The “Righty/Lefty” survey that surfaced in October of this year at Aurora Middle School a few weeks ago received national attention because of the nature of the questions that students and parents were asked to answer. The survey, many of you will recall, was a Social Studies assignment given to 7th grade students that asked for responses to questions that pried into families’ personal views on a variety of contentious political topics.
Pictures of portions of the survey were provided in various articles online when the story broke; however, the parts of the survey that were not shown provided additional information about the nature of the assignment, and omitting this information added to the controversy.
At the bottom of the first page was a paragraph that acknowledged that the topics are controversial and that the views were at the extreme ends of the conservative and liberal spectrums.
listed below are some controversial issues in America today with the extreme conservative view and extreme liberal view for each topic. For each issue decide where your opinion would lie. If you agree totally with the extreme conservative point of view, then circle IO. ifyou agree total( v with the extreme liberal point of view, then circle I. lf your opinion is slightly conservative, then circle a number between 6 – 9. Ifyour opinion is slight(v liberal, then circle a number between 2 – S . After selecting a score for each issue, add up your total. Ifyour score is 10-33 then you tend to he a liberal. Ifyour score is 34-66, then you tend to he a moderate or an independent. If .vour score is 67-100, then you tend to he a conservative.
While the question topics asked for information that many feel is private and inappropriate as part of a class assignment, they do represent some of the most highly debated issues on the political landscape today. The teacher’s intent to teach students that our political system has two primary parties that are often associated with opposing views about important issues facing our nation today was evident when considered with the letter of explanation that was distributed to parents shortly after the incident. Could this have been accomplished in a less controversial way? Sure. There is certainly room for improvement.
I followed up via email with the school district regarding the origin of the survey, inquiring as to whether the survey was developed as part of a lesson plan from an outside company, and Dianne Lewis, Communication Coordinator for Aurora Public Schools responded “We confirm that this document was developed in-house and not based on a lesson plan provided by a company.”
The website for Aurora Public Schools provides information regarding procedures for research that is being conducted in the schools; and indicates that surveys conducted on sensitive topics, such as politics and sexual orientation, are not mandatory, protecting students under 20 U.S. Code Ch. 31, Part 4. §1232h, C.R.S. 22-1-123 “Protection of Pupil Rights.”
If this were an isolated incident I would not have given it a second thought. However, a few weeks ago, a Maryland school produced a similar survey that resulted in the same outrage as the Colorado survey. It was so similar that I did some research, verifying that Common Core Standards include teaching students at various grade levels about polling, data and the political process. I discovered a number of resources that assist teachers with meeting this standard, one being ShareMyLesson.com, that provides teachers, complete with lesson plans and how to create a survey, support on teaching the topic as part of the Data Handling Section of the Math Enhancement Program (MEP).
Here is a sample from another political survey that distributed to Bremen High School District 228 in Illinois:
14. It’s obvious that men make up a huge part of the athletic community of the United States. Because of the nature of masculinity, the generally greater strength of males and the fact that people want to see male professional athletic teams more than female ones, it make sense that a greater amount of money should be spent on male sports activities in high school land college than women/s sports.
15. Immigrants to the U. S. bring to our nation a variety of cultural ideas that eventually become part of the larger culture and make for a more diverse and interesting society. We should continue the practice of years past and as the Statue of Liberty says welcome the poor, downtrodden and oppressed from other nations.
16. In the case of most of the recent school shootings the young men who did the killing were able to acquire their weapons from the family home. There should be greater controls on the distribution of weapons so that violent people do not have such easy access to them.
Scholastic printed a similar survey in its “Election 2012” edition of its magazine geared for middle-school students, Junior Scholastic Magazine. The survey, published on page 14 of the magazine, was entitled “What Kind of Party Animal Are You?” and was distributed by several middle schools in Florida just this past September. While the survey was not allowed to be taken home, one student confessed to smuggling it out of the school because he felt he needed to consult with his parents before answering any of the questions.
You can even find a list of political surveys at L-Lists.com
Coincidence? I am inclined to say not. While Aurora Public Schools claim that the survey was created in house and was not part of any curriculum material that was provided, I have to weigh this with the other similar incidents, Common Core Standard mandates, and the multitude of resources, a number of them Common Core aligned websites, that are provided for teachers to support this topic. In addition, with Common Core mandating longitudinal data systems in each state to track students “from cradle to grave,” recording personal values and beliefs, as well as political affiliation and stances on issues, I find this trend to be disconcerting.
It makes me wish Paul Harvey were here to give us “the rest of the story.”