Teaching critical thinking to high school students: connecting with parents (1 of 6)

The following are my teaching assignments on critical thinking for California 12th grade students in the semester-long courses, “US Government” and “Economics.” I offer them for non-profit use:

Overall Introduction to this article series

Current humans empowered with real education are ending a viciously psychopathic history by a .01% upon the 99.99%. These 99.99% would never consent to what’s being done to them if empowered with accurate comprehensive information of their conditions. The educated are motivated to end the psychopathy, and create a new future of peace, technological advance, and cooperative happiness. Objective, measurable, and independently verifiable facts easily explain, document, and prove game-changing facts that must be understood for even basic education in government and economics:

The above links are in my public citizen voice.

The below are in my professional educator voice to gradually bring young adults (and their parents) to full factual embrace of reality.

The results of this experiment are paradoxically excellent. The great news is the below data that is powerfully strong from students and their parents. The tragic-comic news is that despite cases of anyone finding anything in these assignments that are factually inaccurate or biased, forces behind the scenes have terminated my teaching employment twice.

A take-home lesson is that Life on Earth is mixed-up just in this way. It’s a paradox everyone must deal with. I’ve found Life has provided my family and I with support to open helpful doors when my representation of comprehensive facts (actual education) evokes higher forces to defend a fairy tale version of history, government, and economics.

My courses are divided roughly into three parts: curricula, current events to see how government and economics does in the real world, and the readings/projects highlighted in this article series.

Latest data: 91% percent of my students reported in anonymous semester-ending surveys that they learned “more” (49%) or “way more” (42%) in my classes than from previous department classes. The average grade for all students’ “overall opinion of Carl Herman as a teacher” was A+. At all five school events for Seniors to recognize the teachers who most contributed to their overall education during high school, I was honored at all five (football, baseball, pom/cheer, basketball, performing arts). I was also recognized as the school’s “Most Inspirational Teacher.”

Written testimony from just this group of students and parents; students first:

“I have never with the exception of one, have had a teacher that honestly cares about his students as much as you do.”

“Thanks so much for being the best all around teacher and person. Your class taught me more than any other class I’ve been in. Thanks for teaching me how to think critically.”

Shared college application response: “No one has ever had an influence on me like this teacher does. … I have learned more in two months in government class than I have ever learned in any of my history courses combined.”

“I would just like to say everything we learned in this class was helpful in real life situations and I appreciate that you didn’t hide the facts from us and presented us with the cold, hard truth.”

“You actually prepared us for the real world and made learning easy + enjoyable.”

“Thank you for teaching a class that is unbiased and promotes neither side.”

“I really just want to thank you for all that you have provided me with the next 70 years of my life. I thank you for the EXTREMELY hard work you put in to help us learn & use the information.”

“I really enjoyed the class! It was great having active discussions instead of being talked at the whole time. Through this I feel I learned more and thought more… This class also made me feel included which is rare in my experience. Thank you Mr. Herman!”

“Your teaching style and the eye-opening lessons you presented to our class will prove to be invaluable during the next 70+ years of my life… I quickly realized that you really do stand for the truth and always aim to present the facts as wholly and honestly as you can. You have really changed the way I think and approach situations. I find myself a more competent citizen now that has something more to offer to society than some of my peers.”

Examples of parent e-mails (available for public inspection):

“Your continued support (name omitted) has been wonderful, and an eye opening experience for her. She truly appreciated the help and support you have given her…The world could definitely use more teachers like you, who really care about their role, their impact and their students.”

“I did want to let you know how highly (name omitted) thinks of you!! Very refreshing when you ask your child “how was school today” & have him go on & on about this Awesome new teacher who has the coolest credentials, and dresses up every day & actually makes sure we understand what we are learning. I have never heard (name omitted) give a teacher such Accolades.”

