The need for innovation in new products and technology and useful practices is one of the primary parts of the sales campaign for adopting Common Core at the K-12 state and local levels. It is also the rationale for everyone needing to go to college. If the stated goal is in fact an impossible goal, we better be discussing it now. Before full implementation starts in a few months. I heard the innovation explanation Monday at Education Nation as the reason for why career pathways should now be an integrated component of ALL students high school coursework. Every time I hear Career Pathways I keep wondering why the US would want to adopt the Soviet polytech system for all its students. But a new name in education seems to usually be more than enough to avoid much scrutiny of an offered idea. Worthy sounding goals and creating the Common Belief that Everybody that Matters is for doing this is generally enough to set off another expensive stampede.
It is a reality of life that only a few people have the individual initiative, enterprise, and depth of expertise to create innovation. Innovation requires that the most able mentally or in eagerness to apply themselves be allowed to develop fully. Yet Common Core’s philosophy is that most of the learning is to be behavioral and changes to values and attitudes and emotional dispositions. That’s the focus when you get beyond the PR campaign and into the realities of what is coming to a classroom near you. There is very little knowledge in the traditional meaning of the term available under Common Core. What knowledge there is comes as pre-supplied concepts. Not the concepts an individual develops in the privacy of their own mind after considering the linkages among the relevant facts she knows on a given topic.
Common Core has a dominant skill emphasis. Why anyone reasonable would believe that a dynamic, prosperous economy would come from making the focus on an ability to communicate or to be part of a team or to Problem Solve is beyond me. The reality is that Common Core is designed to make genuine innovation very unlikely if not impossible. We as a society certainly will not benefit if innovation becomes unlikely. Who does?
When you go back to a list of Big Business actively pushing the earlier attempt to implement Outcomes Based Education and a skills emphasis and a vocational focus in the 1990s many of the names make you feel like you have entered a Time Machine. Either the formerly big names are gone or their industries are now in decline. “I haven’t heard that name in a while” immediately comes to mind. Many of the surviving names are multinationals who have openly or quietly embraced their connections to governments all over the world as customers, clients, and allies. As various governments seek to regulate more areas of society and dictate what is acceptable behavior, they apparently need a whole lot of consulting services and a great deal of computing power.
When the same companies who seek to be the vendors for dirigiste economies all over the world are the strongest advocates for education reform that makes it unlikely that anyone will invent or design superior technology in the future we have every right to be skeptical. These modern day Mercantilists actually benefit twice from their ed reform advocacy and funding. First by limiting the amount of knowledge the most able students can obtain from K-12 or, unfortunately, from a higher ed rapidly evolving towards a Competency-approach. And justifying it by reporting it is being used in various US federal agencies and the BBC. Not a winning argument there.
By insisting all must learn the same material and have comparable experiences we make what is accessible to our least able and interested students the ceiling for what our most able students can know or do. That does close gaps but it means we all end up in the gutter together. Widespread mental impoverishment in the name of equality and equity. We are officially refusing to let our smart or brilliant or just plain industrious students be the productive people we will need in the 21st Century.
The 2nd boon goes beyond disabling the Creative Destruction power that fuels free markets when individuals can exchange knowledge and ideas and have incentives to experiment. It is in fact that other favorite tactic of Mercantilist companies apart from shutting down innovation. “You must buy my product”. In this case, these computer companies behind the global 21st century thinking skills movement in education are simultaneously getting governments and accreditors at every level to insist that digital literacy and the use of technology has to be at the core of what goes on in schools and classrooms.
How lucrative. How vocational. How convenient.
What a boondoggle. See how a Mercantilist approach stifles innovation, benefits the politically connected, but impoverishes the rest of us picking up the bill as our children know less and less? But are to be emotionally manipulated more and more through the schools? Is this any way to approach the 21st Century if we really want to preserve and improve on widespread prosperity?