Like many of your other readers, I am feeling somewhat amazed at the continual letters having to do with the "Indian" mascot name at Napa High. I could not resist the temptation, though, to throw another log onto the fire.
Allow me to mention my background in education first. I worked for many years as a high school teacher and also as a crisis counselor. In addition, I toiled as a school improvement consultant and project writer, which led to my involvement as a lead reviewer for the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, which attempts to provide schools with the best educational research to support good practices as well as to suggest improvements.
One of the outcomes in educational research with WASC is the value of taking a fresh look at how we define things in education. I found it especially helpful to share with school staffs in various cities where I represented WASC a broader way of defining the word "curriculum." For most teachers and administrators (as well as school board members), the word simply refers to the course offerings at a school. Educational research (and, therefore, WASC) looks at curriculum differently.
When you broaden your perspective of the word "curriculum" so that it includes everything students are experiencing in and out of the classroom by "structured design," then you develop a very different picture of what students are learning while attending our high schools. That is to say that besides the course outlines prepared for formal instruction there is of equal (if not greater) importance the "invisible syllabus" of what students are being "taught" on our campuses.
What do I mean by such structured designs? Let's start with school rules and/or policies. Sometimes, they are not written down but are, instead, simply common school practices. For example, many schools today do not require students in P.E. classes to shower after class. Something is being taught there. Being sent to the office for using the "F" word but not for calling a student "beaner" is another example. Something is being taught there as well. The grading and report card systems are part of curriculum, too. A big part.
The use of terms like "fail," "below average," and "superior" are teaching students ways to look at themselves and others. The schoolwide and individual teacher discipline systems are curriculum, and the heavy reliance on punishment as a way to "help kids learn" is sending a message, but it may not be what we planned.
The point here in these few examples is that everything we do and ask students to do in our schools is part of the overall school culture, and that entire culture is what students are learning from. It is curriculum. It expresses the "vision" and the "mission" of the school. Those two elements are expressed in the final WASC report, but seldom known later by students, parents, or even staff. That fact also becomes part of the curriculum.
Which brings me to the Indian mascot debate. The mascot seems traditional only in the world of after-school competitive sports. I have not read any letters promoting it as a tradition for the music programs or academic endeavors. "Indian pride" seems to come up only in afternoon athletics; I've not heard of its being mentioned in science classrooms.
Moreover, the invisible syllabus in the after-school sports program itself seems to state that all of the wonderful athletic facilities at the school are available only to the elite few who manage to "make" a team.
Students who want to play a game after school are not invited onto the well-maintained facilities, even on days when the school team has an "away" game. The fields, the gym, and the courts are not open to the regular student body, despite all of our pious statements that kids need to exercise more.
But where do they go to get the exercise and to learn how much fun it is to be on a team and to learn teamwork? For the regular "we just want to play" students, the facilities are closed.
This becomes part of a school's "tradition" also. We are teaching them something all right, but maybe it's not what we really want them to learn or even be aware of.
So, yes, whatever is decided about the mascot debate will become part of the curriculum; only, it may end up teaching our students and overall community something quite different from what we intend to be learned from it.