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Gary Houchens
Bowling Green, KY
I am a former teacher, principal, and district administrator now serving as Professor of Educational Administration in the School of Leadrship and Professional Studies at Western Kentucky University. I am Senior Fellow at the Pegasus Institute, serve on the Board of Scholars for the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, and on the board of directors for EdChoice Kentucky. From 2016-2019 I was a member of the Kentucky Board of Education.
Recent Activity
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The Thomas B. Fordham Institute recently issued a report that grades every state based on the quality of the social studies standards teachers are supposed to use to guide instruction in K-12 schools. Sadly, Kentucky’s social studies standards earned a “C,” with significant revisions strongly recommended. Fordham rated each state’s... Continue reading
Posted Jul 9, 2021 at School Leader
Thanks for the thoughtful comments. I believe that if the SBDM statute was amended to include equal parent-teacher representation AND a non-parent community representative, then this entire discussion could stay at the local level. I also like the idea of student representation. When I served on the Kentucky Board of Education we approved several SBDM waivers from high schools that wanted to include non-voting student members in their council. To my knowledge no school has officially "adopted" CRT materials. But there's no doubt that teachers are using CRT-inspired materials and there are few ways to know how that is being done or make it more transparent. I wrote more about this here: https://schoolleader.typepad.com/school-leader/2021/06/equity-and-diversity-are-good-crt-is-not.html Finally, I think depending on the author there are some linkages between CRT and culturally responsive teaching practices but here too I think everything comes down to HOW a strategy is being used and with what age level of students. I use Zaretta Hammond's book in one of my classes and find its perspectives very useful, especially for teachers who may not have worked with many diverse learners. But I think it's also possible to use culturally responsive instructional materials that do not rely on - and in fact reject - some of CRT's assumptions. The 1776 Unites materials are a good example: https://projectforeverfree.org/1776-unites-celebrates-black-excellence-and-rejects-victimhood-culture/
Evidently the crowd at last night's meeting of the Jefferson County Public Schools Board of Education got rowdy, with many attendees showing up to voice their concerns about how critical race theory (CRT) is being presented in the district's schools. The board was meeting in a work session to discuss... Continue reading
Posted Jun 23, 2021 at School Leader
The national controversy over critical race theory (CRT) and how it is presented in K-12 schools has come to Kentucky. (See my discussion of Bill Request 60, which would prohibit key components of CRT, and why this whole issue is a source of legitimate concern for everyone). The Gallatin County... Continue reading
Posted Jun 20, 2021 at School Leader
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Last night I was a guest on KET's Kentucky Tonight program talking about critical race theory and its place in Kentucky schools. Fellow guests included Rep. Joe Fischer, who recently introduced legislation that would restrict teaching certain CRT concepts in schools (I wrote about the bill here), Sen. Gerald Neal... Continue reading
Posted Jun 15, 2021 at School Leader
Over the last year American schools have seen an explosion of teacher training and classroom instruction based on critical race theory (CRT), which explores how racism is supposedly perpetuated in every aspect of society. Several state legislatures have moved to ban classroom instruction that reflects some of the more extreme... Continue reading
Posted Jun 2, 2021 at School Leader
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Personalized learning has been a hot topic over the last decade and the challenges of education during the COVID pandemic have made it even more timely as educators have struggled to address student learning needs. The tendency of schools to approach instruction through a one-size-fits-all lens has never been more... Continue reading
Posted May 17, 2021 at School Leader
Update, 4/29. I made a five-minute video as a companion piece to the essay described to below. In it I describe what critical theory is, how it can be useful, but why it has to be rejected as the single lens through which we address issues of racial achievement gaps:... Continue reading
Posted Apr 26, 2021 at School Leader
With little fanfare, today Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear signed HB 178, which prohibits governors from doing what Beshear himself did in December 2019 when he fired me and the ten other members of the Kentucky Board of Education for purely partisan reasons, quickly initiating the resignation of then-Commissioner of Education... Continue reading
Posted Apr 5, 2021 at School Leader
After years of hard work on the part of lawmakers, educators, and parent activitists, Kentucky has finally passed a school choice law. HB 563 was vetoed by Gov. Andy Beshear, but last night both houses of the state legislature overrode his veto and the bill will go to Secretary of... Continue reading
Posted Mar 30, 2021 at School Leader
