Our corporate classrooms: Bill Bigelow on the dangers of standardized curriculums and fresh ideas

Bill Bigelow is an educator and activist who taught social studies in the Portland Public Schools for more than 30 years. Though he has left the classroom as a full-time teacher, he is actively involved in the U.S. educational system through his work with both Rethinking Schools, a quarterly magazine that focuses on critical issues in education from a social justice standpoint, and the Zinn Education Project, a project that provides teachers with resources to teach outside the textbook and to present a more honest, critical and full portrait of the world.

I first became familiar with Bigelow’s work in a classroom on the Quileute Reservation on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State. I was teaching Family Literacy to a group of Native American and Latina women. Looking for something to supplement the materials I was using, I found a curriculum called “Discovering Columbus,” written by Bill Bigelow.

It wouldn’t be until I moved to Portland in 2011 that I would meet Bigelow in person purely by coincidence. He is a gentle and curious man with a passion for education, justice and fairness. I sat with Bigelow to ask him about the plight of, and hope for, our educational system.