“I think you are doing a great service to our kids to get them to think clearly and with an open mind about these kinds of issues. A strong democracy needs this…. Keep up the good fight and thank you.” (an attorney)

“Just wanted to THANK YOU for doing such a great job! (I don’t write these kind of e-mails often. Normally they are just the opposite.) (Name omitted) tells me about your class discussions and expresses how much he really enjoys your class. (This too is unusual. As you must know how quiet my son is.) I love your “real-world education!” I am all about the real world;) I wish there were more teachers like you.”

My first strategic act is to invite my young adult’s parents as partners in their children’s learning of US Government and Economics. This is the letter I send home with my students:

Information and recommendations for your child’s success

Dear Parents and Guardians,

I’m writing to:

  • give you information about your child’s social studies class with me,
  • offer my experience of what I’ve found most helpful for students’ success,
  • invite our full partnership and communication in your child’s success, and
  • introduce myself.

Assignments and grading: I provided your child with a copy to give you of the syllabus and the semester’s “Units and Assessments.” I’ve found that if you have this information, you will be of greater help in your child’s successful learning and completion of the assignments. Electronic copies of all assignments are on the school website (please explore to discover resources from all of your child’s teachers). I will update you via e-mail after every graded assignment with class results and upcoming assignments. Basically, we progress sequentially through the curriculum units along with one of four projects (purpose/heart of social science, critical thinking skills, policy case study of ending poverty, student policy analysis of choice with research and a talk to the class). I give projects a generous amount of time (I know your children are busy) and provide the incentive that early completion allows my full feedback until the due-date. This means that motivated students (and with informed parents) can easily earn an “A” for projects because their early submissions can be upgraded. In addition, students may always do extra credit to improve their learning and grade (instructions on Heart of social science assignment). I want to work with all parents/guardians and students so our next generation of community members can earn the grade of their choice. Grading is absolutely transparent; grades improve through earning higher overall percentages. My motivation is twofold: it’s my job to produce high performance in learning, and I very much prefer being around motivated and successful human beings.

Recommendations to maximize success: I typically grade all unit notes and assessments the day they are given, and return them the following day. Historically, students who have been most successful have parents who were aware of the assignments, and been an active participant in their child’s success. History (and research) has shown that perhaps the most effective way to help is for your child to teach the information of the course. You have the unit’s questions and can ask your child to explain his/her answers to you. It might feel weird to start this, and I encourage you to do so! Your child knows I emphasize this recommendation to you. These conversations will strengthen your child’s comprehensive understanding. Moreover, engaged students feel proud of their grade, and appreciate your help in their success. When students practice the material by teaching/explaining to others, students often find it’s easy, fun, and valuable to learn. I also encourage you to be a historical resource for your child. Parents, grandparents, and other contacts can provide information and/or personal experience to supplement your child’s learning of history and government. In fact, I encourage students to interview family members regarding curriculum content for extra credit. You have an open invitation to attend class whenever you want and/or provide perspective to the class by sharing your experience. For example, war veterans can talk about their experience, grandparents can share what economic life was like in the past, business people can share their real-world experience, etc. If this interests you, please let me know.

Our partnership and communication: I’ve let your child know that I’ll invite our full partnership to optimize each student’s learning. Almost all of my students really like the idea of proactively including you in their school success (I emphasize that as young adults this is inclusion on their creative terms since they are no longer younger children).

I emphasize “your child” because as a father I know how precious your children are to you. You should see your children’s faces when I tell them I know how important they are to you, and when I invite them to discover the best way to include your full participation in their success as young adults. They very much want this to happen. They just want more creative input in the partnership, just as we did when we were their age 🙂

Please feel free to communicate openly with me. While e-mail is the easiest form of communication, if you prefer to meet, we can do so virtually through Skype, FaceTime, phone, or meet in person (Skype or FaceTime allows us to talk conveniently from remote locations, without travel, and is just more cool and personal than a phone call). Please write all e-mail addresses you’d like me to include for regular status reports of class progress. As you will gain insight from my introduction below and through assignments, my commitment to teaching history, government, and economics is to build a brighter future through peoples’ freedom to pursue brighter futures as they best imagine in their unique, beautiful and powerful self-expressions. This is only possible, of course, with strong foundation of comprehensive factual accuracy with skills how to find comprehensive facts in a world of deliberate spin.

