If Facts Won’t Cooperate, There is Always Pedagogy

So why do I keep mentioning the UN? Am I perhaps a jingoistic (think Rah! Rah! with flag decals) American who sees a loss of national sovereignty behind every meeting there by the East River in NYC or in Paris or Geneva? No. I think history shows they have stirred up great mischief. They give legitimacy to national leaders who cause great harm to their people in their own countries. I mention the UN repeatedly because they have great plans for global education and using it to transform the global economy and what people value and how they behave. When international bureaucrats living at our expense aspire to use the social sciences and education to  create unconscious emotional habitual responses we are not to even be aware of, we should be able to know that is what is up. And talk about it among ourselves. Several times. If we are being told we must “transcend mere economic considerations” shouldn’t someone in charge be honest with us?

As I mentioned in the previous post the stated goal is that we should have a post fossil fuels (cheap, efficient energy)/post-consumerist (we make the choices on what we want to buy)/post materialist economy (friendships and people matter more than things). All those approaches are strikingly naive and ignorant but this Green Economy and attaining such control is what is driving education globally. It is ultimately what the Common Core is all about. Let’s use their own words, shall we, so there is no confusion?

“Developing the workforce for transformed or new green jobs requires a new set of skills and knowledge different from those promoted in the past. This requires reorienting current formal and non-formal education at all levels to mainstream sustainable development, as promoted by UNESCO as the lead agency for the Decade on Education for Sustainable Development. It also requires technical and vocational education and training to train and retrain the existing workforce.”

That’s from a recent official, logo on the cover, UN report. And in case your invitation to the UN’s Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) decade got lost, it started in 2006. Like Education for All and those Millenium Development Goals, this is all supposed to be in place in the developed world countries like the US, Europe, and Australia by 2015. Now you know why these gypsy principals and gypsy supers and politicians are mandating changes in a hurry and all at once. And behaving like someone with diplomatic immunity wanting a night of partying around town.

This is going to be a quoty post because if I just summarize you probably won’t believe just how ridiculous and grasping these goals really are. Once again, this time from the UN’s current Higher Ed Sustainability Initiative (my bolding for emphasis):

ESD “aims at enabling everyone to acquire the values, competencies, skills and knowledge necessary to contribute to building more sustainable societies. This implies revising teaching content to respond to global and local challenges. It should also promote participatory teaching methods that allow students to acquire skills such as interdisciplinary thinking, integrated planning, understanding complexity, cooperating with others in decision-making processes, and participating in local, national and global processes towards sustainable development.”

Ouch! Out the window goes the Western tradition of the autonomous individual. You get to be a managed cog in a managed world in this vision. A modern day serf conditioned to accept your assigned role in a world where you have little control or liberty to go your own way and pursue your own dreams. That’s a world of no prosperity unless you are in the politically connected class. It’s a world where technology and knowledge and living standards regress. Just ask the 15th Century Chinese. Their bureaucrats so feared change and the resulting loss of control that they stopped innovation and individual initiative just like ESD and EFA seek to do today. And the greatness disappeared for centuries.

Facts and knowledge foster individual independence. Logic defeats bogus explanations. Outcomes Based Education is always the approach of the political schemers because it stealthily gets at what drives behaviors in most people most of the time–their values, beliefs, and emotions. Here once again in their own words:

“ESD seeks to impart trans-disciplinary understanding of social behaviour, cultural attitudes, sustainability principles and ethical values. . . [ESD] looks holistically at the interdependence of the environment, the economy, society and cultural diversity at the local to global levels. The aim is to nurture a common understanding of sustainable development and how daily activities in the economy have significant,  long-term material consequences for humans and the environment.”

There’s no freedom there. The whole idea is to use education to prevent awareness of servitude while ensuring predictable behavior. The long sought after goal of a would-be controlling class to make the social sciences as predictable in terms of cause and effect on people as the natural sciences like chemistry and physics.

If you have long wondered why those ClimateGate email revelations never seemed to matter to policy direction or the real global temperatures or whether the glaciers were actually melting and when it started. If the fact that the famous hockey stick graph from An Inconvenient Truth was actually a scam and the IPCC Reports are full of errors but nothing derails these initiatives makes no sense. Remember. There was always control over education.

Reality and facts don’t matter when you have access to children for hours each day at the level of the classroom. ESD targets those “curricula and learning materials” explicitly and “ESD concepts must be fully integrated into learning and teaching processes in all types, levels and settings of education.” Now you know why Michael Barber matters so much to our tale.

Oh my. Grab your wallet and hard hat. With those intentions and goals, we have a bumpy ride ahead in our summer of disclosing the Common Core Deception.


You Mean I Can’t Teach Because the Economy Should Not Grow?

Well the US economy that is. And economies in the developed West in general like the UK, Europe, Australia. Because the yellow brick road behind Michael Barber’s recommendation to NYC to use Cambridge Education and Cambridge’s own activities, and the activities of its owner all take us quite quickly somewhere else. To a world where international bureaucrats and other “policymakers” who somehow claim to magically Know Better live at our expense. They generally work for one or more of the various UN agencies eager to plan and then manage our very existence and make fundamental life-altering decisions FOR us.

