It is disturbing to see political agendas from the "right" seep into the educational dialectic in the form of short-sighted, reactionary, criticism of a school celebration in San Diego. The "ditto" mentality that is quick to criticize what it preceives as liberal methods in education loves to tie all the world's ills to the president--including our shared difficulties in education.
Touting the "Saxon Books" as the reason for overwhelming improvement in math scores is another example of spreading right-wing propaganda based on self-contrived standards. It is hard to take this propaganda seriously. Moreover, it is difficult to give any credibility to a textbook publisher that prefaces public textbooks with "An Open Letter to President Clinton." Using "textbooks" to deliver politically charged diatribes which blast the NCTM as being central to creating a disaster in math and science education loses all chance of having any credibility with professional educators. If Mr. Saxon wants to criticize liberalism in education he should submit his views to the editorial page of a local newspaper--not use his own personal vanity press to move his political views into classrooms.
Saxon's promotion of "the superior Saxon student" is not unlike the promotion of the superior Aryan race. This is a mentality that likes things to be "black & white." Grades on "rigorous" exams are viewed to be "superior" to accessing student performance based on representative samples (portfolios) of work. This is a mentality that cannot accept the fact that the NCTM standards have been developed by the contributions of hundreds of mathematicians and professional educators who generally view reform in a way that excludes the methods of Mr. Saxon.
What's scary about Saxon, his textbooks, and his attitude, is how successful he's been. This is a success not based on the quality of his materials and methods, but based on exploiting the fear and ignorance of some educators. I'm troubled by the number of educators and parents across this country who continue to be taken in by those who cannot park their political agendas at the schoolhouse door.
After talking to Mr. Saxon, I am more committed than ever to teaching teachers about the craft of teaching, the NCTM standards, and exploring new possibilities in making learning work for all children. Whereas Saxon touts having the answer, the NCTM standards promotes having an approach--an approach developed by numerous math experts using a consensus method. Saxon, on the other hand, boasts about hiring a "fresh out of college PhD" to work on one of his textbooks because he was willing to work cheap. His motivations for publishing textbooks are chilling.
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