Katie Song

Master - Student, Brock University

This conversation is closed.

Should students have the right to participate in developing school curriculum?

"Democratic education" and "democratic schools" is something that's not new in the US or Canada. The schools (Kindergarten - grade 12) wish to embed the values and ethics of democracy in their students so that they can fulfill the duties of exemplary democratic citizens in the future.

However, by the true meaning of democracy, this means that elementary students should have the right to participate in government/presidential elections, participate in protests, participate in labor forces, form unions, and even participate in the development of their own curriculum.

As parents, relatives, educators, community members and administrators, do you believe there are potential benefits in allowing K-12 students to participate in curriculum development?

If so, how would we go through the process of choosing the "right" students?

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    R H

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    Apr 18 2013: Interesting, but I would say no - if you're speaking about 'currently', and not in the future. Children do not have enough knowledge/experience of the world to decide what they need to know. The problem I think you're referring to, if I'm reading 'between the lines', is that the content they're being taught is politically motivated. Also there's inherent bias into 'someone else' deciding what it is necessary, or desirable, to learn. But the inexperience of children trump all other concerns for me. Tackling the inflexibility of the education system, having educators rather than school boards control the direction of curriculum, supporting children's home life to provide the environment to learn and be excited about learning, would be more effective, in my opinion. Now, if we're talking about the future, that's something different entirely.
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      Apr 18 2013: Thanks for your input, R H.

      I do remember watching a TED clip discussing why children and especially adolescents are less likely to make "better" decisions. Their prefrontal cortex is still yet not fully developed, which deals with decision making, thinking, problem solving, and reasoning. Not to mention social behavior and other self-controlling qualities. (by Sarah-Jayne Blakemore: http://www.ted.com/talks/sarah_jayne_blakemore_the_mysterious_workings_of_the_adolescent_brain.html)

      Why do you feel that students will be more capable of participating in the future as opposed to students these days??
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        R H

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        Apr 21 2013: I believe we are constantly learning throughout our whole lives, but our world is archaic and as of yet, 'unelightened'. We are only beginning to 'scratch the surface' of who we are and what we're capable of. When that day comes, when we are fully aware, when we know what it means to be alive and fully human and our place in the universe as humanity, then our children will be no longer children and they will have the wisdom to know what they need, and to customize their own development - with whatever input they require.
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    Apr 24 2013: When a student asks a question they are creating the curriculum. It's on the teacher to answer the question. If the answer creates another question another answer is demanded.

    Initially, it is the teacher that should determine the talents and information the student will need to compete and create in the world they are called upon to partisipate. How can a student with limited life experience, know what the demands of the world will be?

    Of course we are assuming the teacher has, or knows, the answer the questions.
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    Apr 23 2013: Being a student, I think that we should at least have the right to choose some of our lessons. Right now, all of my school lessons are compulsory, and next year, I will be able to choose one class among french, german, free and architectural sketch. The basic lessons, like, litterature and mathematics should be transactional, but students should be allowed to choose their minor lessons according to their interests. Also, more classes should be added to schools; the activities students are able to take part in are very limited nowadays.
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    Apr 23 2013: Education is a great balancing act, routines give young children a sense of well-being and belonging, but if it is just routine, routine, routine then as we all probably know the eventual outcome is children fighting against a system of routines, instead of engaging in their education and/or learning. In New Zealand the early childhood curriculum is very much about getting the children involved in their own education but when they get to primary school these doors begin to close pretty fast, what messages are being sent to these children i ask? Giving children choice doesn't have to be at the expense of basic education like reading, writing and mathematics's. I believe excellent, motivated, valued and supported teachers should have the skills to give children a great deal of choice in the classroom and then incorporate basic education into these choices. For example - Using the playstation game guitar hero to learn about creating a rock band which Incorporated learning how to manage their tour costs (maths), about how to write songs (writing), how to get inspiration for songs (reading) etc etc. This project (which wasn't my idea) gave students a great deal of choice and they even got to play playstation in class (shock horror).

    Thanks and have great day
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      Apr 23 2013: I agree that we can give choices to students without having to risk the basic education. Routine can be helpful but it can also limit students. I like your point about balance. But it is tough to balance freedom and routine because of expectations and standards we as teachers have to meet at the end of the day. Sad reality...

