Let's start with the argument Hoffman apparently considers to be the knock-out blow.
DeRosa's critique of the assignment is based on how he imagines the Dred Scott decision ought to be taught in a US History class. Had he asked before writing his missive, or bothered to read the History and Social Studies section of the Curriculum Guide, he would have known that his entire frame for critiquing the assignment was incorrect, because this was not an assignment for a US History class (taken in 11th grade at SLA), but an African-American History class.
I'm not sure why Tom thinks I didn't know that the project was for an African-American history class considering this statement from my initial post.
The project comes from page 10 of the Family Handbook and pertains to African-American History.
I've taken the liberty of highlighting the relevant portion for Tom's benefit. Apparently, my "entire frame of critiquing" wasn't correct after all.
In this context, what is important is the decision's impact on African-Americans and the abolitionist movement, not the balance of power in the great game between the North and the South in which the African-Americans are seen as mere pawns. Perhaps in 11th grade US History, the pre-war balance of power dynamic will be emphasized.
I agree. That's why I gave the following as an example of analysis showing deep understanding for a high school student.
[T]he Dred Scott decision is important because it upset the political compromise at the federal level (the Missouri Compromise and the Kansas-Nebraska Act) which served to limit the spread of slavery.
Again I've emphasized the relevant portion for Tom's benefit. The balance of power issue remains an important issue for African-Americans history since it affected the growth of slavery. I'm thinking the growth of slavery might have "impacted" African-Americans.
I provided yet another reason for why the balance of power issue was important to the slavery issue:
As long as the Senate was gridlocked, the North would not be able to pass a constitutional amendment banning slavery in all the states.
Again, I've scaffolded the passage for Tom's benefit. I'm thinking the balance of power issue was a little more important than merely a "great game between the North and the South in which the African-Americans are seen as mere pawns."
I would note that Chris Lehmann told me that he left a comment on Ken's blog explaining this oversight on Ken's part, but for whatever reason, that comment has not been published as of this date.
Unlike Tom, I don't moderate comments and I only delete spam comments. If Chris' comment didn't post it's either because Chris did something wrong or blogger ate the comment. Most likely it was the latter.
I'm thinking at this point Chris is glad the comment didn't make it through.
The knock-out punch missed its mark. Let's see if Tom's remaining argument lands.
Beyond Ken's unhappiness of the framing of the decision and the assignment, his criticism of the student work itself is not based on any knowledge of the kind of work 14 year olds typically do. As a piece of writing, the letter in question would stand up admirably against the anchor papers used in any 9th grade writing assessment in the country, if not the world. DeRosa never questions the accuracy of the student's historical information.
Actually, I did question the efficacy of petitioning Southern Democrats for redress. That seemed to be on the wrong side of a few historical facts. However. the primary deficiency in the student project was that the student didn't give us much to work with, hence my characterization of the project as "superficial understanding." This contradicted the claims made by SLA in the family handbook, and I quote:
Teachers in each course ask the question – “What are the enduring understandings students should have when they leave this class?” Teachers then create projects that can only be completed by showing both the skills and knowledge that are deemed to be critical to master the subject and demonstrate that deep level of understanding.
At SLA, there may be multiple assessments – including quizzes and tests – along the way, but the primary assessment of student learning is through their projects.
This was supposed to be an exemplary project, yet it contradicted SLA's assertion that it showed deep understanding of the subject matter and mastery of skills. I argued that it showed superficial understanding because it "fail[ed] to cover any of the important issues presented by the decision, the historical context of the case, and why the case is historically important."
Tom's point with respect to what a 14 year old should be expected to know is relevant. Tom cites an AP prep book for U.S. History that provides far more detail on the Dred Scott decision (p. 132)and the relevant history leading up to that decision that my analysis. I also cited a middle school history text which gave about the same level of analysis that I provided. What is clear is that the student example project provided far less analysis than either the middle school analysis, my analysis, or the AP prep book analysis.
That's two misses.
My advice to Tom: stop digging.