NOVEMBER 22, 2005
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SCHOOL CHIEFS BOMBSHELL ADMISSIONS!
This is HUGE.
The cat is now officially out of the bag in Carson City. Maggie O'Neill of the local Nevada Appeal newspaper has a well-balanced front-page story on the Joe Enge brouhaha in this morning's paper. The school district, which clearly had hoped to simply sweep this matter under the rug, has no choice now but to address it. Openly. And publicly.
You can read Ms. O'Neill's "Teacher Says District Off Track" story online at: http://www.nevadaappeal.com/article/200
In addition, as alluded to yesterday, the Joe Enge story has now gone NATIONAL. Jay Mathews, the education reporter for the Washington Post, published "Fired for Teaching Too Much" in our nation's capital this morning. You can read it online at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/co
Remember, the issue which first sparked this controversy was Mr. Enge's contention that Carson High School was starting 11th-grade history at Reconstruction, truncating early U.S. history and relegating the Revolutionary War to, at best, a mere "review" of what kids learned three years earlier in middle school. District officials have, in essence, been calling whistle-blower Enge a "liar," insisting that all the teachers at Carson High have been teaching all of U.S. history to all the students all along.
Now get this.
In the Washington Post story, Dr. Mary Pierczynski, the Carson City school superintendent, admits that, according to Mathews, "her district prefers a relatively quick review of America through the Civil War at the beginning of 11th grade." Dr. Pierczynski is quoted as admitting, "The exploration of America through 1865 is taught in the 8th grade," therefore the 11th-grade history class at Carson High is limited to "a review and elaboration of the 8th-grade material." Mathews also notes that other school officials told him that "an 11th-grade focus on the later 19th century and the 20th century will produce a deeper and more engaging course."
Isn't that EXACTLY what Joe Enge has been alleging all along? That early American history in the 11th-grade is merely being "reviewed," not "taught;" that the gap between 8th grade and 11th grade is way too big to relegate our Founding to just a short "review."
And now comes THIS bombshell...
In Ms. O'Neill's Nevada Appeal story, Carson High Principal Fred Perdomo admits that "U.S. history teachers at Carson High begin the year with a review of the Revolutionary War." He adds, and this is a quote: "I would have to say that the majority of the history teachers are teaching pre-1865." Perdomo also says that "If Joe (Enge) was told not to teach pre-Civil War history, it wasn't by me."
The key words here are "review," "majority" and "if."
Finally, the school principal is on record, publicly admitting for the first time that what Joe Enge has alleged all along is...TRUE. U.S. history in 11-th grade at Carson High hasn't been "taught" in full; it's been "reviewed." Just as Dr. Pierczynski told the Washington Post.
Mr. Perdomo also admits that while a "majority" of teachers are now teaching pre-1865 history, that isn't the same thing as saying "ALL" teachers are teaching pre-1865 history. Now, I'm know...er, no English major, but this statement in plain English says to me that some 11th-grade history teachers at Carson High School are, indeed, starting with Reconstruction (just as the official course description book says) and NOT the Revolutionary War.
The obvious question: Why not? Why aren't ALL the U.S. History teachers in Mr. Perdomo's school teaching ALL of U.S. history to ALL of the students there? And why does the "brass" continue to insist that the full span of U.S. history is being taught to all our kids when even the school PRINCIPAL and SCHOOL SUPERINTENDENT finally admit it's not so.
And where the heck is the SCHOOL BOARD while all of this has been going on? Would someone PUH-LEASE wake them up!
Lastly, Mr. Perdomo says that "IF" Joe Enge was told not to teach pre-Civil War history, it wasn't by him. Which is, in fact, an admission that maybe, just maybe, somebody BEFORE Mr. Perdomo became principal last year DID tell Joe Enge to follow the official course description and start teaching 11th-grade U.S. history with Reconstruction.
Joe Enge has FINALLY been vindicated. Game. Set. Match.
What we need to see now are at least two things:
1.) A clear, unambiguous statement from the Carson City School District that from this point forward, ALL 11th-grade U.S. history teachers at Carson High (not just a "majority") WILL teach ALL of U.S. history to ALL of their students. Not as a simple "review" of 8th-grade U.S. history. Completely. Fully. In depth. It's time to put this issue to bed once and for all. No more "spin."
2.) All those biased "unsatisfactory" evaluations of Joe Enge which have been used to "punish" him for blowing the whistle on this matter three years ago need to be removed PERMANENTLY from his file. An objective, unbiased evaluator then needs to be sent into Joe Enge's class and do a REAL evaluation of his teaching ability and performance. And *if* this neutral evaluator finds areas which could use improvement, fine. I'm certain Joe will take them to heart and respond accordingly.