      Also, the play station is an excellent example (which I might try to incorporate into my own teachings)!
    • Apr 24 2013: I think for children,they learn fast from adults,so we teachers should be in advance to improve ourself,it is always the most conciousness we all adults be aware of.
  • Apr 22 2013: Standardized education is standardized for a reason, what would happen if every year, a class could choose what they wished to learn, and what they didn't? You would end up with huge discrepancies in education that would make it far harder to educate the children later on, after all, they should all start out with a baseline education in grades K-12.
    Though I agree that having a say in you education would be more motivating, you can always supplement basic education with extra courses online, reading books and other educational materials. In such a way, it would be great if schools could encourage individual study in areas of the students choosing, but children don't have the experience to know what skill they might need later on in life, so basic education shouldn't be decided for them.
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    Apr 21 2013: I think the democratic participation should go into selecting the school or choosing a tutor and letting expert educators create a curriculum based on their years of experience.

    While I think should be some accountability, trying to have students vote democratically on what they want to learn especially to the detail of curriculum could be difficult. It is challenging, even in hindsight to know what was important to learn. Even more so, to build the course without expertise in the subject area.

    My personal anecdote is that I would not have wanted to read the books in 7th grade English literature had my fellow students voted on what to cover.

    I think it will be better to apply democratic principles to the selection and ability to take and try multiple classes that have been developed by domain specialists (think of EdX, Coursera, Udacity, etc.).
    • Apr 22 2013: i mostly agree, i myself can often find a place for a kind of democracy in allowing students to choose a specific topic to research and present within a basic framework.

      re accountability, who should the accountability be to?
  • Apr 24 2013: I believe that age appropriate involvement in establishing a curriculum with young students (K – 12) would better integrate the student into the leaning experience. Allowing the student to be involved in these choices would serve as a lesson in decision making and the importance of long term planning and goal setting.
    If you were born before 1994 you were confined to a dull hand me down textbook serving more as a punishment then as a learning tool. With our ever evolving technology, the availability of relevant resources in the classroom is endless and the structure of the classroom would benefit from paralleling those advancements. Allowing the students to be involved in the information finding process along with their chosen life path, I believe, has the potential to spark the interest in education that could change the dynamics of generations to come. Choice is rarely a negative.
  • Apr 24 2013: why not,I think it is a very important learning and teaching method in education.we should do it from kindergarten.
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    Apr 24 2013: I absolutely think that children should be given the option to have a say in their educational endeavors. They're the ones who have the first hand experience. Children know the capacity of the teachers' ability to teach first hand! Give them the vote!

    God bless!

    -Todd C.
  • Apr 23 2013: If the majority of parents don't take an interest, or only mininally, why do you think the kids would. I could see about 1% staying after school to debate and discuss this. Recent NY Times - Most kids leave as soon as the bell sounds.

    Unless of course we educate by playstation .. Suffer the children.
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      Apr 23 2013: interesting you would say that parents don't take an interest (or only minimal do).. is this from your experience?? I would find that in secondary schools. a lot less parents are likely to get involved than in elementary schools..
  • Apr 23 2013: I think the main problem is that students never receive a proper explanation about the importance of a school of knowledge and the so called "tech-tree" it can unlock.

    Why are they spared such explanation: The schools are confident that kids are kind of dumb and don't have enough experience to know what they will want to do even though most of us knew early on what we enjoy doing and what interest us for various reasons.

    I think having a Discussion Lesson about 'Learning & Skill Development' can help students realize what they can potentially accomplish by following seemingly useless schools of knowledge, why we do boring repetitive practice and what schools of knowledge can help them realize their dreams.

    Of course such lesson doesn't actually exist because we live in an industrial world where worker drones seem to be more valued than free thinkers, so schools become a crucible to weed out any disobedience and produce people who do as they're told because others know what is good for them.
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      Apr 23 2013: yes, I've heard a professor once say, all students should take a mandatory course about what you want to do in life. We graduate from secondary school, change majors throughout undergrad, and then switch jobs throughout our lives. we're not prepared.

      also, I agree that schools don't really relay the importance of a school of knowledge; they're busy trying to cover as much curriculum material as possible.

      this is the conspiracy side of my coming out, but perhaps that's what the government wants. perhaps they don't want to raise people who ask questions or know too much. so they bombard us with things students "need to know" to succeed. which, by the way, I still don't find any use for quadratic functions or calculus in my everyday life..
      • Apr 24 2013: Today with the internet, crowd-funding and (maybe soon) open manufacturing, it may be that the schools would no longer have relevance as an entry bar to many more jobs since people could learn what they really need or want to learn and strike out on a smaller scale rather than having to meet the approval of big corporations.

