How does the Newton Public Schools vet and ensure the objectivity of classroom materials?
Objectivity can be difficult to define, much less achieve, as even content created with the intent of being completely objective often has inherent bias. In order to reflect on the material used in our courses, we typically ask ourselves a series of questions:
- What material is presented and what material is left out?
- How much time is spent on one side vs. another?
- How many different voices are enough?
- What is the more essential vs. the less essential material to present?
- Which points of view are most instructive or revealing?
The way we navigate this challenge is not to vet material for neutrality in the elusive hope that it can be made bias-free. Rather, we look at materials as a starting point for discussion and exploration. Our students are taught to ask: Who created this material, and when? Why was this material or perspective chosen rather than a different one? What overt or subtle points of view might the creator be trying to communicate? How can this material be placed in the most useful context? What is fact and what is opinion?
Unfortunately, some have misunderstood the classroom use of some primary source material and opinion pieces to mean that we are actively teaching the content or point of view established in those documents. This is inaccurate. In each case, it is the discussion and critical thinking about documents that represent different points of views and perspectives that is the key to developing deeper learning for our students.