FACILITATING COMMUNICATION TO FACILITATE LEARNING
My Letter to Parents
My name is Mike Andoscia. I have been a teacher for going on thirty years. I have a Master’s Degree in Sociology and am passionate about studying and understanding the social world. I am also passionate about teaching what I know. Just about every avenue in my life is in some way dedicated to teaching. As parents, you are integral to my success in the classroom and, consequently, to the success of your children. That’s why a relationship based on trust and mutual respect is so important
This is especially true today when there is so much pressure from external forces encouraging us not to trust each other. Parents are being told that teachers are out to indoctrinate their kids. Teachers are being told that parents are sitting there with their lawyers on speed dial waiting to take them down.
Of course, neither of these claims is true.
As parents, you want your children to receive the best educations they can get. You want teachers who are going to push your students to be the best they can be. As teachers, we want the same things. That’s why I created this page.
I teach sociology and economics. Consequently, I teach a lot of different concepts, theories, and perspectives. Some of what I teach may be considered controversial. The thing I like about sociology and economics is that they are disciplines specifically designed to test the validity of what are considered common-sense notions. However, most of us really like our common-sense notions and would rather they not be tested.
These topics also often overlap with politics, ethics, morality, religion, and culture. Some of what we talk about in class touches often very personal nerves. This is especially true in sociology.
Here’s the thing. It has to be that way. There’s no valid way to teach sociology or, to a lesser extent, economics without covering these controversies. It would be irresponsible for me as a teacher and a sociologist to even try.
So, I want to reach out directly to my parents with the assurance that my goal is not to push any particular agenda onto my students. My goal is that they learn as many theories and concepts as they can, as well as the relevant science behind them so that they can make up their own minds and evaluate their own preconceived notions.
Any concept that I introduce in class, or that comes up spontaneously as a result of student curiosity or current events, will be examined as comprehensively as possible. This means looking at the concept from multiple points of view. It means evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of each. It means offering alternative concepts to challenge any assumptions made. It means subjecting all concepts to the same rigorous empirical and rational methods as required by the relevant fields. Indeed, in AICE Sociology, the students learn research methods by which theories are evaluated. All theories and concepts are subject to deep interrogation.
That being said, sometimes what is happening in class is not always adequately relayed to the parents over the dinner table. If you, as an understandably concerned parent, have any questions with regard to anything that may have been taught–or even stuff that isn’t being taught that you think should be–please contact me directly for a resolution.
My email at the school is email@example.com
Or you can use this contact form.
Washington Post (August 18, 2022): What parents should say to teachers (according to teachers)
What Could Be So Controversial?
First and foremost. Critical Race Theory is NOT a part of the curriculum. It never has been. Critical Race Theory is a graduate-level topic covered mostly in law school or other upper-level social science and theory classes. It is not a secondary-level topic.
But Critical Theory in general is something that I touch on. It plays a small role in regular sociology and a considerably more important role in AICE. Critical Race Theory is an offshoot of Critical Theory, but they are not the same things. Critical Theory can be pretty complex. AICE just touches the surface and goes over the basics.
Karl Marx plays a huge role in sociology. It would be irresponsible for me to teach sociology without teaching Marx. When I teach Marx I don’t spend much time on his concept of the “revolution of the proletariat”. That’s not a sociologically valid social theory. I do briefly cover it because students are curious, but it’s not a part of the curriculum. In fact, it’s probably Marx’s weakest concept. Instead, I focus on Marx’s social theories. Specifically, we learn about Historical Materialism, Dialectical Materialism, Labor Theory of Value, Alienation and False Consciousness, and Marx’s concept of Ideology. We don’t spend much time on Marx in Economics, but of course he comes up when we talk about different types of market organization.
I teach a range of postmodernist thinkers, including Foucault and Baudrillard in the AICE class. It’s pretty convoluted stuff, but the kids really like it.
Nature/Biology vs. Nurture/Social Learning: Here’s the thing. Sociology makes the assumption that most human behavior is social, not biological. When we look at things using a sociological perspective the assumption is that elements of our identity result from social interaction and social structures. Everything is looked at as a social construct, including race and gender. I cannot responsibly teach the sociology of race without talking about structural racism. It is irresponsible to talk about the sociology of gender without talking about gender as a social construct. If I don’t teach these perspectives, I’m not teaching sociology. Again, we will cover all bases and subject each to the same scrutiny described above.
Of course, it is impossible for me to list all the things that might be controversial in my classes. Just about anything might be controversial to somebody. I just wanted to touch upon the things that have a history of raising eyebrows.
Again, if you have any concerns, please reach out to contact me. I cannot say that I’ll eliminate anything that you find objectionable from my class. I firmly believe that it is my responsibility to be faithful to the fields that I’m responsible for teaching. However, I’m sure we can come up with something.