        But then would people really bother learning history or stuff that are outside their profession but may have impact on their world view?
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    Apr 22 2013: My only issue with the democratic process, is it's less of a choice by the people and more a choice by popularity. Yes popularity helps with spreading a message, but after a bit we will have nothing but actors and actress, music stars and famous sports hero becoming president and other office related position. Unless they are seriously qualified for such, I don't want them in office, for one they will sway a vote based on previous work, to some that seems fair, but to me it's using one completely different platform as a means to project an ideal of another, and secure it.

    We need to teach fair and balanced notions of equality and confrontation. Yes, we need to fight more, not fists to cuff, but argue, debate, throw a fit, protest, get a point across passionately. I feel these basic of human traits are quickly being ousted for a more PC way of living. Soon we will be robotic emotionless drones ( Yes, we are the drones you're looking for, NOW ).

    Democracy in it's honest form needs to be from the heart, a choice by the people for the people, and guess what folks, we are so far removed from such a notion it's laughable and scary at the sametime. All you have to do in today's USA to win an election is have a large sum of money, networked with the right people and say the right things at the right time, and guess what, you are vice president or president, didn't win this year, it's ok you can keep spending that $ to try again, overshadowing any other more qualified candidate.

    I believe in America, I believe in our founding father's main collective goal to have a nation for the people by the people. That my friends in the key point, we are not a nation of the people for the people, we are a nation of government for the people. Most aren't aware we chose this, we can and will change it. It's our collective voting right to do so, and this is what I want taught in school. It shouldn't be left to your alternative social group to tell you, it's not right & its up to you.
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      Apr 24 2013: Michael, you bring up a good argument. We say we live in democracy, but in reality we are quite far removed from it. Yes, we are a considerably "democratic" nation compared to the rest of the world, but I don't believe we can achieve TRUE democracy. Also, your point about popularity is very real.

      I also struggle with the balance between student right to choose curriculum content and the basic knowledge that we should alll have an opportunity to learn (such as history, mathematics, language arts, etc).

      I also agree that the changing workforce and even the Western culture calls for more flexibility in student qualifications than just good marks in school.
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    Apr 22 2013: Right, I do believe students should have participation (i.e., choose a research subject, select a book for reading, etc.) I just don't think it's as direct as selecting the curriculum.

    Accountability is tricky and I don't have a clear idea of who educators should report to. I think it's somewhere along the lines of 50% community, 40% parents, 10% students with a shift of this ratio as the student gets older and older. Of course, when I was younger I thought the student should be much more involved, so my bias is shifting over time. I've found in other areas that you should connect the customer (person who pays) as closely to the producer as possible. This probably helps in education as well.
  • Apr 18 2013: Hummm! Your first sentence caught me: "Should students have the right..." That word "right" caught me the most. Now if it were changed to: ability, privilege or choice, that might fit better. Especially "privilege".
    Those students, K-5, haven't had enough of life yet to really select what type of classes to have in a curriculum but the adults/teachers should revamp that.
    "Choosing the right students?" Ouch!!! There have been many great people who were, what you would call, slow in school. All or none is my thought on that.
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      Apr 18 2013: Thanks for your reply Gale!

      This is an issue I am studying in one of my Master's courses, and some people genuinely believe that students should practice democratic participation in their institutions and communities. Some educators go as far as to claim that by not doing so, we are practicing the opposite of democracy in a publicly funded (democratic) state school.

      I do agree with you on the note that the process of "choosing the right students" is asking for problems in a lot of inequity and diversity issues. And it certainly isn't right! However, these details are overlooked by many educators even in smaller processes such as standardized testings, and even the curriculum itself. The curricula essentially require that students will only pass if they can successfully fit into a set framework of knowledge and display what they've "learned" through traditional methods of assessment which assure good memorization more than authentic learning and development.

      Thanks for your input again, Gale. It's nice to know that you hold an opinion that truly puts the well-being of students first.
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    Apr 18 2013: Hi Katie,
    I think it is a GREAT idea, because I firmly believe that kids learn more when they are excited and engaged with the process. Your idea reminds me of this TED talk by John Hunter...have you seen it?