Not to worry though about this attempt to move beyond and away from GDP (Gross Domestic Product is what the nation produces economically in products and services) to a holistic growth in our Well-being as the focus. (Planet Under Pressure: New Knowledge Towards Solutions, a March 2012 conference in London)

Now do you feel better about the Gypsy Principals and Gypsy Supers, and whatever it is that the accreditors are actually pushing? Me neither but then I think they have the advantage on us. Not knowing much history or any economics would definitely make you more likely to push these troubling ideas. Especially if there’s a taxpayer funded lucrative job or stream of revenue as a result. But its our country and our money and our future at stake here so it is time for us over the next several posts to examine where They are taking us.

Who is Michael Barber for starters in pinpointing some of our “They”? Well right now he is the Pearson conglomerate’s Chief Education Advisor. At the time he pushed Cambridge in 2007 he was a consultant for McKinsey heading their global public policy practice. He was pushing his ideas on how the world’s best school systems keep getting better except it is tied to the OECD’s practices on education and PISA. Measuring selected and open-ended problem solving competencies as the international standard of education for all seems like a bad idea to me. But I think we were not supposed to read the actual reports or policy briefs. Or the fine print in footnotes. Sir Michael Barber as he seems to prefer being called in the US to bolster his statements is the person who hired Georgia’s State School Super, Kathy Cox, away suddenly after nominations had closed but before her primary back in 2010. That’s how he came onto my radar screen. He was an education advisor to British Prime Minister Tony Blair when the UK adopted education reform in the late 1990s that has functioned quite differently from its sales pitch.

Barber has been and is quite busy trying to push global policies to obtain the UN’s Millenium Development Goals and its Education for All (EFA) initiative by 2015. Yes we will unfortunately get to know those well. Here’s a link that lays out the UNESCO vision of a “basic quality education is an essential human right.” Barber is presiding over this 2011 meeting.   http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0019/001905/190537e.pdf

And no I am not a Scrooge. I just know that basic skills in literacy, numeracy, and then life skills is all EFA wants for any student. Anywhere. Plus the desired attitudes and values. That’s the real common core and it is an international attempt to limit what American students can know or do. It is far less about bringing barefoot children in the plains of Africa up or girls in the Middle East than it is about finally shifting American schools away from a focus on knowledge and academics. They do intend to make the world equal in wealth and income even if the attempt impoverishes most of us.

And Cambridge? Well inspecting for the pursuit of that EFA vision seems to be what it is ultimately looking for in its Quality Reviews. But it is also heavily involved with the UN push for a life skills focus for education. You know how I have mentioned vocational and life roles and career pathways as a key component of Transformational OBE? And how other countries are pushing skills development and Qualifications Frameworks as a means of interconnecting education and work in a way that means little new job growth? Like using BBC and government agencies adoption as Proof It Works? Well here is Cambridge Ed from last week heading up the project to bring this vision to India.  http://pib.nic.in/newsite/PrintRelease.aspx  is the news release. There is Cambridge Education in the 5th paragraph leading the consortium of EU government agencies.

Because none of those countries would have any interest in trying to make India’s dynamic economy less competitive and more stagnant like theirs. Countries NEVER engage in practices of spread our dysfunction. The last player that will make Cambridge’s practice of telling US school teachers and schools and districts they must move away from teacher delivery of facts and content clearer and put it further in context is its parent company. It is owned by a huge British consulting group, Mott MacDonald, that gets its large revenue stream representing various governments around the world and UN agencies and the OECD and the World Bank.  Moving to get those Millenium Development Goals in place in time. Changing the nature of the world’s economies to Green Growth. Forgetting to tell the masses that behind the global green economy and Green Growth is No Growth for you or me.

We are supposed to just make up for our greatly diminished prosperity by cultivating better relationships with each other. Yes they really do say that sort of a thing. Explicitly.

I think it makes far more sense to get to the bottom of all this nonsense and pull it out by the roots. Now that we have a better sense of the players and why, next we will look into what they wish for education to make us Believe.



Gypsy Principals, Gypsy Supers, and Engrenage: 3 More Superb Things to Know

Education reform doesn’t have to be doom and gloom. Unfortunately, we will have to know what doesn’t work and why before we can get to what I call ed reform for growth. Changes in instructional policies and practices that can get us back to widespread literacy (hint we aren’t actually even trying to teach reading effectively) and create graduates who have knowledge and skills employers actually want to pay them for. Or who can create their own jobs because they have the spirit of genuine innovation and the deep expertise to fuel it. Maybe then we can look back on these dark days of the Common Core Deception and laughingly play a new game.

I’m calling it the “You knew you had a Gypsy Principal when [ Fill in the blank]. I’ll start. You know you have a Gypsy Principal when they announce at their first meeting with parents that they are there to be a Change Agent. And then in almost the same breath, they mention “while I am here.” In other words, they are just passing through to impose radical change in classroom practices and to gut the transmission of the cultural knowledge of the ages. No sticking around long term to deal with the real consequences of such mind arson. The willingness to impose such policies and practices on a school then becomes the resume empowering stepping stone to a bigger school or a central office job. More money. Bigger title. And once you become a vision enforcer at these central offices committed to change, layoffs due to budget shortfalls are for the classroom teachers. You have successfully joined the protected class of visionary, enforcing, overcompensated for what you know and do, bureaucrats.

There is a slight variation of this game we can see in school districts all over the US. ” You know you have a Gypsy Super when [ . . .]” For the Gypsy Super version you look at the instructional practices and philosophy of the school district they are coming from. Then compare it with what was going on in the school district that just hired them. Usually based on a sales pitch to the school board where the candidate miraculously Knew Just the Right Things to Say to fit with the Board’s current concerns. The previous school district will always have a more radical version of outcomes-based education (OBE) than the new school district. The old district thus provides the operational game plan for what is about to happen to the schools, teachers, and taxpayers.