It's time to right this injustice and give our kids the U.S. history education they need and deserve.
FOX IN THE CHICKEN COUP
Folks who called Carson High School yesterday asking why FOX News was being prohibited from interviewing Joe Enge in his classroom got a WIDE variety of responses.
Those calling in the morning received responses ranging from "We don't know what you're talking about" to simply being hung up on. Later in the morning, school officials were "spinning" that the matter had to do with filming underage students without parental permission. By afternoon, the school was saying that FOX News WOULD be allowed in Mr. Enge's classroom.
Talk about a song-and-dance. These folks make Fred Astaire look like an amateur.
I spoke directly with the FOX News producer yesterday afternoon. FOX did, in fact, ask the school late last week if they could interview Joe Enge in Joe's classroom today at 3:00 p.m. (after school was out)...and were told "no."
Yesterday, when FOX showed up at the school, they asked permission to shoot what is called "B-roll" footage of Joe in the classroom teaching his students...not the interview with Joe itself. School officials said they had to check with their attorneys first. Later in the morning, FOX was given the "green light" to shoot the B-roll footage.
FOX still doesn't know whether or not they'll be allowed to shoot Joe's INTERVIEW in Joe's classroom this afternoon, or whether they'll have to shoot it outside the school. So when school officials told some of you yesterday that FOX was being allowed in the classroom, they may or may not have been giving you the complete story.
My guess - after all the calls from you folks they received yesterday - is that they'll back down and allow the interview to take place in the classroom...where it SHOULD take place. The concern for kids being taped without parental permission simply doesn't apply to an interview of the teacher alone AFTER school has let out. But we'll just have to wait and see.
A BIG ANNOUNCEMENT
Ladies and gentlemen; boys and girls from around the world, let me introduce: THE ENGE FILES: THE WEBSITE.
Although Joe's now been vindicated on his original complaint about the truncated version of U.S. history being taught at Carson High, his fight isn't over. There are still those punitive unsatisfactory evaluations in his personnel file to deal with. And there's still this whole fight over "traditional" content-laden teaching vs. the student-centered "entertainment" methodology. Not to mention the whole question of the teachers union and their (lack) of involvement in this matter, the "head-in-the-sand" Carson City school board, and the monopoly the government has over education.
This brings up two points: (1) Now that the original complaint has been resolved, many of you around Nevada and around the country might not be as interested in what comes next here in Carson City. And (2), there's enough information still to come on these matters to warrant a dedicated website on the subject.
So that's exactly what I've done. From today forward, we'll now deal with Joe Enge's plight here in Carson City in detail at www.theengefiles.com
An archive of past editions of The Enge Files e-newsletter will be posted there later today, as well as a new "Contact" page so you can send Joe Enge an email directly if you so choose. And if you know of someone who is not yet signed up for this e-newsletter, there's a "Subscription" box located at the bottom of the left-hand column.
This also means The Enge Files "Truth Detector" e-newsletter will now come from a website dedicated to this issue. So if you would prefer not to get future issues of The Enge Files, but DO want to continue receiving Nevada News & Views on the full spectrum of politics and policy in the Silver State, you can simply click on the "Unsubscribe" link in today's issue. You'll be taken off The Enge Files subscriber list, but will remain on the Nevada News & Views list.
For those who wish to continue following The Enge Files, tomorrow we'll continue with our look at Principal Fred Perdomo's biased and, frankly, insulting performance review of Joe Enge which was conducted last April. And wait until you read what Mr. Perdomo considers to be the "right" way to teach history.
It'll knock your Middle Ages socks off.
FAMOUS LAST WORDS
"We dazed and confused parents are often treated like coyotes who have wandered into the educators' back yard. The message is: You don't belong here. We are usually not yelled at or sprayed with the water hose or shot, but the reception in the principal's office can be chilly, and we rarely get the information or action we seek."
- Washington Post education reporter Jay Mathews
Copyright Chuck Muth 2005
All Rights Reserved
[Edit 10:45 PM]
NOVEMBER 21, 2005
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FOX BARRED FROM FRED'S CHICKEN COUP
I received the following email from Joe Enge this weekend: "Hello Chuck. I have invited Fox News to my classroom, set for 3:00 Tuesday afternoon. The producer, Ron Ralston, has been told that they cannot interview me in my classroom as (Carson High School Principal) Fred Perdomo has said no."
