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?


3 thoughts on “Is Common Core a Catalyst to Dramatically Alter System?

  1. I have been a fan of your comments on the Core Knowledge blog for several years now, and am excited to read your analysis of the slow-motion train wreck that is the CCSS and modern American education. However, I find your blog less than convincing, as you continually quote and paraphrase documents, but do not provide us links or references to them. Since the Internet can be used to prove any wacko theory under the sun, lack of citations severely undermines your arguments.

    Now I understand you are trying to build a paying audience for your upcoming book and would rather have folks like me pay for the cow rather than consume free milk. However, I am disinclined to purchase a volume which claims to be serious yet does not give me the tools to independently verify the argument it presents. We’ve never met, so unless I can do my own follow-up, I have to assume you are making it up (either in whole or part). Since I doubt this is the case, this skeptic would like to read at least some of what you are.

    • Hello Miss Friday.

      Nothing I am quoting or discussing is from the book. That represents several years of full time work. I am simply using some of what I understand to try to stop the forward momentum of some very bad ideas that would have terrible effects if we look to history as our guide. If you know me from Core Knowledge, you know me as Student of History.

      Your comments are fair as to citing my sources. You can find Boyd H. Bode’s essay which was called “Reorientation in Education”. It begins on page 92-100 of a 2001 volume edited by Stephen John Goodlad. It is called The Last Best Hope:A Democracy Reader . And I find the National Network for Education Renewal’s work to be relevant to what is really going on in American education.

      You are welcome to challenge me anytime. Yes I am going to be careful about giving away for free information that is valuable and cost me so dearly. My kids now tease me that they can tell which days “I have been inside my head all day”. None of this was just lying around waiting to be picked up. I didn’t start out doing this as a lawyer although those skills of logic and accurate info gathering have proved useful.

      When you are a lawyer and your knowledge has broad relevance and many of the people to be impacted are unaware of what is coming, a blog and a book are useful tools for communicating. The book was written in response to people telling me in person that “everyone needs to know what you just explained to me.”

      Welcome aboard for the discussion. My points and their underlying foundation are solid. Criticisms are perfectly fine with me. I am not fragile and cherish discussion.

      • Thank you! Details on the most accessible sources rather than full bibliography is just what I am looking for, like what Dan Willingham provides on his blog, .

        Also, my original comment came off the wrong way. I’m skeptical about everything (I consider myself part of the skeptical movement), not just what I read here.

        Looking forward to more penetrating analysis!

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