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Mar 5, 2004 12:07 pm


Core Knowledge and Engaged Scholarship ...



I'm doing two workshops in Atlanta tomorrow on the Civil Rights Movement for groups of K-12 teachers from across the country at the national conference of Core Knowledge, a foundation established by the University of Virginia's E. D. Hirsch in 1986. He is, of course, best known for his book, Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know.

Doing these workshops set me to thinking about the fairly large divide between the professorate and K-12 faculty. There was a time when it wasn't so. A faculty member at Louisville's Male High School was deferentially called"Prof Smith" in our local church there and the University of Louisville's David Maurer was well known to us in high school because his wife, Barbara, ruled the Latin roost at Fern Creek High School. The woman was a genius of a teacher and knew just where the boundaries were. When last I talked to her by telephone on a brief flight through Louisville, I called Mrs. Maurer. Many years had passed and she didn't altogether even remember me, but I wanted to pay tribute to her stern authority as a teacher. She cut me off."Oh, I was a bitch," she said.

In the meantime, I had done student teaching as an undergraduate at Duke. I was assigned to an eighth grade class in a white junior high school and ended up even leading girls p. e. I hadn't the faintest idea what to do with that. But I was also participating in civil rights demonstrations in downtown Durham. After my picture appeared on local television, one of my students was found drawing a picture of me in his notebook."Nigger lover," it said under the drawing. I wasn't allowed to teach the unit on African history that I had planned for that semester. My teaching supervisor threatened to withdraw me from student teaching. The threat was a serious one because had I not successfully completed student teaching, I would have lost credit for all of the other courses I had taken that semester. A whole semester's work lost and graduation delayed. I survived by not getting arrested until my student teaching was completed and all requirements for graduation met.

It's all so ironic. Engagement in the civil rights movement is now valued. As I told a friend several years ago,"I'm a bloody relic." He wasn't too impressed with that, but I'm also a scholar of the movement and knowledge of it is" core knowledge." I hope Mrs. Maurer would be proud of me. I only wish the supervisors of my student teaching could be with us tomorrow.

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Oscar Chamberlain - 3/8/2004

I seem to recall biographies (or autobiographies?) of Jackie Robinson and Arthur Ashe that considered the issue, but I cannot tell you which one.

There are also articles on the 1968 Mexico City Olympics and politics.

But the area is ripe for a larger work.

I will try to post something more specific concerning the 1968 articles later today.


Ralph E. Luker - 3/7/2004

Good question. I am unaware of a book on the subject, tho there may be one in the making. Sports-related issues occurred often in the "civil rights revolution." So often, that I suspect that one could just about sustain a narrative history of it in which sports was the organizing theme.


Grant W Jones - 3/6/2004

I'm currently reading _I Am Third_ by Gale Sayers. Are there any good books on the role played by pro sports (or sports in general) in the Civil Rights Revolution? I've asked around, and nobody seems to know. Thank You.


Ralph E. Luker - 3/5/2004

After talking with a number of CK's teachers and parents today, Michael, I think I'd agree with you. I wasn't sure at first, because I knew so little about the outfit. But it looks very good to me.


Michael C Tinkler - 3/5/2004

Pardon me for emoting, but I think Core Knoweldge has a better chance of saving the world through curriculum than almost anything else i've seen on the market.

How I long to teach a child Art 101 who has had K-12 Core Knowledge! Go read the list of the things they'll be exposed to and yearn.


Ralph E. Luker - 3/5/2004

Yes, Ophelia. Ever since then I've tried to fulfill the requirements before getting busted!


Ophelia Benson - 3/4/2004

Well, Ralph, and part of your core knowledge is that very experience, isn't it. A good little nugget of knowledge, both personal and general. It must have seemed anything but useful at the time, but now - it seems a good thing there was a witness.

And the moral of that is: postpone getting arrested until you've fulfilled all the requirements - then get out there and get busted.

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