Who Is Really Standing in the School House Doorway?

My previous post on why the Transcontinental Railroad made a fact free lousy comparison to try to support the so-called Common Core national standards should be sufficient to alert the need to Send Better Metaphors and Get the relevant Facts Straight. But today’s justifying combo of insulting the critic and then throwing in one of the most tragic episodes in American history should really tell us something else beyond consistent high levels of content in every state is really going on here. Last week the Center for American Progress published this story with a rather incendiary title “Critical Education Standards Opposed by Conservative Group: Opposing the ‘Common Core’ Steals an Ugly Page from Our History”. Here’s a link if you want to confirm how well my summaries and quotes are to this smear campaign : http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2012/05/alec_common_core.html .

Now before I go any further in this tale of scorn I want to point out I had never heard of the group being attacked ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, until recently. No one is so much as buying me a cup of coffee, or my favorite tea, for writing this post. In our tale though of the Common Core Deception, such an angry, inaccurate appeal to emotion merits a scrutiny of the actual facts. I grew up in the South.  Legal segregation came before my childhood and always seemed silly to me as a naive child. In fact I loved the story of the college professor’s wife who had seen the signs stating “Colored” and “Whites” in the town’s laundromat upon moving to North Carolina in the 1950s. As the story goes, she separated her prints and colored clothes out and used both washers. That’s the kind of spunk I admired as a child. Let’s be very careful then of throwing out the accusation that someone’s opposition to Common Core is like George Wallace blocking the entrance to University of Alabama buildings to black students trying to attend there. That was Evil with a capital “E”. Opposing Common Core in ALEC’s case seems to come from a belief it is inconsistent with the US federal system. In my case, opposition comes from my ability to read the English language and appreciate the consequences of the words chosen. Neither is personal or ideological. Discussion should be rational and fact-filled, not emotional.

The phrase “what most clear-thinking folks see as a key to America’s future success in a highly competitive economy” is a clear tip-off as to what we are dealing with. Are you not clear-thinking? In case you haven’t yet noticed I am logical to a fault so that dig merely provoked an “Oh. Good. Grief.” After all my postings on how the facts surrounding Common Core’s desired implementation do not fit with the “innovation” rationale, you can see insult coupled with inapt slogan just did not work for me. I will leave ALEC to defend itself against the “hyperaggressive and hyperregressive” charge. They are in the best position to know what they do and do not promote. And what it stands for. What I do not appreciate is the repeated references to “meaningful school reform” and especially the repeated references to blocking “high-quality education” for all America’s public school students. And “low- income students in particular”.

It is my position that the schoolhouse door is being blocked by the effort to use terms that have an unadvertised special meaning, like “high-quality education”, without announcing those unappreciated use of the terms. I am going to talk about “quality” in general this week. For now it is a more holistic approach than the historic transmission of knowledge. It wants to get at values, beliefs, attitudes, and feelings. Sound familiar? Likewise there is an organized attempt to make noncognitive skills the primary focus of the Common Core classroom implementation. Is anyone being forthright about that decisive change in emphasis? Even when it is mentioned the gentler sounding new name-“soft skills” is substituted. Insider teaching professional groups have complained about the “fetish about print and reading each word precisely” among themselves at conventions. They have enacted and mandated reading practices accordingly. When the inevitable student reading problems develop because accurate, phonetic reading was expressly Not The Point, the response is insufficient funding for literacy coaches. Oh, and the need for school-based clinics to eliminate the likely cause of the reading difficulty-insufficient access to healthcare.

I mentioned in a previous post that ed insiders refer to Common Core as “second-order change” among themselves. What exactly does that mean? According to a Fall 2007 newsletter from one of the ed labs, McREL near Denver, second-order change is policy change that is (those are my responses in parentheses):

–A break with the past (history is boring anyway. Not like there are any relevant lessons to be learned from it)

–Outside of existing paradigms (in other words, an entirely untried and theoretical way of doing things. Just what we want to pilot at the cost of billions on a national basis)

Conflicted with prevailing values and norms (because who in our society is better equipped to decide on new values and norms instead of the tried and true ones that generated unprecedented levels of mass prosperity than someone with a series of education degrees. The entire course of study is often tragically free of accurate, provable facts these days. There is thus simply nothing in the way of a decisive political theory hoping for a better result this time)

–Requiring new knowledge and skills (that certainly explains all those new expenses for professional development. Plus the insistence that only the properly certified may teach)

You can now see why throwing out an inflammatory accusation about George Wallace was preferable to scrutinizing the real facts about Common Core opposition.



4 thoughts on “Who Is Really Standing in the School House Doorway?

  1. A lot of us are just so dam’ busy raising families and putting food on the table.
    I shake my head sadly at how much worse schools are than when I was a kid. Latest outrage here in CA: instead of teaching our kids math and science, they propagandize (down to elementary level) that “gay is good” via government sponsored and mandated Harvey Milk Day, May 22nd.
    Even if we get upset at the direction the schools are taking, at most people with means silently drop out and put their kids in private schools.

    Is there a place where concerned parents can gather to find like-minded souls?
    Either a movement with local chapters, or a website?

    • Unfortunately, I know of no such place, although I’m desperately searching for one. (I am in the S.F. Bay Area, too, so maybe we should start something.)

      It is not just parents, there are a ton of us teachers who are fed up with the system for the very reasons Robin describes. We are labeled “difficult” by administrators because we are not content to watch the system spiral downward at an alarming rate. Then we are hounded and bullied either into submission or out the door.

      Also, a word to the wise. Be very wary of private schools. There are a number of them who buy into this same nonsense. Not surprisingly, they tend to be the ones that are accredited.

      • Miss Friday is correct on the private schools.

        I recently came across the accreditors getting the Catholic private schools to agree to implement a very radical education vision. In California.

        The entire evaluation of teachers as to whether or not they are “effective” is simply a means of making sure the teachers are not closing the door and teaching facts and content. This is a basic skills for all plus manipulation of emotions, values, attitudes curriculum. Those are the desired outcomes. Change the child.

        A large urban district whose new plan I pulled and downloaded today was only giving principals ONE year to force their teachers to get in line with changing the nature of what went on in their classrooms.

        That’s a prescription for hysterics across the board-students, teachers, and paranoid or greedy principals.

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