Like it or not. Consensual or not. Unappreciated, ambiguous, misunderstood terms like “effective schools” or “continuous improvement” abound. Not known to the school board. But a required understanding and commitment to act for anyone with an advanced education degree. Especially an Educational Leadership doctorate. Created specifically to be in a position to enact the John Dewey/Professor Bode political vision for education.

So here are some specific examples of the Gypsy Super phenomenon. Please feel free to leave comments or send me a covert email if you have a district or super you think also qualifies. These are just examples I currently have my eye on where I have read the plans in the home districts and new districts. Fulton County, Georgia and Cobb County, Georgia (large school districts in the metro Atlanta area) hire new supers from Charlotte-Mecklenberg and Dallas, Texas. Looking at those districts we can see the practices and policies that made up Transitional OBE in the old William Spady/Spence Rogers template from the 90s. New names. Broken Up but still same function and overall outcomes.

So what happens then in Charlotte and Dallas? Well, miraculously enough, if we look at Washoe County, Nevada (Reno) we find a plan where Charlotte’s new Super laid out the vision, mission, Core Beliefs, and Theory of Action. All together it looks strikingly like the Transformational form of OBE from the 90s. Likewise, when we read the new Dallas Super’s Destination 2020 Plan from May 10, 2012 we find much of the same plans we just saw in Washoe. And the announcement this is to be transformational. And the reliance on principals to be the adopters and enforcers of these reforms on classroom teachers. In fact the Dallas plan says principals only have ONE YEAR to prove they can move teachers to a student centered approach. And the super came from Colorado Springs which had a more radical version of OBE than Dallas already in place.

Colorado school districts always do. It was where the various forms of OBE were piloted in the 80s and 90s. It has the ed lab, McREL, which hatches and renames many of the OBE core principles. Especially when notoriety strikes. It also has something called the Colorado Partnership for Educational Renewal that also drives radical views for politicizing the purpose of education.

And engrenage? I borrowed that new to me but most excellent term from a British think tank worried about the piecemeal steps that together shut down economic growth in the name of maybe, possibly, influencing the environment. Radical ed reform in the US is based on changing the nature of our economy so I have to keep my eye on Green Growth as well. Lucky me. They define engrenage as gearing. It is the process by which a body, local, state, national, or international, racks up laws or policies or regulations that appear separate and stand alone and harmless on their own. They actually fit though perfectly with other measures also being adopted. You end up with something you would never have gone along with if you could have seen the whole picture.

The whole picture I operate from since I have the guidebook. Transformational OBE presented itself under its own name in the 90s. The popular outcry prevented the adoption in the US although it did get adopted in other countries then. It’s back under new names and pieces, engrenage style. Being pushed and adopted by Gypsy Supers and their cooperating Gypsy Principals.

If the System Seeks to Destroy the Ability to Think, Can James Madison Save Us?

When I was writing the book, it was my firm hope that the real story would get out just as implementation was beginning to occur. The most aggressive states and districts would have to deal with the Truth of education reform once and for all. We would finally have scrutiny of the political and social theories it was designed to quietly enact. And my own children would be safely tucked away in schools in a district I believed was firmly committed to content first. That was not to be.

Unfortunately for me an unexpected district super retirement and a sudden principal departure meant that I was suddenly dealing personally with the radical ed reform I had been researching and describing. Up close and personal. I guess in the end we should all be grateful. I honestly do not think I would have fully appreciated how crucial Accreditation had become to fully implementing the current version had I not been pondering why a new Super would feel privileged to be openly rude. Or why a new principal would loudly proclaim that he was “here to be a Change Agent” at a well-regarded high school and that everyone would just need to adjust.

I had never heard of Cambridge Education until I heard that the new District Super had hired them to do “School Quality Reviews” just like they had done for each of the schools in the Charlotte-Mecklenberg district. I already knew “Quality” was a term insiders used to obscure real changes away from academic content and instruction. Then a middle school principal described the Cambridge recommendations. I heard the kind of insistence on student centered work that had previously caused the district to reject participating in the federal Race to the Top competition for grant money. I came home looking for a connection between Cambridge and UNESCO. What I had heard reminded me of the Education For All basic skills movement. That now established link will be what we discuss in the next post.

So I already knew quite a lot about Cambridge when the new high school principal proudly proclaimed in a meeting with parents that he was “a constructivist”. Thereby immersing himself thoroughly (but unknowingly I hope) in practices and beliefs that actually track back to the Soviets and how they used education to try to control their own citizens. I gulped. He then excitedly went on to announce that the high school’s Quality Review report was back. He said he had told the faculty there was too much emphasis on teachers teaching and students listening and learning. I know. What a shockingly inappropriate thing for teachers to be doing. I smelled a SCAM report designed to change the emphasis of the school away from the transmission of knowledge. I had an advantage. I knew that “learning” was yet another redefined term. It actually now means changing a student’s beliefs, values, feelings, or behaviors. And bringing in a 3rd party to proclaim that facts were no longer to be the primary staple of the classroom and to bemoan the school’s “climate in which academic achievement is valued above all else” was very useful to me.

