Chris Zwygart had this letter to the editor today explaining his hand-off approach to curriculum.
I was privileged to chair the St. Joseph’s Hospital Board for several years. The majority of members were dedicated layperson volunteers from our community.
One of the board’s duties is overseeing quality and safety. We fulfilled those duties by discussing information received from highly trained medical experts from Froedtert and the hospital’s staff. The board explored how they developed the programs, the basis for their decisions and then applied good common sense before approving them. In other words, the board ensured the experts used a solid process to select safe, high-quality medical practices.
Imagine if a board member insisted on overriding the experts’ recommendation for the specific medications or amount of oxygen used during surgery. The public would be horrified. Consider the public controversy, distrust and staff dissatisfaction caused by that level of micromanagement.
Let’s translate this example to our school board. The board is responsible for approving curriculum. The board consists of part-time laypersons. If administrators and teachers propose new curriculum, the board should explore how it was developed, the basis for their decisions and apply common sense. The board should focus on the process the experts used to select high-quality curricula to advance the district’s goals. Imagine if board members insisted on imposing their choice of specific novels or scientific theories in our classrooms, contrary to the educational experts’ opinions. The public should be equally horrified. That micromanagement will breed distrust and controversy.
If elected to the school board, I join with Kurt Rebholz to ensure the board oversees the administration’s process for establishing curriculum based on collaboration with the educational experts this board hired, but not through micromanagement. Let’s not turn the specific content of our curriculum into a controversial political football up for grabs at every school board election.
– Chris Zwygart West Bend School Board Candidate
This is the same argument and example Zwygart used when I interviewed him before my column. There are two problems with this argument…
First, safety protocols in a surgery are not equivalent to curriculum choices. The former are based on provable scientific measures to prevent infection and not kill patients. The latter is very subjective and open to interpretation.
Let’s leave aside the issue of intelligent design that the lefties are focusing on. Zwygart’s and Rebholz’s position is that the school board should have almost no say in any curriculum. In the Engage NY curriculum currently being used by the school district, the 8th grade English Language Arts class lays out thus:
- 20 Days – Launch
- 40 Days – Refugees
- 40 Days – Taking a Stand
- 40 Days – Shakespeare
- 40 Days – Sustainability of the US Food Supply Chain
Of the 180 days of school, 120 of them are being used to advance liberal social justice issues under the mantle of teaching language arts. According to Zwygart and Rebholz, the school board should not be empowered to make any changes to this because the “experts” already decided. They couldn’t replace “Taking a Stand” with “19th Century English Literature.” They couldn’t replace “Refugees” with “Immigration.” They couldn’t replace “Sustainability of US Food Supply Chain” with “Modern Fantasy Literature.” Remember the purpose of the class is to teach the language – the material is supposed to be just a means to an end. The material is just supposed to be interesting enough to hold the students’ attention.
Of course the school board should have an active role in determining curriculum. Yes, they should strongly defer to education experts and rely on their input, but the the school board has the final say. They cannot absolve themselves from responsibility for what is taught to the kids by delegating it to the staff.
The second thing wrong with Zwygart’s argument is that it could be used to render any elected board meaningless. He says, “The board consists of part-time laypersons” to point out that the school board members are not curriculum experts. That’s true. They are also not financial experts, safety experts, childhood development experts, HR experts, management experts, facilities experts, or anything else. Some of them may be an expert in one of those areas, but the board is not made up of experts. To take Zwygart’s argument to its conclusion, the school board should also defer to experts on all of those other topics. If that’s the case, then why do we even have an elected school board? Let’s just hire experts and let them run it.
Of course we have an elected school board for the precise reason that we want our local government schools to be run by the community – not the experts. We want the experts to implement the will of the people. We want Republican government – not a technocracy.
I really like Chris Zwygart and think he has a lot to offer the school district. In another slate of candidates, I could easily see myself supporting him. But I fundamentally disagree with his hands off approach to one of the most important responsibilities of the school board – determining what our kids are taught.