I confirmed this with FOX News this morning.
Obviously, Mr. Perdomo doesn't want FOX News to show Joe Enge in a favorable light. Being filmed as a teacher in a classroom adds credibility. Denying FOX News the ability to film Mr. Enge in his classroom AFTER school hours is, well...chicken-(expletive).
If you get a chance today, why not give Carson High School principal Fred Perdomo a ring and tell him to stop acting like a baby and let FOX News interview Joe Enge wherever FOX News wants to (and yes, I know I ended a sentence with a preposition). The number to call is: (775) 283-1600 Ext. 3
I was wondering what had happened since Muth's last post...
Geeze. More evidence that private or home schooling is the way to go anymore. And it's sad. And maddening.
Here this teacher is trying to impress upon his students to think for themselves, and he's under fire for it. These are the kinds of educators I want for the current generation of school-aged kids and beyond. I wish there were thousands more like Joe Enge.
NOVEMBER 20, 2005
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A TALE OF TWO EVALUATIONS
(In case you haven't been following this story, you can bring yourself up to speed by visiting "The Enge Files" page at www.copacnevada.com)
April 22, 2005.
Carson High School Principal Fred Perdomo is scheduled to evaluate embattled 11th-grade U.S. History teacher Joe Enge's classroom performance in the morning. Also on hand to observe the same class that day, however, is Carson City School Board member Sheila Ward. As you'll see, Ward's presence that day is critical to exposing the witch-hunt against Joe Enge. Here's the evaluation school board member Mrs. Ward wrote after observing the class.
“Classes are very different from when I was a student, sitting at attention at desks in straight rows. These students sit at tables.
“There is a quote on the Smart Board: 'Communism doesn't work because people like to own stuff' - Frank Zappa, 1940-1993. All students are in, one a little late, and Mr. Enge instructs them to write what they think: Is it true? False? And be prepared for a discussion.
“This the students did, while Mr. Enge took roll. Mr. Enge gave me a copy of the test and a handout that his students would be filling out as they watched a documentary on the Bay of Pigs Cuban missile crisis.
“Mr. Enge got students' thoughts on true and false. Everyone said true. Three or four students offered their insights. And Mr. Enge tied their comments to economics of individual ownership vs. Soviet economics of central ownership.
“He asked the students (to name) a totally dingy car to own. Someone said the Ford Pinto. Then he asked what was a real 'cool' car any kid would want to own. A boy in the back immediately said a GT. Very cool car everyone agreed. Then he kept asking the students what they needed to do to get a real cool car vs. the dingy one. The answers were: Get a job, work and save, etc. (He referred to an analogy in the book, “Wealth of Nations,” by Adam Smith).
“Then Mr. Enge used the analogy of an actual experience he had while teaching in Estonia, after the Soviet Union was broken up. He (told) the students - I thought this was great - a centralized economy is like averaging students' grades. In this very class the average grade would be 78%. He would give everyone a grade of 78%, no matter if they studied and worked hard to receive an A or didn't do much at all. He asked them what they thought of that? Did they agree with that premise? Why not? Didn't they want to help the 'common good' for everyone? What did they think would happen if no one would bother studying anymore?
“Then Mr. Enge went over the answers for a test they had taken on the Korean War. Also asked them to think whether or not they thought the war was won, lost or tied. He said there was no correct answer as even Korean War veterans, his own father one of them, did not agree among themselves - even after 52 years. . . . I thought this was an interesting discussion in the classroom.
“Oh, this time the students were given time to work in a small group and choose the spokesperson to give their answer. I thought the students' answers were pretty thoughtful. I think most said it was a tie.
“Then Mr. Enge showed a history documentary on the Cuban Bay of Pigs and Missile Crisis which I remembered was written on the back wall as a state standard. These students were glued to this film. Actually, I was too, as it was of real news film clips of cabinet members, Press Secretary Pierre Salinger, President Kennedy, Vice President Lyndon Johnson, Castro, Khrushchev, the Cuban refugees.everybody was young!
“...Mr. Enge had to stop the film as class time ran out. He asked the students to think about what would they do if they had ½ hour's notice that we were going to be attacked with a nuclear bomb. Answers were calling their dad, going home, and some I didn't hear. He then asked of Mr. Perdomo's remembrance of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Mr. Perdomo was just their age and described about preparations students were to do in case of a nuclear bomb...
