What are they teaching my kid in school?

Based on the following quote:

BEG is making reference to the “cow thing” as if it actually happened, not wondering if it DID happen at all.

Brown Eyed Girl, you know I have to ask: CMS?

This whole thing sounds like it has come through the kid filter. This could be anything at all, from BSE in Britain, to a primitive explanation of economics - 'do you keep the cow for milk? do you eat the cow? do you plow with the cow? How do you make your wealth grow from one cow to many cows. Should you buy a bull?"

This kind of child-based garbalage happens all the time.

Talk to the teacher after school, but be offhand about it. If you go in guns a’blazin’ you may feel really silly when she shows you the cow-symbol bar chart of International GNP.


First of all, I’m privy to BEG’s communication with the school, because she copied me (her husband) in her email to the teacher. It was a level headed inquiry into the nature of the lesson. Our daughter did tell us it was part of the Social Studies lesson, so if it was supposed to be a tongue in cheek reference, it wasn’t presented very well. The problem I see with it being presented as a part of the lesson, regardless of context, is that it propagates cultural bias.

It’s not CMS we’re across the state line.

Until such time as you know what the lesson actually contained you can’t talk about whether “it” propogates cultural bias, since you do not know what “it” was. As noted, inquiry into “it”'s nature was very appropriate action.


That’s right. I knew that. Sorry.

Ecownomics poster

When your kid comes home and declares that they learned in school that “In Canada they take your cows away, and Nazis will shoot you and take away your cows…and in Russia…” You can reasonably assume that no matter what the lesson, it carried a little bit of cultural bias.

Sounds to me like a misinterpretation of “socialism,” “fascism/Nazi-ism,” and “communism,” rather than actual cultural bias. Political bias, sure.

Which honestly, wouldn’t surprise me considering y’all’s school system.

I generally agree with this and my SO the 35-year career teacher had countless experiences of this, the kid-reocunting-something-out-of-context thing, when there is a perfectly valid explanation.

One explanation that I can think of off the top of my head is that the tongue-in-cheek Dear Abby thing could have been presented as a silly throw-away thing ancillary to a serious civics / economics unit. You said it was an advanced class, right? Maybe (rightly or wrongly) the teacher felt like the students were astute enough to see the irony / satire in it and make the connection between broad perceptions of economic systems and the actual facts of those economic systems.

Even if you think that this is a stupid approach and not a good lesson plan, so what? Your kid is going to have to sit through some dumb lesson plans in her educational career. One unit, one teacher, one bad class with a little misinformation at the 5th grade level doesn’t concern me in the least.

As for propagating culture bias? I believe with all my heart that every teacher, every school, every principal who sets a tone to a school, and every lesson in some small way propagates cultural bias. We’re human, our schools are human institutions; there WILL be bias, always, unavoidably, some of which you won’t always agree with, some of which you will but your neighbor won’t. I truly believe there’s nothing one really needs to do to “fix” that; instead see it as an opportunity for your child to be exposed to a broad range of people, perceptions, and beliefs. Again, your child has at least a 13 year educational career; this is nothing in the whole scheme of things.

It isn’t a good sign that you’re coming to an online group with zero first-hand knowledge of your situation for reinforcement before talking, calmly, to the teacher, about what was going on.

I’m a teacher (high school), and have been astonished by the level of reactivity among parents today, compared to when I was a student. It’s as if we’re delivering instruction to our student’s parents, not the students themselves. WTF?

I’m hoping for a perfectly valid explanation. I heard back from her homeroom teacher who forwarded my email inquiry to the social studies teacher (whose email address I didn’t have) assuring me that the SS teacher would get back to me. After describing the conversation with my daughter, I casually indicated that perhaps she didn’t understand the lesson and, hence, neither do I, so more information on the lesson would help me help her.

It’s not an advanced class; it’s a regular 5th grade class, but my daughter is bright and a good student. Although, given what I’m hearing from her, I don’t think she’s quite savvy enough to get satire. I can’t say I’d normally expect to hear much satire in a fifth grade classroom. She also began our discussion with the phrase “Did you know…” as if she were imparting factual information. She seems to steadfastly believe what she’s saying is factual without being able to explain the concepts at all or even provide further detail. If there was a connection between the satire and a more meaningful lesson, it appears to have been lost on even one of the brighter students in the class.