My background: The satisfaction of my students, colleagues, and parents in my 30+ years in education are reflected by two Los Angeles Mayors and USC honoring me for being among the top few teachers in a district of ~45,000 teachers. To improve my students’ learning, I went through the rigorous student-centered study and reflection to become a National Board Certified Social Science teacher. I’m also certified to assist NBCT Candidates in all topics.

I engaged with professional research at the highest level to obtain an Ed.M from Harvard’s Graduate School of Education. I have taught all social science classes from middle to high school, from a wide-range of academic skills in inner-city Los Angeles with at-risk students, to two of California’s top API-performing high schools. I’ve taught AP US Government and AP Macroeconomics (and am currently a discussion leader among ~2,000 AP teachers), and was also previously invited by department consensus to teach AP US History and AP European History. I’m also credentialed in Mathematics.

Students’ unique learning opportunity in real-world application of history, government and economics is having a teacher with direct experience of US domestic and international policy. For 18 years I helped create and grow the citizens’ lobby, RESULTS  now in over 100 US communities and 7 countries, working with economics and policy to end domestic and global poverty. I helped shape and deliver ~300 briefs for members of Congress; always subject to the sharpest academic and political scrutiny. RESULTS has been a leading voice for US Head Start programs that reach over a million children. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Executive Director, James Grant, credited RESULTS with saving over one million children’s lives a year from increased funding we won for cost-effective programs that reduce infant mortality. We championed two UN Summits for heads of state: the 1990 World Summit for Children (largest meeting of heads of state in world history) and the 1997 Microcredit Summit (topic of the 2006 Nobel Prize in Economics). The UN and nations were so impressed with our work that they asked RESULTS to manage nations’ progress toward the Microcredit Summit’s goals. Today, over 100 million of the world’s lowest income families now have access to credit; a total population greater than the United States. This saves millions of lives, tremendously improves quality of life, and in every historical case has reduced population growth rates and promoted wiser environmental management.

My current economics and political research, education, and policy development has me in regular conversation with leading professionals who I’ll bring into the classroom live and via Skype to interact with students. I’ve worked with:

“Project Censored is one of the organizations that we should listen to, to be assured that our newspapers and our broadcasting outlets are practicing thorough and ethical journalism.” – Walter Cronkite

My own political affiliation has been “Decline to State” for almost all of my life; my lobbying experience has trained me to respect and appreciate honest people from both major political parties, and to encourage minor parties’ development to compete on a political playing field that removes money from influencing elections and voting. I’ve previously offered to sponsor both “Young Republican” and “Young Democrat” student clubs. I tell students that I actively promote civic competence from all people, and encourage cooperative competition in politics for the best ideas to move forward.

My non-partisan position is also based in mathematics and engineering. I’m credentialed to teach mathematics, my younger brother teaches calculus, my older brother is a leading research psychologist in his specialty, my wife is a computer systems engineer, and my father was a mechanical engineer (Dad designed Disneyland’s on-site waste water treatment plant, and also the ride Pirates of the Caribbean’s steam system for “cannon fire” in the scene with the pirate ship engaged with shore cannon).

I also had the extraordinary privilege of being Buckminster Fuller’s friend for the last three years of his life (his archive is stored at Stanford). Besides his engineering, Bucky designed a field of three-dimensional mathematics. He also made it his business to understand everything in history he found relevant to work effectively in the world of the present. I have taken to heart Bucky’s path, and also have made it my business to understand history. I constantly read, and have taken over 60 courses from The Great Courses, a company that records US university professors who are at the top of their profession for understanding their field and to effectively communicate. I’ve focused on history, government, economics, mathematics, engineering, science, philosophy, and religion.

Given my combination of approaches to conservatively study and appreciate what’s been learned to-date, and constructive progressivism to forge new thinking for improvement, I’m keenly appreciative of conservatism and liberalism; even rebellion. I’m also sharply aware of the relative grasp of information of any serious student of history, and that we all learn more together than any of us ever can on our own.