“Perdomo left. The students were given about 5 minutes before dismissal. Mr. Enge said with such a long class time, he felt it was a good idea to give students time to talk with one another for 5 minutes or so. Also, at this time the daily announcements come on the speaker. Sometimes they come right at 5 or ten minutes before the bell rings and he likes to have his lesson finished so as not to be interrupted by announcements or speaking at the same time. A common sense reason to me.
“NOTE: I am amazed how much of the class came back to me in detail with just a few notations. I have concluded that it is because the class was so 'darned' interesting! I think these students are extremely fortunate to have this quality of a teacher in Mr. Enge, our district included!”
I don't know. Call me crazy, but this doesn't sound like a class conducted by an incompetent teacher. Then again, I'm not a highly-trained education professional. So let's now look at how the highly-trained education professional, Principal Fred Perdomo, viewed this class (taken from his “descriptive narrative” included with Mr. Enge's "Framework for Effective Teaching" evaluation form):
“Mr. Enge began his class with a quote on communism. He asked students to think about the meaning of the quote. There was a brief response and then he asked the students to get into their groups and discuss a question, 'Did we win, lose or tie the Korean War?' It was not evident that anyone moved into a group. There was a brief discussion with their responses. Mr. Enge then flashed through some biographies of political leaders of the time with no discussion.
“Next, Mr. Enge turned on a video from the History Channel, 'The Cuban Missile Crisis.' As the movie continued, Mr. Enge would occasionally point out a place or identify a person.
“Forty minutes into the video Mr. Enge asked me if I had seen a private bomb shelter during this era. I told the class that I was a junior in high school during the Cuban Missile Crisis and had left home every morning for two weeks thinking that I may not see my family again. I asked them to put themselves in my place. What would you write for posterity? What would they want the survivors to remember them as?
“...Students were given a worksheet with questions to answer from the video. Mr. Enge turned off the video at 9:20 a.m. and asked the students to answer my question in their journals. He then stopped the class ten minutes before the bell, as he didn't want to be interrupted by the morning announcements.
“My observation of this lesson is that it was unsatisfactory to basic. This lesson could have been delivered by any substitute teacher. It would have been a fair lesson for a substitute. There was little student conversation during the entire 100 minutes. The objective for the lesson was to analyze communism, yet there was no time spent on analysis.”
Did Ward and Perdomo observe the same class?
I know men are from Mars and women are from Venus...but this is ridiculous.
Words mean stuff. And the words Fred Perdomo chose to use to describe what he observed in Joe Enge's classroom are incendiary and clearly show the man was on a mission; a mission to “flunk” Joe Enge. This was no objective evaluation. Fred Perdomo clearly had an agenda he was bound and determined to fulfill. And were it not for the presence of a school board member during Mr. Perdomo's biased evaluation, he'd have probably gotten away with it.
He still might.
Mrs. Ward noted that the students watched a “documentary.” Mr. Perdomo referred to it as a “video” - as though they were watching “A Weekend At Bernie's” or “Dude, Where's My Car.”
Mr. Perdomo charged that “It was not evident that anyone moved into a group” and observed only a “brief” discussion on the Korean War question. Mrs. Ward, on the other hand, observed an extended discussion which included a lesson on the relative benefits of a central economy vs. a free market economy - complete with an analogy regarding student grades which MUST have grabbed their attention.
Perdomo noted that Enge “flashed” through biographies - insinuating that he glossed over important content - and that he only “occasionally” stopped the “video” to point out some relevant place or person. Could this guy possibly get any more obvious?
Clearly this evaluation by Fred Perdomo was a hatchet job by a man on a mission; a mission to discredit a competent teacher and justify ridding the school district of a whistle-blower who was raising embarrassing questions about the nature of how our kids were being (mis)educated at Carson High School; a man willing to publicly say “the emperor has no clothes” and who just...wouldn't...shut...up.
Next, we'll look at what REALLY bugs Fred Perdomo about Joe Enge. At heart, this is an ongoing national battle pitting “traditional” teacher-centered instruction vs. the modern-day, touchy-feely student-centered method. And if you read Fred Perdomo's “descriptive narrative” from the Enge evaluation, you'll get a hint of exactly what we're going to be talking about.
Re-read Perdomo's reference to the subject of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Look at what Mr. Perdomo wants kids to take away from this HISTORY lesson: “I asked them to put themselves in my place. What would you write for posterity? What would they want the survivors to remember them as?”
Good grief. When you're at church this morning, say a prayer or two for our kids at Carson High School. They need 'em.
P.S. Oh, by the way, wait 'til you see what school officials say about and do to school board member Sheila Ward for DARING to actually go into a classroom and see for herself exactly what was going on!