Of course, you are absolutely right. Thank you for this dose of perspective; I needed it. This may present an opportunity to help her develop some critical thinking skills.

I’m not sure there was cultural bias; though political bias and misinformation seems to be the case. I think Motojojo is concerned that the joke included portions found in the wiki that are clearly cultural stereotypes. I don’t know that as of yet and I’m not assuming it was as it would be so incredibly inappropriate I’d like to think it wouldn’t go that far, especially with such a culturally diverse school as the one she attends. It’s a values-based imperative to us that she be taught respect for cultures that are not our own. It’s fine that we may not understand or even agree with them, but respect is not optional.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.

WTF? is right. Why isn’t it a good sign that I’m asking a forum what I was missing in the conversation I had with my daughter. I’d never heard the two cows joke, but thanks to the forum, I’m getting up to speed. At least when the teacher, whom it’s already been noted that I’ve contacted via email to calmly ask for more details of the lesson, explains it I’ll have a bit more information to go on. I probably know more now about the two cows joke than the teacher (assuming she hasn’t seen the wiki and a poster).

I’m still wondering I’m not supposed to be confused when my ten-year-old kid tells me that in other countries they take your cows and shoot you. And that’s what she’s learning in social studies. Really?! What countries and why? Shrug

You call that ‘delivering instruction’? Brilliant.

Like other teachers on the thread, I have had to deal with the kid-filter on many occasions. I have used a version of this very poster with upper elementary students when it was brought in by a student from her father who wanted to share the joke. I specialize in differentiating the classroom for gifted students, so it was only appropriate to a very few, but I firmly believe that few should not be denied classroom experiences at their level. There is a constant problem with irony - some kids really love it, many don’t get it. The trick as a teacher is to ensure that those who can enjoy it have that opportunity, and the rest are aware that this is humor. The only way to avoid this issue is for teachers to work in humorless straight-jackets.

On one occasion I had parents ring the school in angry protest because the child had told the parents that I said that I could read minds and demonstrated it. All sorts of troubles and meetings. When I finally insisted the parent to ask the child exactly what had happened, the child knew perfectly well I was doing a magic trick with cards, just hadn’t bothered to mention that to the parent. A few more hours of my life I will never get back.

My daughter is in second grade and is in complete French immersion in a rather unusual and great public school program. I pick her up in the evening. Our conversations have turned into a little game.

Me: What did you learn today?

Her: Nothing whatsoever.

Me: Did you play with any kids?

Her: No, of course not.

Me: Did you notice any books around or things that you could look at if you had to.

Her: No, they don’t really have any there.

Me: Did your teacher notice you were there at all.

Her: No

Me: Did you here any French words being spoken or anything like that?

Her: No

Me: Do you think your French immersion teachers can speak a word of French at all?

Her: Probably not.

Me: Do you think your teachers went to any sort of school at all? Did they graduate from elementary school themselves?

Her: I seriously doubt it.
It is all a big joke but somehow I don’t think I am going to take her word for what they are teaching her anytime in the near future. She goes to a great school.

Well I hate to say this, but given your description above, perhaps your daughter isn’t quite as bright as you imagine. Lynne-42 gets it right:

The most advanced 10/11 year olds will get irony, sarcasm and nuance - until then they will treat everything they are told as factual with no, or little, understanding of contextual author bias or intention. Seems to me that’s exactly where your daughter is, and therefore this has gone partially over her head.

I’m sure it won’t ruin her life though…and if you’re sufficiently aggressive with the school you may even succeed in ensuring humorless teaching from now on.

That’s too bad, Shagnasty, but I wouldn’t worry much. It’s second grade. I think most kids go through that stage of not wanting to talk about school with their parents. My son actually stayed in that stage, but fortunately my daughter has not. She’s the type of kid that is eager to demonstrate what she’s learned. The phrase “did you know…” is not at all uncommon to hear in our house. Up to now, the trivia has at least been accurate.