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.