Sunday, February 25, 2007

The Holt Resource

The CRC has repeatedly complained about one resource used in the tenth grade. It's one page from a supplement to a mainstream health text; it was first recommended to MCPS by the team from the American Academy of Pediatrics who proposed the initial curriculum.

For instance, HERE the CRC says:
The Tenth grade resource was not developed by a medical expert, but a pro gay advocacy organization.
  • The Holt excerpt is authored by July Chiasson. Ms. Chiasson’s experience is 20 years of special education. She is employed by Project 10, a gay advocacy group, and authored these sections while she was working on her PhD determining efficacy of LBGT diversity training.

Back in November, the CRC's Steina Walter addressed the school board, saying:
I was startled to find that the new 10th Grade curriculum "Respect for Differences in Human Sexuality" was taken from a "home grown" curriculum created solely for the Los Angeles school District and had only one author Judy Chiasson. Ms Chiasson "appears to have been selected as the author on the basis of her employment of a LGBT advocacy group Project 10. Ms. Chiasson although pursuing a PhD about the "efficacy of LGBT Diversity training had no advanced degree.

...The Board of Education and MCPS must reject this biased single author text written by Ms. Chiasson "because of legal liability" and "because of potential harm".

(I don't understand some of those quotation marks ... but that's how it is...)

I guess the harshest attack was by the CRC's citizens committee rep, Ruth Jacobs, speaking to the school board on November 6th:
On Saturday I was able to finally look at the Holt book and the acknowledgement section for the chapter from which the Respect for Differences in Human Sexuality Lesson 10th grade lesson was derived. In preparing a textbook chapter on sexual orientation and transgender, one would expect educators, clinical psychologists, psychiatrists, pediatricians, school counselors, teachers and other experts in the field would be involved. One would imagine that the material would be tested and vetted and all precautions would be used to make sure that the material was accurate, and age-appropriate.

In an alarming reversal of what parents and many others confidently expected, the textbook chapter about Orientation and Transgender used by MCPS was authored by only one individual, Judy Chiasson Specialist Project 10" Educational Equity Compliance Los Angeles Unified School District. Ms. Chiassen single handedly wrote chapter 6 "The Diversity of Human Relationships" of Holt Sexuality and Society which is being recommended by MCPS for the 10th Grade.

One would also expect that the professional involved in writing a textbook would have advanced degrees. A Google search of Ms Chiasson's qualifications that at the time she wrote the chapter suggests that her sole qualifications were those of a mother with 2 children, teacher of special education for 20 years, employment by a LGTB advocacy Group "Project 10", and working part time at a doctoral candidate "on the efficacy of LGBT diversity training" at a tiny college.

While I respect the good intentions of Ms. Chiasson, it is critical to have educators, clinical psychologists, psychiatrists, pediatricians. school counselors, teachers and other experts in the field all involved in writing and vetting the chapter. Why would MCPS find acceptable a textbook only designed for a single school District?

They have used this argument repeatedly, in statements to the school board, in the citizens advisory committee meetings -- we saw Ruth Jacobs talk a lot about this at the PTA meeting at Magruder last week.

We don't have access to the documents supporting the recent failed appeal to the state, so we don't know if complaints about this resource were included. But since it features so prominently in their attacks on the curricula, we expect to find them there, as well.

So I talked with Dr. Chiasson on the phone. I wondered, who is this person, and what's going on here? She also sent me an email, CC'ing her publisher, explaining some details.

Like, for instance, she wrote:
This text book was a collaborative endeavor of experts in the field, including two other PhDs, all under the supervision of a well-respected publisher. Holt Publishers is an extremely reputable firm that scrupulously checks every word in every book they publish.

Dr. Chiasson's doctorate is in the field of Urban Education from Claremont Graduate University. Though Dr. Jacobs likes to refer to this as a "tiny college" in a dismissive tone, if she knew what she was talking about she would know that the Wall Street Journal has called the Claremont consortium "the intellectual capital of the western world." Claremont Graduate University admits only graduate students, no undergrads, and so it does not have the tens of thousands of students that you would find at an ordinary teaching university. It is the first university in the country to do that; it focuses only on higher education, not undergraduate training.

There's nothing second-rate about it.

