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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
The above is truly a bizarre comment as the entire two-part review is extremely complimentary of Gatto's ideas.
Mike, the combination of your two comments here makes it clear to me that there’s not really that much difference between your views and mine. I’ve never once advocated for a “parroted and uncritical” view of American history. I encourage you to read what I’ve written over the last several months and see if you can find such a view on my part. Every time I write about this topic I say as much. See my post citing Patrick Deneen’s ideas about the critical patriot: Nor will you find me “absolving” our ancestors of any of their past sins. I think perhaps you assume things about my position that simply aren’t true. It sounds to me like you do actually believe in America’s Founding principles. You just believe that many of our ancestors failed pretty spectacularly to live up to those principles. And here you are correct. They did. You are also right that the rich and powerful got the first blessings of all those principles. They did. That’s usually the consequence of being rich and powerful. But it’s also true that a full reading of our national story is the steady and relentless expansion of those principles to be applied to more and more people. Why were we able to end slavery less than a century after the founding? Because the moral order written into our founding documents made slavery impossible in this republic, something that many of the founders precisely intended. Our progress has been messy and not linear but inevitable nonetheless, so much so that millions of people have come to this land and still do seeking the freedom and opportunity that is our national birthright. There’s still so much progress to make, but the very fact that we know what to keep striving for is because our core values have made us, as Wilfred McClay calls his beautiful new textbook on American history (review coming soon), the “Land of Hope.” That’s what I want to restore in our teaching of American history: temporal continuity. Which means memory (of both the bad and the good) and hope that we can continue to strive to be a City on the Hill. More here:
Mike, thank you for taking the time to comment in depth. I especially appreciate you acknowledging my sincerity. I can tell that you are also sincere in your concern about and commitment to justice. I have many thoughts but also would like to pose a few questions if you don’t mind? Your comment came in response to a tweet thread I posted about Robert Reilly’s book America on Trial. It sounds like you find America “guilty” in this trial, at least guilty of many sins, and perhaps believe that America was not, in fact, founded on ideals of equality and freedom for all. You also say that you nevertheless love America. Can you say just a bit about WHY you love America, if she is not, in fact, and never has been the beacon of hope that I believe she is? And also, what kind of political system would yield the kind of justice you think America has been systematically lacking? Are there examples that you would point to that are better alternatives? Thanks. If the comment box is too unwieldy for this feel free to email me instead:
Though he remains little known outside of Leftist and some social studies education circles, I first discovered Howard Zinn when I was an undergraduate in college nearly 30 years ago. Long before most Americans had heard of Bernie Sanders, and when Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was still in diapers, I was a... Continue reading
Posted Sep 16, 2020 at School Leader
Last week I wrote about teacher training materials developed for the Kentucky Department of Education to implement the state's deficient social studies standards. Those training materials reflect a deep Left-wing bias and would effectively indoctrinate students into anti-American attitudes. Of great concerns is the fact that these training materials are... Continue reading
Posted Sep 8, 2020 at School Leader
On Monday I wrote about how the Kentucky Department of Education's training materials for helping teachers implement the state's inadequate social studies standards are deliberately designed to promote a left-wing bias in students. Two days later, a Lexington television station reported on how an online quiz given to a Fayette... Continue reading
Posted Sep 3, 2020 at School Leader
I disagree. The question itself implies that income inequality is a problem and that it should be reduced. That is an ideological assumption. Income inequality is a fact. Whether that is a problem or not is a worthy topic of inquiry. What if we framed the question in a number of ways: "Where does income inequality come from? What are its consequences? What would be the reasons for, and potential problems with, various strategies to address income inequality?"
Different sticks, but this horse is still very much alive!
