Teacher says district off track
Appeal Staff Writer
Teacher Joe Enge’s allegation that pre-Civil War history was not being taught as part of Carson City School District’s 11th-grade U.S. History curriculum has become a cause for education-reform advocates.
“Because I went public with this, (teachers) are now generating a new Civil War final,” Enge said. “They are now being forced to address it, which will not win me a popularity contest.”
But Karen Simms, head of Carson High’s history department, said teachers of U.S. history at Carson High, including Enge, are teaching pre-Civil War history and that his allegation is not true.
“March of last year, I had to go before the school board because the same issue was brought up,” she said. “I went through the curriculum and I went through the standards, and (this) is not true. (This) is truly a personnel issue.”
Chuck Muth, president of Citizens Outreach, met Enge at a Parents for Quality Education forum this fall. Muth has taken up Enge’s cause on his Web site, http://www.citizenoutreach.com. Since the issue appeared there, some 1,357 people have sent e-mails to the district saying it should be teaching pre-Civil War history.
Enge said the controversy resulted in an unsatisfactory job review and a list of 10 objectives he must meet or risk being fired. He would like to keep his job, he said, but the real question is what should be taught.
“These issues aren’t going to go away,” Enge said.
According to Principal Fred Perdomo, curriculum maps used in the school district are made by teachers, not administrators, and made to align with state curriculum. He said the district’s curriculum setup is similar to curriculum guides being used in other states like Idaho, Ohio and California.
Enge, who has taught sociology, English and history at Carson High, said he worked on the 1997 state team that developed state history standards.
“I was rather baffled,” he said of the district’s curriculum standards. “I said, ‘Where are you getting these?'”
When he started work in Carson High’s history department in 2001, he said was told by the department head at the time that he was close to crossing the line by teaching pre-Civil War history.
He also claims a study guide for last year’s final U.S history exam given by all teachers did not include terms before the Civil War, and that Carson High’s course description catalog that describes the U.S History course begins with reconstruction.
“The district is basically saying that it’s a typo, and that it’s not true, that they’re teaching the full course of history,” Enge said.
The course description is being re-written to include the period beginning with the Revolutionary War, but that doesn’t mean pre-Civil War history isn’t being taught, according to Simms.
“It is going to be revised,” she said. “It was written quite a few years ago. We never had the chance to change it.”
U.S. history teachers at Carson High begin the year with a review of the Revolutionary War, Perdomo said.
“I would have to say that the majority of the history teachers are teaching pre-1865,” he said. “(This) has really clarified things for me. I’ve asked several teachers if they’ve been told not to teach pre-Civil War history. If Joe was told not to teach pre-Civil War history, it wasn’t by me.”
Perdomo said 11th-grade U.S history should not only focus on content, but also more complex skills, like analysis and evaluation.
“What I see these other states doing is taking it up to another level,” he said. “They’re requiring the higher-level thinking skills. That’s what I would like teachers to do.”
In April, Enge received an unsatisfactory annual review by Perdomo. Early this month, Enge received a letter of admonition for insubordination for not meeting the 10 requirements in his evaluation.
Three of those include writing meaningful daily objectives on the board, creating a literacy-rich classroom, and implementing teaching strategies that allow for great student conversation and engagement. Commitment of future acts of insubordination could result in termination, the letter warns.
Enge said he was offered a contract buyout by the district, which he accepted. When he returned to sign it after the weekend, the offer had changed, and he turned it down, he said.
“I think this is punitive,” he said. “It’s like telling me to fix my watch when it’s not broken.”
n Contact reporter Maggie O’Neill at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1219.