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.