In my previous post I discussed inadequacies in Kentucky's education standards for social studies. These are standards that, as a former member of the Kentucky Board of Education, I supported and helped to approve. But since then I've become convinced that these standards need more work, especially making them more... Continue reading
Posted Aug 31, 2020 at School Leader
Headlines from the summer of 2020 show cities burning from riots and looting, statues and the reputations of American heroes being defaced and torn down, and a ferociously intolerant ideology in full operation within the ranks of the media, academia, and politics. These events are not emerging spontaneously and are... Continue reading
Posted Aug 27, 2020 at School Leader
Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear announced on Monday that because of lingering concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic he was "recommending" all schools remain closed to in-person learning until September 28. According to former Kentucky School Boards Association spokesperson and education media watcher Brad Hughes, as of 10 p.m. on Tuesday night... Continue reading
Posted Aug 12, 2020 at School Leader
Update, 10/1/20: A revised version of this essay has been published by The Imaginative Conservative. Most Americans are largely unfamiliar with critical theory (also sometimes referred to as critical race theory or critical social justice theory), but this philosophical perspective is now part of the professional, cultural, and political air... Continue reading
Posted Aug 8, 2020 at School Leader
Update: I was delighted to have a version of this essay published by The Imaginative Conservative. In my most recent series of essays (see links below) I've argued for a much more intentional and self-consciously patriotic approach to the teaching of American history and civics. I have repeatedly cited political... Continue reading
Posted Aug 3, 2020 at School Leader
My on-going series (see parts 1, 2, and 3 linked below) of posts calling for a more patriotic approach to the teaching of American history has generated a range of reactions, some very negative, from a handful of educators. In a Twitter exchange with a social studies educator, I was... Continue reading
Posted Jul 21, 2020 at School Leader
In a recent series of posts I've been arguing that, given widespread efforts to rewrite American history and portray our Founders and the Founding itself in the worst possible light, schools need to rethink the way we teach this vitally important subject. I argued that we should be approaching the... Continue reading
Posted Jul 16, 2020 at School Leader
Tomorrow is July 4th, America's Independence Day, traditionally a celebration of the great blessings of freedom and prosperity our nation enjoys. As I wrote earlier this week, Independence Day 2020 comes under a cloud of deep civil and social unrest as the United States struggles mightily under the weight of... Continue reading
Posted Jul 3, 2020 at School Leader
As a citizen, a father, and an educator, I have never been more concerned about the future of our country. Amid an economy-crushing pandemic, outrage over the police killing of George Floyd has erupted into something sinister and dangerous that amounts to an existential threat to the American republic. A... Continue reading
Posted Jun 30, 2020 at School Leader
The Impact Kentucky survey of teachers' perceptions of their working conditions was released earlier this week. As I pointed out in my previous blog post, statewide results indicate that many schools have a real opportunity to improve feedback and coaching to help teachers improve their practice. These survey results offer... Continue reading
Posted Jun 5, 2020 at School Leader
Results from Kentucky's new survey of teachers' perceptions of their working conditions, called Impact Kentucky, have now been released and are available for review at the state, co-op, district, and school level. Impact Kentucky, which was administered to all Kentucky teachers and administrators earlier this year, replaced the Teaching, Empowering,... Continue reading
Posted Jun 3, 2020 at School Leader
Note: this post originally appeared on the website for Contemplative Learning Solutions. The last two months have presented extraordinarily unexpected challenges for people all over the world as we have dealt with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Chief among these challenges, we have found ourselves at home, unable to... Continue reading
Posted Jun 2, 2020 at School Leader
I don't think that's true, but I also don't care if it is. I don't make my judgments based on what's popular. It's quite possible for the majority - even a majority of teachers - to be mistaken.
As an idealist and reformer, I'm never one to give up the fight for a good cause until I feel I've done everything in my power. For the last two months I've devoted a considerable amount of energy to resisting Gov. Andy Beshear's illegal executive order removing me and other... Continue reading
Posted Mar 2, 2020 at School Leader
In addition to our partnership with the Bluegrass Institute to sue Governor Beshear in federal court for his illegal executive order removing us from our positions prior to the ends of our terms without cause, members of the Kentucky Board of Education have issued the following statement calling on lawmakers... Continue reading
Posted Jan 23, 2020 at School Leader
The following press release was issued today announcing that members of the Kentucky Board of Education illegally removed through an executive order issued by Governor Beshear are partnering with the Bluegrass Institute. Board members are moving their case to U.S. District Court. The full text of the press release is... Continue reading
Posted Jan 17, 2020 at School Leader
A lot of people, including the Governor (and apparently Judge Wingate, who rejected our appeal last week), do not seem to understand that the Beshear vs. Bevin supreme court case last summer does not apply to the executive order issued by Beshear last week removing members of the Kentucky Board... Continue reading
Posted Dec 15, 2019 at School Leader