculum writer has now effectively impacted what is taught. Still, most teachers use the work of curriculum writers as a suggestion, not as a command. Resources are simply shared teacher-to-teacher as they seek new ideas and lessons. Teacher A might ask Teacher B, “Do you have any lessons or resources on Reconstruction?” Teacher B may respond with “Yes, I’ve used Facing History, you should use it too.” A lot of people think it’s more complicated than that; that the state and teachers unions get involved, or the board of education, but the reality is none of them are as present in the classroom, if one wants to argue that they are even present, as the teacher and the teacher’s own self-sought resources.
If schools adopted “curriculums” in the sense that many people perceive them, then there would be no need for teacher evaluations as administrators would know what is being said, what is being taught, and how it is being taught verbatim from a “curriculum.” If schools adopted “curriculums” in the sense that people think they turn teachers into robots, then sites that offer lessons would not exist as they would never be used. This is obviously a complex issue and “curriculum” is a complex term, but understanding its complexity is how we move forward.
Creating a “conservative curriculum” will not have an impact on schools as none will adopt it and/or force it on their teachers. Those that claim to have provided “conservative curriculums” do so with little usefulness. There are a few organizations with hundreds of lessons on one topic that is taught for one day, if even that, and after using it the teacher moves on in their unit, never using that resource again. Still, the organizations that are trying to provide conservative-leaning resources usually consist of scholarly writings that are not easily accessible for teachers to adapt to their k-12 classroom.
At The Locke Society we are providing all teachers with usable lessons that span the course of U.S. and world history (we will include other subjects in the near future). Our lessons are written for the middle level and can be adapted for elementary or high school classrooms. Our texts provide teachers with much needed information based on our own extensive research, our graphic organizers help teachers scaffold, and our suggested procedures are simply recommendations on how the texts may be used to meet 21st century learning needs. The key to our lessons being used in the classroom is that they are a quick read for teachers who do not have the time to do the research or scaffolding themselves. They can even be used by teachers now as they are written without a political bias that moderate liberals would run away from. Anyone who wants to teach objective and honest history will use our lessons. Our lessons will be updated as new research is discovered, but they are timeless, not confined to a short-lived “curriculum” that eventually becomes outdated. If you want to call it a curriculum, it is the kind that is most prevalent in the classrooms; a resource used by teachers to find their daily lesson plans.