    Kids are often a lot smarter than we give them credit for, and in very simple ways (John's game for example) we can start planting seeds which may grow to create a more beneficial society. I'm not sure why you would want to be selective regarding which students to "choose". It seems beneficial to get information from ALL students, and then evaluate the information to decide which may be relevant and most benificial?
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      Apr 18 2013: Thanks Colleen for your input!
      I have not seen John Hunter's TED talk, but I am very interested in hearing what he has to say about student engagement and participation.

      It definitely would be beneficial to include all students in as many activities as possible. But it's inherent in our schools that the higher academic achievers are given more privilege than those who are not. For example, to compete in a sports team, students much sustain a certain average, students who wish to participate in student council must also meet a minimum requirement of consistently "good" marks.

      I felt that if we were to allow student participation in higher administrative functions, these "qualifications" would automatically be something that draws a wider gap between higher achieving students and students who struggle. Perhaps not all schools are like this, but it is a concern I've had throughout my Teacher's Ed. Program.

      Thanks for sharing John Hunter's talk by the way!
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        Apr 18 2013: Katie,
        It seems like John Hunter's program is similar to what you suggest, and it's not simply a talk, because he demonstrate how it works with kids. I love his delivery, which projects his gentleness:>)

        It HAS been, at times, a practice to give higher achievers more privilege, and I certainly agree with the incentive. I also would like to see all kids engaged in what you propose in some way.

        My kids participated in a ski program, which I chaperoned, many, many years ago. If their grades were satisfactory, they got Wed. afternoon off from school to ski in the program. My kids were good students anyway, and it certainly was an incentive for some students who may not have kept their grades up.

        I strongly encourage you to check out John Hunter's video.....it seems SO much like what you propose:>)
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    Apr 24 2013: As a student myself I feel that kids should not be given complete freedom and right do develop their own curriculum, as most of them don't view the long term pros which they obtain by studying certain chapters/topics. What can be done is a voting based method where a student suggests a topic and others vote to make it pass and include in the curriculum with some necessary chapters which are non-objectionable and are included by the teachers. It will be nice if students can only add content but not remove without the vote and a final teachers say.
  • Apr 23 2013: They could not possibly do any worse than the federal government
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    Apr 22 2013: yes, because the curriculum is tought to the student for them to understand if they don't understand what use would it be to have a stiff curriculum?
    yes, because students must also learn to take their education into their own hands, and guide their own future.
  • Apr 22 2013: the right yes certainly, but the experience, ability and perspective? certainly not! what do students know about what is or will be beneficial to their education process? for that matter what do parents, community members and administrators know? only actual educators - people that spend their days in classrooms - know what students (all students, not just a few as is all students and parents can claim) are like, can achieve, and what works in the classroom, and what leads to better lives for their students and what doesn't.

    just as an example, i read not long ago a post from a student who was quite angry about being paired with a certain student for a group project rather than letting them work with their friends. they saw a missed opportunity to work more comfortably with a like-minded partner, i saw a brilliant lesson in learning to work with others who weren't necessarily who they would choose, great preparation for life where you don't get to choose your fellow employees, subsidiaries, suppliers or clients.

    in the medical field patients have the right to go against their doctor's advice, and the fallout from choosing to ignore many years of experience in medical school and practice with thousands of patients can at least be fixed by another doctor, but once those years up to 18 are gone, there's no re-doing them, it's just a biological fact.

    if we put curriculum in the hands of children and parents, it will be a curriculum built by amateurs, and no surprise when the recipients of this curriculum also turn out to be amateurs, albeit amateurs who've quite enjoyed themselves.
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    Apr 19 2013: yes!
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    Apr 19 2013: Hi Katie,

    In my experience, the child is the most qualified to know what is needed.
    The notion of "educating" a child is wildly erroneous - it is an article of fashion that has persisted for a while and is reinforced by outcomes beneficial to others - not the child. This model is only very recent in human development, but since it spans a few generations, it is taken as truth.
    Schools are the instrument of political power.
    Before one approaches the curriculum, first know the agenda.
    In the absence of these superfluous curricula, one needs only support the child's innate desire to learn - you will find the results are superior to the trauma factories we mis-label, as "schools".
    • Apr 21 2013: How in the world would dthe child "know what is needed"?! That is like giving a Chinese menu to someone who doesn't know Chinese, and calling it "Free Choice".. IIf you notice, in our society , even the Grownups are not doing very well.
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        Apr 22 2013: Yes, it's counter intuitive. But this is what I have found to be true.

