"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Sunday, November 09, 2008

A Teacher Responds to Sopris West Propaganda

An email from a teacher:
Hi Jim,
I teach sixth grade in California and have been forced to deliver the scripted Sopris West program, Language!, this year. My students will not be permitted to read a single line of print on their own this year, God forbid, a book. Nor with they write an original sentence. What is worse, the workbook drills contain daily doses of the worst propaganda imaginable. "Soldiers protect our Homelands. Soldiers expect nothing in return. Soldiers do not fire on friendly forces. Do exactly whatever the judge tells you to do." we orally repeat over and over. Why isn't anything being written about the propaganda imbedded in these programs? I'm horrified.
Dear J,
It is only by the actions and words of teachers like yourself that the Bush/Spellings miseducators and the edu-cronies like Louisa Moats get the hard boot out of our schools that they deserve. Indeed, you have a compelling moral obligation to band together with other teachers, parents, school board members, and university people in your community to put together a top to bottom reappraisal of your schools' curriculum materials, and to come forward with reading and writing curriculums that restore to children the right to exercise and develop their imaginative and critical capacities, i. e, to be educated.

Doing anything less is simply to accede to the anticultural thought-scrubbing jingoism that has been passed off as literacy curriculums since the Reading First thugs grabbed power over our schools in 2002. Thank you for your note, and I am eager to hear from you again--hopefully as the change we need becomes the change all of us will make happen.

Jim Horn


  1. A few years ago, I was teaching special ed and was forced to use the ridiculous program LANGUAGE! All I got out of it was a lovely tote-bag, suitable for grocery shopping. Went through this inane inservice to learn how the thing was suppose to work. Both the kids and I felt like idiots performing the little hand signals. What a crock! Total crap!

  2. Anonymous3:28 PM

    I, too, have used this...adding some needed definitions and varied instruction because my students are NOT robots. NOT ALL STUDENTS learn the same. Example: most of my students are kinetic learners, though A book has some physical movement (which is childish and idiotic, at best), there is no movement or creativeness in book C. When I added some, I was given a bad review because I messed with the "integrity" of this "research-based" program. From all that I've read about research, especially on programs like this, you can prove whatever you want. My motto: teacher should be able to vary instruction because we know our students and "NO CHILD learns the same."
    VERY frustrated!!

  3. Anonymous8:17 PM

    I was given the Language! program this year at the end of August by my department chair. You will teach this, the memo read. Show up a week early out of your summer vacation for a three day unpaid immersion into the Language! program. We begged our facilitator for a demonstration. One was promised, but never happened. I am an older teacher. The other teachers are younger, and they are the darlings of Sopris West. Each time they have come to my school, they have surprised me and not scheduled a meeting. One day they observed me twice. and chewed up my entire planning period. I did a great lesson, ( I thought) I did a couple of items out of sequence, a day earlier and i was crucified for this. They never said one positive thing or reinforced anything good i did. What was really embarrassing,because in her next email my department chair sent to all Trans Math and Language! people I was the only one being observed. I really did the lessons according to plan, but if I veered from their archaic script, they went ballistic. "You are not implementing the program correctly," my department chair told me. I have been teaching since 1987, was in the university system for 12 years, and have had uniformly great evaluations. I am so dejected about this program and the I just feel like quitting.

  4. Anonymous1:36 PM

    I too work on the Sopris West program Language! -- we were thrown into it in the end of summer and we didn't start it until the end of September. Most of the kids hate it and find it demeaning, especially the stupid hand movements. We were told the consultants vists were non-evaluative, but they told my department chair I wasn't following the program 'with fidelity" I asked to have a class modeled, and the wiman who came in didn't know how to do lessons. You email the consultants and they claim not to have received your email. This whole experience is disheartening, and when willl they learned that canned programs do not work!