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Sentiment mining in Educational Research

One of the questions that persisted recently is whether to mine public sentiments over current events that affect the education community in Houston and the greater world. Recently I mined the affect of covid-19, and the decision to go online versus staying in schools and teaching methodologies (the article can be found at:, and this proved to be an essential scientific journey as it found that there were several contentions at play. The sentiment also indicated emotional divisions between groups as well. 

But is such an exercise important, and what does it mean to do it? With the recent push in politics to have parental voices push back on the curriculum, there has not been a more important time in vox populi as it affects what might be included and excluded in the curriculum. Parental voices have reached a tipping point in what goes on in some states. While this blog and its writer stay neutral on what side of the politics the result has achieved, it is believed that the very phenomenon of parental voice and movement into the public education sector has almost required taking a pulse of what is happening in the hearts and minds of people's sentiments on ideas that have reached critical mass in the public eye.

One recent example is the issue of teaching about Michelangelo's David. The lesson has brought many different voices to the fore and raised the issue of parents and their voices in the curriculum outrightly. It poignantly asks: What is the role of parents in the curriculum? How much pull does a small cadre of agents have in deciding what gets taught and what gets omitted in the education of a large group of students? And should some voices carry the decision for others? What is the reactionary fallout?

A preliminary view of scraped tweets between March and May 2023 reveals 10+ frequently tweeted words below: 

The word cloud raises questions about what is on the reactionary minds of people regarding the actions taken toward the principal that was asked to resign following the lesson plan. Regardless of the complete understanding of the initial situation, the unfolding sentiment and fallout tell a unique story on the world stage. Some of the most frequently appearing words include: 'principal', 'David', 'lesson', 'Michelangelo', 'Florida', 'art', 'school', 'parents', and so on. These terms, and others, indicate the most frequently appearing words in the corpus. 

One of the issues present includes the idea of forced resignation. We can springboard off this question and ask why a confident few parents in a charter school should cause the entire membership to be censored and have the principal resign (given that there were other issues notwithstanding her performance) over this issue. One question that can be forwarded is whether this is a democratic move in education. 

Another question this raises is the validity of censorship in light of classics in education. In classics, one of the questions this asks is the age at which classical sculptures depicting the human form (viz., the wet drapery period in classical Greek sculpture, for example) are appropriate for students to view. Is it outrightly appropriate to label classical form as pornography in a 21st-century political and religious context without understanding Attic Greek understanding of the human form and love? Any curriculum built upon classical literature must contend with these issues and make drastic decisions to edit or accept certain parts of Greek and Roman culture that are built into literature, be they Ovid, Euclid or Pythagoras. 21st century decisions must be made to keep or omit according to owned values. Best practices in a classical curriculum would be to be honest and to declare what is omitted and why, according to religious/ political/ or other ideological views. It should not be a secret that classical civilization is the bedrock for Renaissance and 18th-21st century values; however, what carries forward should be acknowledged, and what is left behind should also be understood to avoid confusion.

Weighing in on teaching 'David' as a Renaissance sculpture as part of the classical curriculum has sparked considerable debate. However, firing the principal was more complex than just this one phenomenon. So it is challenging to unentangle the lesson from the potential mistakes this principal may have made before this crucial step that called parental outing from this phenomenon. Even so, this is an example of the weighing in of parental voices over the curriculum.

This case study is a test case: Most schools are not charter schools. The degree to which the curricula are steeped in classical core subjects is close to nil. Therefore, this argument should be a closed subject; yet it is not. Suppose parents can force a principal into resignation over the teaching of 'David' as a case of pornography in a classical setting. What else is at stake in the general curriculum of the state school system?: Is there a looming threat there? We have already seen that in what can be read in libraries. What else is next in the curriculum? 

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