        I was exactly like you - I assumed that children had to be forced to do and learn things "for their own good". I was a staunch champion of the primacy of education-for-all as the strength of society.
        But it turns out we don't really know what's good for them - because we are not them. And that what we take for "society" is an illusion .. human community can be far better if you don't force it to be something else.
        • Apr 22 2013: i think your conclusion is lacking some explanation. perhaps you could clarify what experience lead you to conclude that the child is most qualified to know what is needed, and support this with logical reasoning?
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        Apr 22 2013: @Ben,

        The main example is my own son.
        As a high-functioning autistic, we went to great lengths to get him integrated into mainstream schooling - this included a lot of resources deployed to appoint special aids, re-train school staff and adjust school practices and processes as part of the general move to main-stream special needs education. I was involved in the project up to and including the funding aspects within the department and integration of complimentary psychologists and therapies. All involved were committed and professional, but after 18 months it failed to the point of inducing comorbid trauma in my son.
        The point of failure was the under-riding model of classroom education - the premise that a child is "educated" as an active principle - the preponderance of discipline as a basis of schooling was responsible for the comorbid trauma.
        Our alternative was to home-school. For a little while we actually attempted to stay on curriculum, but soon found that he got the objectives achieved as a side-effect of his own supported explorations - in the progress of finding his way to his own objectives, the means was the knowledge we could provide as support. He has achieved and exceeded the curriculum. We don't educate him - we just let him run and get answer to his questions.
        In my own experience of traditional "education" I recall that most of what I learned there was from badgering teachers and spending my own time in the public library.
        I have not collected additional empirical data, but have had nothing but confirmatory observation of the experience of others. Both "special needs" and "neuro-typical".
  • Apr 18 2013: Right Fritzie kids can go to school board meetings, but I am not sure how much professional educators listen to others. So we can look at this from multiple ways.
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      Apr 18 2013: George, you are absolutely right. As an initiative to increase student involvement and voice, some board in Ontario have allowed student representatives to participate in board meetings and other administrative gatherings. However, this seems to be a "bandaid solution" to the issue of student voice because there is nothing that came of it (as of yet, at least).

      I don't believe the students' physical presence is the same thing as authentic participation. And whether or not board members even take students' proposals/ideas seriously is another question.
      • Apr 19 2013: Yes the students' input is probably more important than educators attention to it.
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    Apr 18 2013: As you have suggested, students already have a voice in some places in the selection of faculty, books the class will read, textbook adoptions, and other areas, as well as submitting teacher evaluations. In many of these areas, choosing students is not an issue, because one can get information from lots of students efficiently.

    At the university level, I am sure it is not uncommon for doctoral students to review applications for new graduate students and to have an equal voice to other committee members.

    In cases in which it is practical to have only a few student participants, I think an application procedure that takes into account the person's qualifications to evaluate whatever is at hand would be suitable. For example, an uncompromising person is not a good choice for a committee in which the need for compromise is likely. A person who doesn't know or take Japanese, should probably not be on a committee to consider materials for classes in Japanese language and culture. A first year physics students would not have the perspective to evaluate possible purchases of laboratory equipment for use by the upper division courses in the department.

    University undergrads often have great flexibility in choosing courses that become their unique course of study. A major will tend to have a few fundamental requirements, but in many cases, the student selects many courses from a set of accepted ones. The same is true of courses to fill breadth or distribution requirements. So everyone's curriculum is, appropriately, different, depending on students' choices for themselves.
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      Apr 18 2013: Thanks for your response, Fritzie. However I should have been more clear about the age range I meant to discuss. I was thinking of K-12 (Elementary and High school in particular) curriculum.

      You do raise a good point though about a student's qualifications and certain skills necessary in order to fulfill their role as a participant in curriculum development. I am going to assume that you see value in the student's high academic achievement in the subject they wish to contribute, their interpersonal skills, fluency in the English language and good communication skills in order to participate authentically. Please correct me if I'm wrong.