It was time to do some more digging. We had definitely crashed through the barrier of deference to education officials “Trying to decide how to best teach the kids.” It turned out that Cambridge’s work in the US dated back to 2007 when Michael Barber recommended them to New York City officials.  A little searching took me back to frustrated NYC teachers in 2008 being told by Cambridge in Quality Reviews that they were no longer to be focused on teaching the material to the students. Next to Charlotte where their Quality Review reports showed the same pattern. Cambridge comes in to shift the classroom practices. That meant that the new Fulton Super who had come from Charlotte hired Cambridge  precisely for that purpose. Reviewing the actual Quality Review report with factual knowledge of the school plus the glossary in my head of what these terms actually mean and what these practices actually are designed to promote and the conclusion is unmistakeable. It is a planted report designed to radically transform school and classroom practices while allowing a 3rd party “professional” evaluation to take the blame.

The crash through the barrier moment goes back to the reason for making the student the focus of the classroom. It is not a better way to learn knowledge and skills. It is unquestionably the fulfillment of John Dewey’s announced dream to use the school to change the student. And the reason he wanted to change the student and keep facts to a minimum was he wanted to use schools and education to transform the US socially, politically, and economically. A shift away from the traditional autonomy of the individual to a collectivist focus. The 8 Year Study and Professor Bode’s quote from an earlier post were pushing Dewey’s vision.

I am afraid I have terrible news for the school principals quite certain they now get to be My Liege Lord Principal to whom Resistance is Futile. Or district Supers presuming to be Your Grace Lord Super to whom all students and taxpayers and teachers must swear an oath of Fealty and Loyalty. Or the Omnipotent Accreditors assuming that all school boards must act as commanded or sanctions will be decreed. In your obnoxious behavior and loud declarations of what you were targeting and restricting and why, you have walked straight into the restrictions and embracing power of the US Constitution. Which actually trumps charter agreements and state statutes and AdvancED edicts.

When the Constitution was written, property was not just something you could touch or hold, like real estate or your horse. To quote the actual architect, James Madison, a man also has “a property in his opinions and the free communication of them.”  He has “equal property in the free use of his faculties and free choice of the objects on which to employ them.” In other words, what John Dewey was targeting and what Cambridge is attacking and what these principals and supers and accreditors seek to monitor and change is constitutionally protected Property. Sacrosanct. Not to be touched without justification. So precious in fact are personal beliefs in the US system that we tolerate pornography and flag burning.

I know it is a shock that as government employees and licensees there are in fact limits on what can be done under the banner of education. Education professors and their graduates actually do not have the unfettered ability to decide what kind of country America will be in the 21st Century. And then to use our money to finance the transformation.

The next post will describe in more detail just what that radical change was to look like. And how I know.


Who Is Really Standing in the School House Doorway?

My previous post on why the Transcontinental Railroad made a fact free lousy comparison to try to support the so-called Common Core national standards should be sufficient to alert the need to Send Better Metaphors and Get the relevant Facts Straight. But today’s justifying combo of insulting the critic and then throwing in one of the most tragic episodes in American history should really tell us something else beyond consistent high levels of content in every state is really going on here. Last week the Center for American Progress published this story with a rather incendiary title “Critical Education Standards Opposed by Conservative Group: Opposing the ‘Common Core’ Steals an Ugly Page from Our History”. Here’s a link if you want to confirm how well my summaries and quotes are to this smear campaign : http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2012/05/alec_common_core.html .

Now before I go any further in this tale of scorn I want to point out I had never heard of the group being attacked ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, until recently. No one is so much as buying me a cup of coffee, or my favorite tea, for writing this post. In our tale though of the Common Core Deception, such an angry, inaccurate appeal to emotion merits a scrutiny of the actual facts. I grew up in the South.  Legal segregation came before my childhood and always seemed silly to me as a naive child. In fact I loved the story of the college professor’s wife who had seen the signs stating “Colored” and “Whites” in the town’s laundromat upon moving to North Carolina in the 1950s. As the story goes, she separated her prints and colored clothes out and used both washers. That’s the kind of spunk I admired as a child. Let’s be very careful then of throwing out the accusation that someone’s opposition to Common Core is like George Wallace blocking the entrance to University of Alabama buildings to black students trying to attend there. That was Evil with a capital “E”. Opposing Common Core in ALEC’s case seems to come from a belief it is inconsistent with the US federal system. In my case, opposition comes from my ability to read the English language and appreciate the consequences of the words chosen. Neither is personal or ideological. Discussion should be rational and fact-filled, not emotional.

The phrase “what most clear-thinking folks see as a key to America’s future success in a highly competitive economy” is a clear tip-off as to what we are dealing with. Are you not clear-thinking? In case you haven’t yet noticed I am logical to a fault so that dig merely provoked an “Oh. Good. Grief.” After all my postings on how the facts surrounding Common Core’s desired implementation do not fit with the “innovation” rationale, you can see insult coupled with inapt slogan just did not work for me. I will leave ALEC to defend itself against the “hyperaggressive and hyperregressive” charge. They are in the best position to know what they do and do not promote. And what it stands for. What I do not appreciate is the repeated references to “meaningful school reform” and especially the repeated references to blocking “high-quality education” for all America’s public school students. And “low- income students in particular”.

