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?