Meeting with Deputy Superintendent for Teaching and Learning Ann Frederick - July 2012
Representatives from PENS met with Deputy Superintendent for Teaching and Learning Ann Frederick on July 18, 2012. Ms. Frederick was given information about inaccurate and biased information used by students, including specific examples, both prior to and at the meeting.
Unfortunately, Ms. Frederick made it clear that she would take no action to correct the problem. She also said that parents had no right to review their children's educational materials at all (this violates NPS, state, and federal policy); that there was no need to review student material, ever; and that the parent(s) who met with her should find another school.
Below is a letter sent to Ms. Frederick after the meeting. There was no response.
Also below is a blog post in which the meeting is described.
Dear Ms. Frederick:
Thank you for taking the time to meet with [name redacted] and me last week. The following is a summary what occurred at the meeting.
You indicated that it is acceptable for students to use material with factual inaccuracies, even for the purpose of learning factual information, because all materials should be read “with an eye towards critical thinking”. I noted that students unfamiliar with the areas of study covered by those materials are unable to think critically about the subject matter they are learning.
You also said there were no problems with materials used last year in high school World History classes, even though a supplement used by many teachers (the Arab World Studies Notebook) was removed due to its inaccuracies, bias, and overt anti-semitism; and other material also contain significant factual errors.
You also said that assigning material with incorrect information, even if the purpose using that material is to present supposedly factual information to students, could be beneficial because it would sharpen students’ critical thinking skills. You did not respond to the question of whether we should also teach mathematics by giving students examples with incorrect answers.
You told us that there is no need to review materials used in controversial or sensitive subjects because “we trust our teachers”.
In discussing access to course materials, you said that neither parents nor anyone else was permitted to view any material used by students. (Emphasis added)
Our understanding is that your views and the Newton Public School’s policies, on public access to the curricula and materials used in NPS classes is the following: Taxpayers, including parents, have no right to see materials used by students, and there is no need to review any materials chosen by teachers to use in classrooms, despite substantial evidence that Newton schools have used and possibly continue to utilize unsuitable or objectionable material. You further stated that there is no reason to speak any further about the matter. We also understood you to say that your supervisory responsibilities did not extend to materials used in class.
We also understand that you believe there is no reason to meet again on this issue because NPS policies will not change. We also understood you to say that if we did not like these policies as stated, Ms. [name redacted] and other parents were free to find other schools for their children.
Please let us know if there are any inaccuracies in the above.
Very truly yours,
JANUARY 13, 2013
Newton School Battle: Report from the Trenches
Last night 7 of us attended the Newton School Committee meeting to continue our fight to get the Committee to publicly recant the lesson that was taught at Newton South High School, to apologize to the community and to warn other school boards about attempts to insert anti-Semitic materials into public school classrooms.
In an effort to thwart us, the Committee Chair, Clair Sokoloff, limited the time each of us could speak to three minutes. In the past we were allowed six.
Even under these conditions, we made our points which, by the way, are all televised as part of the normal procedure to put these meetings on Newton local cable.
Margot Einstein, the leader of our grass roots group led off reading an account of a meeting she and a parent had with the Curriculum head of the school, in which the parent was told that if she didn’t like what was in the curriculum, she could send her child to another school. Margot also read from the School Department’s website – which clearly states that parents can have access to curricular material……. So far, the school has not complied with its own rules...