It is my position that the schoolhouse door is being blocked by the effort to use terms that have an unadvertised special meaning, like “high-quality education”, without announcing those unappreciated use of the terms. I am going to talk about “quality” in general this week. For now it is a more holistic approach than the historic transmission of knowledge. It wants to get at values, beliefs, attitudes, and feelings. Sound familiar? Likewise there is an organized attempt to make noncognitive skills the primary focus of the Common Core classroom implementation. Is anyone being forthright about that decisive change in emphasis? Even when it is mentioned the gentler sounding new name-“soft skills” is substituted. Insider teaching professional groups have complained about the “fetish about print and reading each word precisely” among themselves at conventions. They have enacted and mandated reading practices accordingly. When the inevitable student reading problems develop because accurate, phonetic reading was expressly Not The Point, the response is insufficient funding for literacy coaches. Oh, and the need for school-based clinics to eliminate the likely cause of the reading difficulty-insufficient access to healthcare.

I mentioned in a previous post that ed insiders refer to Common Core as “second-order change” among themselves. What exactly does that mean? According to a Fall 2007 newsletter from one of the ed labs, McREL near Denver, second-order change is policy change that is (those are my responses in parentheses):

–A break with the past (history is boring anyway. Not like there are any relevant lessons to be learned from it)

–Outside of existing paradigms (in other words, an entirely untried and theoretical way of doing things. Just what we want to pilot at the cost of billions on a national basis)

Conflicted with prevailing values and norms (because who in our society is better equipped to decide on new values and norms instead of the tried and true ones that generated unprecedented levels of mass prosperity than someone with a series of education degrees. The entire course of study is often tragically free of accurate, provable facts these days. There is thus simply nothing in the way of a decisive political theory hoping for a better result this time)

–Requiring new knowledge and skills (that certainly explains all those new expenses for professional development. Plus the insistence that only the properly certified may teach)

You can now see why throwing out an inflammatory accusation about George Wallace was preferable to scrutinizing the real facts about Common Core opposition.



Is Common Core a Coordinated Effort to Mislead?

Some of my readers have started sending me articles and news stories asking me to respond. In this post and the next one, that is precisely what I am going to do. If you see something that appears to push a story about Common Core or any other issue in education that indicates to you somebody is spreading inaccurate information, send it on. We will talk about it.

In case you skipped some of my postings that are more focused on economics than education specifically, I am greatly concerned that the education policies and practices that have been adopted in the US (and globally for that matter) cost more overall than what is being produced of value. The emphasis we are just starting to chart where the school’s focus is to be more on desired values, attitudes, and amenable personality traits simply makes what is being spent potentially more destructive. Neither Professor Bode or his colleagues seemed to have any idea or appreciation for what personal characteristics drive prosperity or foster individual independence. And that is putting it kindly.

Long term education spending that does not add and preserve knowledge and skills and that actually seeks to undermine the values and beliefs and spirit that drove current levels of prosperity is a guaranteed prescription for social disaster. It will cause (or already has)  either economic stagnation, which is bad, or actual declines in average living standards. Even worse. I want to have the discussion of where these education policies and practices are actually taking us now. Before the momentum and amounts spent and decrease in actual relevant knowledge and marketable skills gets any worse. The typical policy maker has not spent anytime contemplating what creates genuine widespread wealth and prosperity in a society. Or what destroys it. Me? Thinking that way is reflexive so here we go.

http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/magazine/mayjune_2012/special_report/transcontinental_education037193.php?page=all&print=true is a link to a recent story in a DC magazine pushing what I call the Common Core national standards. Interestingly enough the author, Robert Rothman, refers to standards with a small “s” and common core with two lower case “c’s”. Every reference in the article to standards works just as well if you substitute outcomes or objectives or even learning goals in its place. Gone is any sense of a body of knowledge or content each child should have nestled firmly within their own mind.  No Mr Rothman describes a world where facts are supplied or gathered up after a prompt, not embedded within each person’s every day functioning available for their own spontaneous use. Or available for sale to a potential employer.

It has never made any sense to me how one can be expected “to think critically and solve complex problems” without a tremendous amount of accumulated cultural knowledge. Or at least deep personal targeted knowledge relevant to someone’s particular commercial problems. If no one would voluntarily part with their own money to pay you for what you actually know or can do, that should be an alarm bell going off. What education and schools and higher ed are creating in the common core Outcomes Based Education/ Competency world has no real value to either private employers or potential customers. Continuing to spend if that’s the case is both mind arson at the level of the student and cultural arson at the level of the dollars, time, and other resources being spent. Taking out less than was put in. All this rhetoric about common just means that the ship will be long past its sinking point by the time anyone realizes where the hole is and what caused it.

Anyone looking at my picture of the serf’s collar and the name of this blog can tell I love a great metaphor. I also have very little patience for poor ones. Images and comparisons that simply do not fit the actual facts. Those kind of metaphors by education industry insiders do create the impression of an intent to mislead. In this situation the metaphor was the creation of a standardized transcontinental railroad in the US. The article is called “Transcontinental Education”. This is the tagline from the intro:

Soon, nearly every state in the union will have the same demanding standards for what students should know. If history is any guide, a burst of innovation won’t be far behind.”

I am not going back through my previous posts on innovation or why the standards are not in fact demanding since they must be accessible to ALL students using a variety of methods. I have also written already about how little factual knowledge there is to Common Core. The so-called knowledge is either how to do the desired generic skills like communicate or problem solve or be part of a team. Other knowledge is presupplied politically useful issues or topics or concepts. Past basic skills most of the real Common Core emphasis is once again on personal attributes of each student and not just looking for deficits. It’s more of a “this is the desired characteristics we want in each future voter and employee and citizen.” It is the approach a lord would have taken to his serfs or a king to his subjects. It is simply not the approach one takes in dealing with free independent human beings who will eventually need to make their own way and pay their own expenses as adults. Who may be capable of creating the Next Great Idea that benefits us all.