      Yet I must ask, would this not somehow create a wider gap between the high achieving students and the students who struggle? Would this lead to an under-representation of the diversity of students who attend public schools? Students with low socioeconomic status may struggle in school due to lack of parental help, lack of nutrients, and a deficit thinking by teachers (just to name a few examples). Also, students who have recently immigrated here may love math or sciences, and do pretty well in those areas, but should we give them the right to part take in dictating the course of the development of our curricula? And even if we do, they may not have the fluency in speech or articulation as students who have grown up in the US or Canada all their lives have. What about students with disabilities or learning difficulties? they may have a passion for a subject and know so much about it, but not being able to conform to standardized testing of knowledge, they suffer with low grades..

      I apologize for playing the devil's advocate, but I do wish to dig deeper into the issue of student participation, its risks, and whether or not it is worth the risk..
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        Apr 18 2013: Actually, my reference to students' participating in giving feedback on textbooks and readings, doing teacher evaluations, and sometimes serving on committees was for secondary school.

        When I was on a math textbook adoption committee, for example, all students were invited to review and give feedback on textbooks, for example. Level of achievement in the subject, grades, English skills, and so forth were all over the map, which was entirely suitable, as the books were supposed to meet the needs of all sorts of students.

        I don't know why you would assume that fluency in English or high achievement in the subject matter would be criteria to give feedback or that either of these is required to participate authentically. Kids would logically look at textbooks for the courses they are taking. Similarly, I would not have been a good person to review Japanese textbooks and the Japanese teacher wouldn't have been on a review committee for math.

        When you want to canvas popular opinion, you need to get input from across the population.
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          Apr 18 2013: Fritzie,

          that's amazing that your secondary school gave students a voice in choosing their own textbooks and allowed for feedback as well. Was you secondary school in the US? It is unheard of here in Canada (or in Ontario at least) that students get to choose and review their textbooks. The board must approve of each textbook and teachers are not allowed to purchase any other textbooks other than the ones that are board approved.

          I guess I made the assumption that fluency in English and high academic achievement would be vital for students to participate in board-level decision making because you mentioned "qualifications." I apologize if I was mistaken.
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        Apr 18 2013: Let me clarify. The school board adopts the textbooks. But there is a process that engages experts and stakeholders in the choice.

        So, for example, we had a committee of maybe thirty math teachers and specialists, who taught the variety of levels of students in the district, including English Language Learners, Special Ed, the more typical student, and highly gifted. We had two parents on the committee, but we also had the books available for review for any interested parents. Comments from parents were solicited.

        Kids did not sit as voting members on the committee but classrooms reviewed the books at the building level and gave us their comments on index cards. Remembering that kids don't have an aerial view of what mathematics looks like as a discipline, they do not comment on whether the book represents the field with integrity. Rather they comment on whether the book seems learner friendly in its physical presentation and also care greatly how much the book weighs.

        The committee reviewed these inputs.

        In terms of fluency in English, I am not sure what you call fluent, but it is important to realize that many people who are not fluent in a language can make themselves understood perfectly well.
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          Apr 18 2013: I did expect that the students would give feedback in their classrooms, and not directly vote in boards. I also expected that it would be a review of the textbook's learner friendliness rather than its content and credibility. I have not seen that in practice here, however, and I am curious where your secondary school was because it could be something useful for all schools to practice.

          Also, the fluency of English is just a single issue in student participation roadblocks. As you and I are fluent in English, it would be easier to argue our position and voice our opinions. I would have to argue that for students without the fluency, it is a daily struggle to participate in class discussions and even answer a simple review question by a teacher. This is just one of the unspoken things I would have included in the process of picking "qualifications" as you have suggested we measure. We often do not consider skills we take for granted, and how much of a deficit it can create in student learning and participation.
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        Apr 18 2013: As you know, I said there were NO qualifications, language or otherwise, for reviewing the friendliness of math text books, other than that a first year algebra student wouldn't be well-suited to review the calculus book. In the same way, I, or a student taking German, would not be qualified to give feedback on the second year Latin book.

        There were ELL students and teachers making judgments on the books. Further one criterion in selecting books is what sorts of supplemental materials are available in Spanish, Chinese, and so forth to meet the needs of students and parents. Everyone on the committee considers the language requirements for reading the books.

        You and I may both be fluent in English, but when you teach at schools in which many, many languages are spoken, you do become familiar with these issues and how to facilitate communication in such a context. Fluency is not necessary to communicate ideas, and schools with populations of English Language Learners also typically have personnel on hand to assist.

        I agree with you that if you do not live and work in such a setting, you might not know how to engage a diverse school community or that schools take the needs of English Language Learners into account in picking curriculum materials.