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Rod Dreher's Live Not by Lies: A Manual for Christian Dissidents is probably the most important book I have read in the last year. Today The Chalkboard Review published my essay on the lessons of Live Not By Lies for educators, students, and parents of students in K-12 schools. Dreher... Continue reading
Posted Mar 19, 2021 at School Leader
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Last night I had the opportunity to give a virtual talk sponsored by the Kentucky chapter of Americans for Prosperity on the topic of "Unleashing Parent Power in Education." The talk itself isn't available to share, but I wanted to briefly summarize my comments, which I used as a springboard... Continue reading
Posted Mar 4, 2021 at School Leader
My latest article for The Chalkboard Review is a reflection on Kay S. Hymowitz's essay in the Winter 2021 issue of National Affairs on "The Cultural Contradictions of American Education." Largely middle-class parents drive this contradiction when they fixate both on children’s individuality and on training students with the values,... Continue reading
Posted Feb 19, 2021 at School Leader
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Photo by Ed Malisky, from the Harvard Graduate School of Education Website. Update, 2/19/21: I was honored that Project Forever Free republished this tribute on their website. My heart was heavy when I heard about the recent passing of Harvard education professor Richard F. Elmore. Perhaps no other scholar has... Continue reading
Posted Feb 17, 2021 at School Leader
The American Enterprise Institute, one of the nation's oldest and most respected non-partisan, right-of-center think tanks, recently launched a new initiative called the Conservative Education Reform Network. I am honored to be one of the founding members of this network (Update, 1/26/21: the WKU College Heights Herald wrote a feature... Continue reading
Posted Jan 23, 2021 at School Leader
The 1776 Commission, established by President Trump's executive order last year to promote the teaching of "patriotic" history, issued its first (and most likely final) report earlier this week [link updated since the original has since been removed by the Biden administration]. The document is a powerful articulation of America's... Continue reading
Posted Jan 20, 2021 at School Leader
The Chalkboard Review, for which I wrote previously about my journey from socialism to conservativism, has published a new essay I wrote exploring whether university training is really needed for aspiring school principals. In short, my answer is that school principals definitely need training, and ideally universities have a uniquely... Continue reading
Posted Jan 20, 2021 at School Leader
Ridiculous. You cannot read anything in this post, or in anything else I have written, to reasonably conclude that I want "kids being taught not to think for themselves." I refer you to another post on this topic where I argue that inquiry learning is not a problem in itself, but rather in the way the questions are framed: https://schoolleader.typepad.com/school-leader/2020/09/more-misuses-of-inquiry-learning-to-propagandize-k-12-students.html
Yesterday the Bowling Green Daily News reported about a new curriculum being used in the Warren County Public Schools that has drawn "mixed parent reviews." The story doesn't quote any parents with specific concerns, but comments from Dr. Laura Hudson, director of instruction for the district's secondary schools, suggests they... Continue reading
Posted Dec 28, 2020 at School Leader
Chalkboard Review is a great new web-based publication dedicated to highlighting the diversity of thought among educators. I was happy for them to publish an essay in which I describe my own intellectual journey from brash young socialist teacher to conservative professor and education reformer, and the role working in... Continue reading
Posted Dec 8, 2020 at School Leader
Update, 11/20/20: I appreciate Beechtree News for publishing the post below as an op-ed. Many Kentuckians are shocked today after Gov. Andy Beshear issued an executive order shutting down all public and private K-12 schools for the next two weeks in response to the increase in COVID-19 cases, along with... Continue reading
Posted Nov 19, 2020 at School Leader
I was proud to make my debut publication this week with Project Forever Free, a sister platform to Education Post. My contribution was a review of the first set of lesson plans posted by 1776 Unites: Civil rights activist and community organizer Robert Woodson’s 1776 Unites organization was launched early... Continue reading
Posted Nov 19, 2020 at School Leader
Earlier this week the online newspaper Kentucky Today published an opinion piece in which I argued that, after the recent blow-out election benefitting Republicans in the state legislature, the time has never been better to promote school choice: The Republican hold on Kentucky’s legislature expanded dramatically in this month’s election... Continue reading
Posted Nov 19, 2020 at School Leader
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Over the last few months I've been pleased to publish a series of essays at The Imaginative Conservative website. Some of these, including "Memory and Hope: Restoring the Teaching of American History" and "What is Patriotic Education?" have been amalgamations of pieces originally published on this blog arguing for a... Continue reading
Posted Nov 9, 2020 at School Leader
The above is truly a bizarre comment as the entire two-part review is extremely complimentary of Gatto's ideas.