In the lower case world of “standards” and “common core”  where would the locomotives come from? What would propel them? Where would the ingenuity that created refrigeration cars and pressurized storage cars come from? Who will create ever swifter, more fuel efficient, engines in that world of uniform skills, values, knowledge, and attitudes?

Innovation is more than a marketing slogan or a PR campaign.




Is Common Core a Catalyst to Dramatically Alter System?

I know it is frustrating to live and work in a state where what used to be good schools have ceased to function well because of previous reforms or controversial math programs and variations of Whole Language reading and writing programs. Or urban schools that never seem to improve no matter how much money is made available. You hear about Common Core and you want to believe there is a way out. Because we all know education matters. Especially K-12. And then along comes someone annoyingly pesky like me who keeps insisting “No, Common Core will make things worse. The implementation materials and policies and mandated practices are quite clear.” If I am going to be so contrary and burst that bubble of hope, the least I can do is start explaining why.

Today’s title was taken from  a recent professional devt webinar on Common Core. It explained that Common Core would require a rejection of existing knowledge and skill sets. Common Core would be “second-order change” requiring “new paradigms for how you think and practice.” Now that seems quite a bit more radical than just getting everyone to common levels of knowledge and skills in the various states but then I have had the playbook for a while.

To really understand Common Core, we must appreciate why Outcomes-Based Education, OBE, always emphasizes physical activity like a performance instead of mental activity, and always insists that attitudes, values, and emotions MUST be targeted by the school. To gain that essential understanding we need to return to the 1930s again. This time we are going to listen to Boyd H Bode, the professor who recruited Ralph Tyler to come up with an alternative measure of the results of the 8 Year Study. Because colleges and universities wanting to measure actual knowledge was threatening the whole project.

Everyone I have ever tracked from the 8 Year Project was firmly committed to the idea of using education to change American society, its political structure, and its economy. I will be as gentle as possible when I say in 2012 that it may not have been obvious in the 1930s that a centrally planned, collectivist economy would produce horrific results for the average person. But we certainly know that now. Nevertheless, the architects of the policies and practices we now call OBE had substantial social plans and said so. Repeatedly. They understood that the students brought attitudes and beliefs from home that were usually inconsistent with their hoped for social, political, and economic vision and restructuring. They wanted to use school and the classroom experience to first break down and then build anew the “attitudes and appreciations which are appropriate” to their social theories. And they knew and described that the desired real changes would require involving a student’s “emotion and conduct if they are to be significant.”

Boyd referred to the beliefs, influences, and standards of value that surround students in their out-of-school life as an “enemy” to be “combatted”. He also though understood the need for stealth and discretion about such transformational goals. As he said:

“If the schools should start on a crusade for social reform, the irate citizen and parent would have reason for inquiring by what right the schoolmasters of this nation consider themselves commissioned to take the affairs of the whole country into their own hands.”

Irate we are and I suspect the anger is only starting to build. Right now most people are either unaware of an earth-shaking transformational paradigm shift in education or they still believe the PR push. But as Georgia Mom showed us yesterday in a comment to the previous post on standards=outcomes, the real implementation parents and teachers are seeing does not match the political sales campaign. And this difference between reality and the Common Core promotional sound bytes will only build with time. Plus the real rationale for such a paradigm shift isn’t hard to find. Professor Bode laid it all out. Reject the past. Create new values, patterns, attitudes, and beliefs. Reconstruct the student’s habits and then make sure the student is “governed by his habits and not by his intelligence.”

Use the school and classroom to construct an invisible serf’s collar would be an apt way to describe such aspirations. A collective serfs collar for the country and its economy. Published again in the 21st Century by a network of colleges of education determined to turn out graduates committed to fulfilling Bode’s vision. Which really does create a predicament. What do we as a society do when the credentials of a principal or a school superintendent or other administrators living at our expense on taxes we all pay turn out to be based on an agreement to use the schools to finally obtain Bode’s vision?

Are we and our children and ultimately our country really just to be victims of anyone with an education degree and a willingness to push radical social and political theories? Does it get a free pass just as long as it is called a learning theory? Or a standard on accreditation?


If Standards=Outcomes=Objectives, What is the Real Common Core?

Have you ever thought about the fact the schools are the one social institution that almost everyone of our future voters and workers passes through? Usually for years at a time. Well you should for a minute because every person who aspires to major social or political or economic change has known it and relied on it. And said so repeatedly. And if the designers of what became a controversial policy or practice were open enough initially to tell us why, we should listen. Tomorrow we will focus on why. Today we will focus on the what. The fundamentals of the proposed changes to the schools and why we get name changes from decade to decade, but no real change in the purpose or function of the education establishment’s idea of reform.

To understand Common Core’s reality and not just the sound bytes of its sales/PR campaign, we have to go back to the 1930s and something called the 8 Year Study. OK– I heard that skeptical reader out there who is quite sure I must be stretching it to go for a damning comparison. I am using a copy of the report that was republished and updated by Maine educators in April 2000. Does that sound stale? It looks to me like it was getting ready for implementation under the last round of federal education reform-Goals 2000. You want more up to date? Something that ties directly to our current version of Common Core and how it is really going to be implemented? Would the Fall 2009 AERA Curriculum Studies Newsletter do? Still the template. Still relevant. Right now.

My favorite part is recognizing that what the 8 Year Study and our version of Common Core are actually rejecting is what we are being led to believe we are getting. Does this sound familiar?