Importantly, my professional policy is to present all relevant objective facts to understand a topic of interest in good-faith effort. I always welcome contributions to include important data for greater comprehensive accuracy from parents, students, colleagues, and anyone else. If I’m in error with information, I’ll immediately apologize, thank the person pointing-out my error, and make the correction. I’m very quick to truthfully say, “I don’t know” and recognize the limits of time everyone has to research and earn command of the facts.

This said, your child will probably talk about information in class that’s new to you! Much of this information is documented in the class projects I invite you to read and participate in with your child. If you’re curious about the sources of information I have for current events we discuss in class, please ask and I’ll provide them for you.

“The only thing new in the world is the history you don’t know.” – President Harry Truman, Plain Speaking: An Oral Biography of Harry S. Truman (1974) by Merle Miller, pg. 26.

To conclude my academic background, part of my “hobby” to apply social science to real-world improvement includes my “citizen voice” with 500+ published articles. These have page views in the tens of millions, with at least some circulated among members of Congress. I want you to know that my “citizen voice” of advocacy is very different from my “teacher voice” of skill building, critical thinking, and learning of curricula. The difference is that my citizen voice moves ideas forward as I see best to build a brighter future, while my teaching voice has the focus of your child’s development of their own unique, powerful, and beautiful voice that only they can discover within the context of their family and communities. My years’ experience deeply impresses me that any citizens’ best political position is to empower people to act upon what they see as best to do.

For example, one of my best lobbying experiences was to help a House Committee Chair develop a better argument to vote against a bill that RESULTS advocated. I did so because the Chair’s argument was so contrary to the facts he would have looked foolish to the press I promised to bring against him. I offered a better and defensible argument that he accepted. This also produced a new listening to our argument after his discovery that I only wanted him to be informed in order to make his best choice for policy.

We didn’t get his vote that day, and we earned his respect by simply presenting comprehensive facts, and supporting his genuine best response.

Additional non-academic background: I volunteered as a YMCA youth counselor for ten years, which gives me adult experience relating to teens with fun and insight. I did amateur stand-up comedy for ten years, which keeps my classes entertained while we work. I was on UC Berkeley’s JV basketball team, played competitive tournament tennis for 12 years (and will again soon in the 55s division), and competitive softball for four years; leveraging this experience for substantial contributions to athletic programs at previous schools. I converse, write, and read in moderate Spanish. My wife, Yvonne, and I adopted our 13-year-old daughter, Grace, from southern China. Our family has taken advantage of Yvonne’s career promotions as a leading computer systems engineer for mobility in our modern economy. I’ve used this opportunity to gain teaching expertise with different grade levels and socio-economic communities. That said, we’re now committed to settle in one place for Grace’s stability 🙂

In conclusion: I am your partner for your child’s academic and social success in this class. I promise to treat your child with kindness and respect in a professional environment that demands high-quality work and behavior from all students and myself. I promise to communicate and uphold the highest professional and academic standards for your child’s success now and ongoingly into the future with real-world expertise. I promise to do my best to equip your soon-to-be-adult child with the highest academic and professional tools for the next 70 or so years of civic and economic competence.

Please call or e-mail should you ever have anything you wish to discuss, or if I can be helpful in any way for your child’s success and enjoyment. Please read and return the next page.

Carl Herman

Carl_Herman@post.harvard.edu  personal e-mail if you prefer


Note: Examiner.com has blocked public access to my articles on their site (and from other whistleblowers). Some links in my articles are therefore now blocked. If you’d like to search for those articles other sites may have republished, use words from the article title within the blocked link. Or, go to http://archive.org/web/, paste the expired link into the box, click “Browse history,” click onto the screenshots of that page for each time it was screen-shot and uploaded to webarchive. Then switch the expired URLs with webarchived ones of that same information. I’ll update as “hobby time” allows; including my earliest work from 2009 to 2011 (blocked author pages: here, here).

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