Please encourage, don’t dis courage participation

The Alameda Sun unintentionally cut a letter short last week we are running again with apologies


My husband and I could not agree more with Jeffrey Smith’s assessment of proposed changes to the state’s math curriculum framework (“Dumbing Down California’s Education System,” May 27). More specifically, though, one line in Smith’s commentary dropped both of our jaws.

After publicly recognizing students who participate in his Zoom classes, as a former corporate trainer, I know the challenge of motivating classroom engagement in person, never mind on Zoom.

Smith states: “Twice now, the administration has asked that I not give participation ‘shout outs’ to engaged, cooperative students. Apparently, it is a micro-aggression directed at non-participating students.”

Wow. The pendulum has swungeth too far!

Active engagement and participation is one of the best ways to promote learning from both the teacher and fellow students — it’s a sign of a healthy learning environment. The more of this behavior, the better. And we all know that we get more of what we positively recognize and reward.

Seriously? Micro-aggression? What kind of world are we living in where it is now offensive to recognize those who actively contribute in a learning environment? This is a much more positive and healthy motivator than the more common admonishment of behaviors not wanted (which also has its place, but that’s another topic).

Those who make positive contributions and those who succeed should be encouraged by positive recognition and held up as role-model examples for others. How do we know what success looks like without models for it?

In the bigger picture, regarding the curriculum changes, math is objective... there are right and wrong answers (2+2 = 4, it will never equal 5). There’s nothing white supremacist about that. And as Smith implies, we’re in trouble in the workforce, and many other places, if math education doesn’t turn out students who can produce the right answers.

Further, as much as it’s important to learn math itself, through the rigor of it, it’s healthy for students to learn about making mistakes and trying again; to be motivated to strive to understand and get it right (which typically requires active participation); and to see others struggle too, while some seem to “get it” with ease.

The world is like that, and kids eventually have to live in that world — with the exception of at home, where better to start learning how to do it successfully than in the classroom?

— Lauren Piccian