What about this "gay advocacy group," Project 10? It should have been easy enough for the CRC to find out what this is, looking HERE:
The first and only one of its kind, Project 10 is a Los Angeles Unified School District program that offers technical and educational support to schools and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students. In accordance with the California Student Safety and Violence Prevention Act of 2000, Project 10’s mission is to ensure safe, supportive and welcoming campuses free from discrimination and harassment for sexual minority youth.

Project 10 is not a "gay advocacy group," it is a program within the Los Angeles Unified School District's Office of the General Counsel. Their function is to see that federal, state, and local laws regarding discrmination against minorities are followed. They monitor textbooks and other materials, for instance, to identify bias and make sure campuses are safe for all students.

Calling an office within the school district a "gay advocacy group" is a stretch, don't you think?

The CRC likes to say that the Holt resource was developed for the Los Angeles school district -- "home grown," Ms. Walter called it. I don't know if that is supposed to indicate something about the influence of Hollywood liberals or what. But here's how it works. Long ago on this blog we talked about how Texas dominates the textbook industry. It's such a big customer that when Texas wants something -- in that case they wanted statements about abstinence and evolution and religion to be edited into their books -- the textbook publishers go ahead and do it. And then the rest of the country ends up getting that in their textbooks.

Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) is the second-largest textbook purchaser in the country. It works the same way; the publishers know where the business is, and they target the textbook toward that. LAUSD has some very strict policies regarding discrimination, and their textbook have to adhere to them. So Project 10 was included in the development process.

The resource under question, by the way, is page 99 of Chapter 6, "Diversity of Relationships," from the Sexuality and Society supplement to Lifetime Health. Dr. Chiasson told me that schools all over the country are clamoring for this text, it has been a very popular resource. You can see the one page we use HERE, if you scroll down to page 7.

Dr. Chiasson said that Ruth Jacobs had spoken with her. As she said, "Dr. Jacobs is very interested in anal sex." But, as she also said, the text is not about sexual behavior. The MCPS curriculum is about sexual variation, especially sexual orientation -- it isn't about sexual behaviors, and isn't intended to be. Those will be discussed somewhere else.

The idea that anybody would criticize a textbook by singling out the one author who is mentioned in an acknowledgement, and then complaining that her degree isn't the right kind, or that she went to a "tiny college," and that the text was "home grown" for the LA schools, is just ... dumb, OK? You would do that if you couldn't find anything real to complain about.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

So would you say Ms. C's resource implies an approval or disapproval of homosexuality?

February 25, 2007 4:40 PM  
Blogger JimK said...

I would say the resource demonstrates tolerance, empathy, and respect, which are the themes of the lesson.


February 25, 2007 4:58 PM  
Blogger Orin Ryssman said...

When I lived in Southern California I was aware of and vaguely familiar with the Claremont Graduate School, now Claremont Graduate University. It is part of a consortium of colleges all of which are within walking distance of each other. Here is a good intro of what is in Claremont,

I attended a couple of lectures (free stuff, you know), checked out the used bookstores in the village (only to be outdone by those on Telegraph Ave. right off the Cal Berkeley campus, esp. Moe's) and had lunch there a couple of times. If one did not know they were in SoCal they would swear they were in some Ivy League east coast town.

Oh, and a degree from CGU is not just legit, it is as good as gold in academia, a sort of "E" ticket to anywhere someone would want to go. Still, it has a reputation for being fairly liberal, unlike Claremont McKenna College (which use to be known as Claremont Men's College, in less PC times).

February 25, 2007 5:35 PM  
Blogger andrea said...

No more "E" tickets- haven't been for some time but I remember them, too.
I know the Claremont colleges as well. My daughter considered applying to one of the lesser schools since she could still take classes at Pomona(where she would not have been accepted)
Of course, Ruth could know the truth but writing a lie works so much better- especially for her audience.

In my parents generation, a doctor's word was golden- I think her audience has that mindset- if not the age. I won't conjecture here as to why that is.

February 26, 2007 12:43 PM  
Blogger andrea said...

Of course, you are right! But as Ruth proves- they can be wacky too!

February 27, 2007 8:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice design of blog.

August 13, 2007 3:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


January 17, 2008 2:27 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home