May 17, 2006

My state does have a reading list!

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:43 pm by mrsmauck

I’ve unearthed the “approved reading list” for Oklahoma! After one of my bunny rabbit webquests that pervade my largely uneventful days here at the office, I discovered the holy grail of reading lists for future English teachers in Oklahoma. Here’s how it went down: I started out at this week’s Carnival of Education over at the Education Wonks blog. One of my many reads was this post on the best sources of education news at This Week in Education. I promptly added EducationNews.org to my Favorites list after checking out a few of the articles. The most interesting one today was this one about the terrible state of textbooks in our country. Hmmm…I thought to myself. Approval committees for textbooks? Does Oklahoma have one of these bureaucratic setups? Being no bastion of education innovation, of course we do. And it has a very cryptic website. However, because of my recent experience reading The Da Vinci Code I was able to crack the Oklahoma Textbook Committee’s code and uncover the Holy Grail! By choosing an approved list of textbooks, this committe has tremendous power in determining the curriculum of our classrooms! I was surprised there was no mention of these approved texts in conjunction with Oklahoma’s PASS objectives on the State Deparment of Ed site. This is where the actual content comes from! And I would say that the people who choose our textbooks are probably education pundits, not classroom teachers. Although each district has a textbook committee who selects its school’s texts from textbook caravans, this supposed freedom of choice is really only an illusion. These texts have already been approved by a state entity to correlate with PASS standards. In the article from Education News linked above, a couple crazies are recommending that teachers and districts actually choose their own texts! As rational as this sounds, I do kind of see the state’s point in narrowing the field a bit by finding the texts that best correlate to our standards. However, even that could be a bit an illusion, as the article says textbook companies cater to their biggest customers: Texas and California, which means they end up marketing only super-conservative or super-politically correct textbooks. Hmmm…thank goodness I’ll be an English teacher, where Shakespeare is Shakespeare is Shakespeare, no matter which textbook publisher you buy him from. The generally agreed-upon classics are included on Oklahoma’s list, along with some very cool world lit (Jubilee, Go Tell it on the Mountain, Nervous Conditions, West with the Night), but what about the newest Newbery winners or modern Faulkners and Morrisons? If it’s not on the approved list, which is selected once every six years, teachers have a much smaller chance of talking the admin into buying them with school funds. In our state, school districts are required to use at least 80% of its textbook funds on approved titles.

My reading list is changing!

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3 Comments »

  1. Courtney said,

    80% spent on approved books… I would never be able to base what I teach on what they buy. My choices would be limited to about 50 books for grades 9-12. Language of Lit is a pretty good text. I don’t use it much with my honors classes, but it is well balanced, with a plethora of resources. Too many, in my opinion- there are stacks of the consumables growing in my room because I don’t give them out!

    Also, see if there’s a way you can take the temperature of your school district. A whole lot depends on that. I’m planning on doing a research project on banned books that will (hopefully) meet with no objections in my system, but would never fly in most of the surrounding, suburban districts.

  2. Kim said,

    I love the idea of doing a banned books project. Freedom of speech is such an important message. So do you buy your own paperbacks to teach or what?

  3. Courtney said,

    I make the kids buy them- I teach 9th honors and the kids are headed to IB, so they get them. I make them annotate sometimes, so they have to have their own copy- I keep a couple extras of everything that I’ve gotten at used book stores for the kids that really can’t afford them. Sometimes, I will take up money and buy a bulk order for them. That’s quite a pain though!! I’m planning to offer some extra credit this year if they give me their clean copies of what we’ve read so I can build my stash.


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