Middle School Curriculum ED 441/641 Section 400 Lecture Three • Introduction

As we’ve seen so far, the founders of the middle school movement were trying to rectify several problems they felt were present in the education of the early adolescent. These problems can be summarized in the idea that children 10-14 have specific developmental needs that were not met in the education system at that time. The first attempt at meeting this gap was the foundation of the “junior high.” Junior high schools tended to nothing more than a replica of the high school model, failing to meet the developmental or curricular needs of the early adolescent. Accordingly, many professional educators began to argue for a school model focused on the social, developmental, and learning needs of students in grades 5-8 (the typical middle school model in 6-8, as it is in most of SC). Many of you related middle school experiences that clearly showed the intent of the middle school concept, if not the actual model itself. Others of you had experiences closer to mine (albeit in the 1970s)—an experience in the 6-8 grades that had little, if any relation to the developmental emphasis of the modern middle school. Many of you expressed your remembrances of typical “ ‘tween ” angst, some over very real issues you had to face, and some as the result of the social changes seem in these middle years. Remember, school structure is only a reflection, and usually a lagging one, of society. The changes in family structure along with the rise in teenage violence have significantly affected education. Many of you questioned the need of an adult advocate or the expressed view of TWB that the middle school should explicitly be a safe haven. While previous generations of American Middle School students could takes those two ideas for granted, intact nuclear families are no longer the norm, and school violence, including the headline makers like the Jonesboro Middle School killings, dominate our thinking as educators. • School Structure and Society

In this session, we focus on the school structure and societal issues and their influence on the MSC. In FWY, Juvonen expresses her ideas regarding the current ability of the MS in the US as meeting the needs of students as those needs affect learning. If you haven’t picked up on it by now, Juvonen is critical of the middle school concept in the US. While I cannot say I always agree with her (you may and that’s absolutely fine!), she makes many valid points on how the US measures up as middle schools, especially compared with the rest of the world. As a critical theorist, Juvonen is especially sensitive to the needs of people she see as oppressed (females, minorities, etc.) and it critical of how the MS treats such people.

Brown also is critical of the implementation of the middle school concept, although from a more practical view. Brown sets out two examples of middle schools and describes how each meets or doesn’t meet the needs of its students. His criticisms come from a curricular viewpoint, especially from school structure using two examples of middle schools and the effects that the curriculum practiced in each influences its students and community. While his examples could be used to describe any school grade level, his focus on curricular design sets the stage for the topics we’ll address throughout this class, using contemporary middle school models.


Reading FWY : Chapter 5 It’s the Curriculum, Stupid Writing Discussion from your reading in Focus on the Wonder Years (e-mail to me): Due date: 7/7/2010 at 10:00 AM • Are social-emotional well-being and academic performance related? • What conditions enhance or detract from student learning? • How do U.S. students’ views of the conditions for learning compare with those of their peers in other countries? Article Review from It’s the Curriculum, Stupid (e-mail to me): Due date: 7/7/2010 at 10:00 AM Brown lists his view several problems with the American curriculum and some things he thinks needs to be changed. Describe some of the problems that you’ve identified, Brown’s solutions, and whether you agree with them or not, giving your reasoning.

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