I used to think it might be kind of rewarding and interesting to be a schoolteacher.
No more, at least in the Omaha Public Schools. Because next year, OPS teachers will have to read “The Cultural Proficiency Journey: Moving Beyond Ethical Barriers Toward Profound School Change.”
As we reported on Sunday, OPS spent $130,000 in federal stimulus money to buy 8,000 copies of the book, one for every OPS employee, from principals to teachers to custodial staff.
That's $16.25 for each book.
I have never felt so conservative as I did reading the book and the story about OPS using federal dollars to shove this thing down its employees' throats.
So many wrongs to document, so little time.
Quickly: The book is derivative, intellectually muddled, extraordinarily arrogant in its presumptions and so riddled with gobbledygook language stuffed into endless graphs, “continuums,” charts and end-of-chapter quizzes that I found myself longing to read an advanced calculus book instead.
I think only one paragraph from this clunker is needed to illustrate the point:
Table 2.4 on page 25 highlights the unhealthy and healthy perspectives associated with the left and the right of the cultural proficiency continuum. Displayed is the fundamental shift in perspective, between the left and right sides of the continuum that comes about when adopting the principles of cultural proficiency as core beliefs and the use of essential elements as standards of action. In addition, disequilibrium arises due to the struggle to disengage with past actions associated with unhealthy perspectives tied to the barriers and a subsequent move toward a healthy perspective connected to the Guiding Principles.
The book is sort of a combination of Freud meets Marx meets Barney meets Ben Stein in his role as the teacher in “Ferris Bueller's Day Off.”
However, the book does, albeit in 100,000 words or more, remind us to find the positives in one another. Good advice. I'm going to stick with that plan from here on out because to do otherwise would require another book.
OPS officials are asking staff members only to discuss the book as they read it. That's quite different from what the book's authors suggest: Essentially, take quizzes as you absorb the book to gauge whether you've moved into the higher consciousness the authors describe as Cultural Precompetence.
(No, you won't find “precompetence” in your spell-checker because the word doesn't exist.)
Discussion is good. Discussing various competing ideas is good.
Promoting honest and open discussion about how to better understand and appreciate people from different backgrounds is a worthwhile endeavor. For a teacher, who could use that understanding to energize and educate, that would be especially true.
The book does ask educators to look within themselves for prejudices. The authors do suggest deep soul-searching and self-improvement. They also, in a few instances, do remind us to seek to recognize the numerous cultural identities that many of us carry.
That the authors fail to follow their own advice throughout most of this book doesn't mean it can't inspire discussion of those concepts.
As any teacher knows, good teaching moments need not always come from the best teaching tools.
In more simple terms: If your mind is open, you can learn life lessons from a cow pie.
Especially one that costs $130,000 in public money.
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