“Until recent years learning in school has been thought of as an intellectual process of acquiring certain skills and of mastering prescribed subject matter. It has been assumed that physical and emotional reactions are not involved in the learning process, but if they are, they are not very important.”

So in the name of national consistent content standards out goes school as an intellectual process. Prescribed subject matter. Also known as Content and Knowledge. The best that has been thought and said by the best minds over the centuries. The cultural foundation of the world we have and the worlds that ended tragically. All gone. But we at least get a newfound emphasis on the physical and emotional. That’s convenient isn’t it? What a useful way to make learning accessible to all. Except learning has a new meaning. It now means changing beliefs, feelings, values, and behaviors. No they didn’t give us a Glossary of what these terms actually are now to mean. I guess that’s what I am here for.

And the new concept of learning from the 8 Year Study? Coming to a school and classroom near you soon via Common Core and NCLB state waivers and Race to the Top grants and the current avalanche of publicity over bullying and a few other methods we will be talking about this summer? Those are my snarks in parentheses.

“The newer concept of learning holds that a human being develops through doing those things (Projects! Tasks! Authentic Problem Solving!) which have meaning to him; (Relevant!; Real World!) that the doing involves the whole person in all aspects of his being; (Engaging!) and that growth takes place as each experience leads to greater understanding and more intelligent reaction to new situations.” (Rigor! Higher Order Thinking!)

Well that will certainly not be driving dynamic job growth in the 21st Century or genuine innovation which always requires deep knowledge of the type being soundly, if quietly, rejected. We keep getting name changes of goals and purposes to obscure the changed nature of school from the transmission of knowledge and skills to a place that stimulates the “whole being” so each student has “opportunities for the full exercise of his physical, intellectual (don’t get excited, they mean practical and everyday uses),emotional, and spiritual powers as he strives to achieve recognition and a place of usefulness and honor in adult society.”

Ralph Tyler came up with the obscuring term Objectives in the 1930s as well as “assessment” to try to hide just how very little graduates of such schools would actually know. Outcomes replaced it in the 80s and 90s. Parents and taxpayers of course wanted good outcomes and solid academic results. Nobody told them the entire nature of the education game and purpose had been transformed. All that money wasted because no one would tell the public what was really going on. The inevitably poor academic results, since that was no longer the actual purpose or goal in the schools and districts adopting this vision, created the need for a name change. Standards, high would be nice for a change, replaced outcomes with no change in actual goals or focus.

If you listen carefully to the advocates of Common Core you will hear them frequently use outcomes, objectives, and standards interchangeably. Sometimes skills and competencies as well. The things a student is to believe. How each student should feel. What each student should value. How each student is to behave as a matter of habit.

That’s the Common Core. And tomorrow I will tell you why using the designers actual quotes. From a 21st Century source.



And Governments Must Facilitate Everything

That quote from someone who has headed more than one major research university was always going to be the topic of today’s post. After all, as you will see in a minute, it goes to the heart of where education thinks we are really headed. Politically. As a society. Our future financial expectations. And why I am standing up and shouting “but there is no widespread prosperity in that future. If we all follow or are shoved along that chosen path.” But real life machinations pop into my sight these days almost daily. The one this morning was a doozy. It wasn’t news to me. It’s consistent with where we are going in our post-book story during this summer of Common Core implementation. It was a reminder though of why I felt I had to step out and start talking about where education officials are actually taking us. And why I thought I had to describe related economic, social, and political terms and consequences that must have had some of you nominating me for a Major Nerd award.

There is an international conference coming up in late June in Rio de Janeiro that none of us are invited to and all of us are paying for. We will be talking about it later because much of what is really going on in education, K-12 and higher ed, relates to Future Plans the Bureaucrats have for us. So I read the reports and related videos that feed that different set of facts that makes me analyze things differently from the official talking points. Last week, a Norwegian, Jorgen Sanders, was challenged on why he called his report on what the world was going to be like in 2052 a forecast. Surely he must acknowledge there was great uncertainty and his report was only a possible scenario. His answer was that he could be so arrogant (his words) and definite  because there were processes in place now to keep these decisions on a political path. His desired political path.

What’s really going on in education is part of that stealth political path he thinks he has finally got covered. Which is why we are talking about it now and why the following public declaration by a veteran university administrator was so telling. I call these my tape recorder disclosures because someone is revealing unconsciously what was said and believed in executive industry meetings that neither you or I would ever be invited to. Probably in yet another lovely location it would be enchanting to visit sometime.

The meeting (about a year ago) was on how to make the US competitive and the given answer was that it would require a partnership of the federal government, Business, and research universities. Now you can see why I wanted to talk about what has happened historically in the mercantilist economy where government ensures special privileges for its chosen ones. There’s no widespread prosperity there. That’s also a dirigiste economy where none of those officials are likely to be in a position to have the information required to drive genuine innovation. I do believe he honestly thought universities could be models of future innovation. Which is a tell that he and probably many of his other higher ed leadership colleagues see innovation as politically directed change, not a better good or service or idea desired by consumers. The kind of innovation that creates wealth and benefits everyone.

So here’s what is apparently a classic higher ed leadership vision of our economic future in the US. I may be paraphrasing slightly. My hands were flying when I realized what I was hearing but this is close to an exact quote.– Government has to facilitate flow. But it cannot do everything needed so the business community has to help too. We also need regional cooperation. But government and big companies can’t hire everyone who needs employment. Some hiring has to come from entrepreneurial activity.

That vision is such a backwards, false understanding of what would allow for a prosperous future it is hard to know where to start. Except we already have in earlier posts and we will keep developing ways to describe and reject this apparently widespread error. There are two points that must be made now though. First, that’s the vision that most higher ed and K-12 administrators seem to have. It is an essential component of where they plan to take our students and how they intend to spend our tax dollars and the remainder of their revenue. Secondly, that kind of misguided view of a possible economic future could only come from someone whose working life has consisted of others paying his or her way merely for showing up, having certain credentials, and being willing to push someone else’s desired policies. People who get to live off of OPM, Other People’s Money, seem to be blissfully blind to what it took to create that money. It’s not a unique vision at all unfortunately.

And they are in positions as presidents and chancellors and deans and superintendents and principals to push education policies and practices that are going to make it that much harder in the future for anyone to have the knowledge and skills to produce that next dollar for someone to confiscate as OPM. Static or declining economies just don’t produce the desired levels of OPM. All medieval serfs found that out the hard way when virtually all their crops were taken. With winter coming.

We 21st Century serfs in that dirigiste education vision for the future would like to avoid that future pathway where we become both the victims and financiers. Of Those with Political Power. In an economy where political power determines individual choices.






If the Leaders of Higher Ed Think They are a Cartel, How Can it ever Drive Innovation?

I don’t think any of us who lived through OPEC suddenly raising its prices for oil in the 1970s needs an explanation of how a cartel works. A Group controls a greatly desired or necessary product and gets to set the terms of purchase. Anyone younger has watched enough movies featuring references to drug cartels to immediately catch my point. The expectation that to get a Good Job you must have a college degree or a certificate on competency in an area gives higher ed cartel powers. The Qualifications Frameworks recently put in place in Europe, UK, South Africa, and Australia for starters formalize that relationship between education and the workplace. No big deal for a large company, these frameworks create another layer of expenses for smaller companies. Creating a classic barrier to Starting Up and then Growing for smaller businesses which is the last thing the US or any of the countries I mentioned should want to be doing. Discouraging economic growth and job growth by people following a good idea and providing desired services or products. Just because they are not yet big enough to have lobbyists in state capitols and DC.

The first time I heard a state university system head insisting that colleges and universities were to be The core drivers of innovation in the 21st Century, I was surprised. I wondered where he heard such a silly idea that contradicted common sense. It also did not fit with the sorry math curricula I knew the colleges of education were accepting federal grants to then push on state or local school district students all over the country. I had been worrying for several years about the likely impact of poor math and science instruction of the particularly able students when they got to college. It just seemed likely that the well-functioning higher ed programs themselves would have to change to reflect the created ignorance coming out of K-12. My reference to mind arson is not just an attempt to grab attention with a catchy phrase. If someone set an orchard of fruit trees ablaze or a forest of centuries old oaks was on fire, we could see and smell what we were losing. When bad policies and practices are foisted on any part of our K-12 system, the future productive capacities and abilities lost harm our economic and social well-being and prosperity just as much. It’s just harder to see and easier to deny.

When I decide I am hearing a bogus explanation for what I know to be a bad policy or practice, I go looking for proper refutation. And boy did I find it-Matt Ridley’s The Rational Optimist. The entire book is about what drives innovation and what diminishes it. Bureaucratic institutions of any kind-government or Big Business are a death blow to innovation. They simply aren’t in a position to know what is needed or to react quickly. Matt has also developed the best definition of the kind of genuine innovation that drives wealth creation and job growth. Innovation is “ideas having sex”. Since my mother will likely be horrified I even raised that particular metaphor in a public forum and Matt states his own ideas so ably, here’s a link to a video where he does just that http://hayekcenter.org/?p=5284

The key to the relationship between higher ed and innovation then is to protect the productive departments and institutions from the anti-productive elements of higher ed world. I would list the colleges of education and any Directors of Sustainability or Diversity in the list of potential predators of real economic value scholarship. No I am not maligning teachers but I have tracked the history of pedagogy and I know exactly what is driving the typical school of education. Like reading the minutes of a January 2009 national presentation in Washington DC that recommended telling higher ed presidents they would be evaluated based on their ability to bring in outside grants. Then it went on to recommend telling them how education grants to push particular K-12 curricula and instructional practices are the easiest to obtain. That is a prescription for turning all of higher ed into a very expensive paper credentialling, wealth and knowledge destroying factory. And using the monopoly over what can happen in K-12 as an additional source of funds.

Likewise the requirement that successful Race to the Top (the $4.2 billion program created by the Stimulus Act of 2009) state applicants for K-12 federal funding needed to obtain written commitments from their state higher ed systems. They agreed to accept Common Core adoption as proof that high school graduates must know and be able to do what is needed to enroll in credit bearing classes from the beginning. No more remediation. That may increase the graduation rate but it will do nothing but increase the pressure to dumb down all coursework. And as I have pointed out from the moment I first read those higher ed agreements, if Common Core was what it has claimed to be-higher national content for all, there would be no need to get that type of blind commitment in advance.

Now we recognize that the PR campaign to make higher ed the primary source of economic innovation is inconsistent with our known facts. And we have started to see how the push to view Kindergarten through college as a continuous System (ed insiders abbreviate this idea as P-16 or P-20 if they want post-grad as well) threatens the most productive people, departments, and institutions. Next we will talk about one of the biggest problems. What higher ed intends to sell and what taxpayers, parents, and students think they are buying are not the same. Not even close.