"Reading this is such a delightful way to spend my time because no one else will,
and that very fact, my friends, will confirm my stature as being smarter
than everyone else in the room."
Thought Leader Extraordinaire Humor
State Governors have convened again to bring in a system of Common Core Standards across the country so that all children will be taught exactly the same thing in English and Math from kindergarten through high school.
(And not, in my mind, coincidentally the major beverage companies have simultaneously announced a plan to remove sugary sodas from schools! The terrifying logic from the fizzy drink giants is that, as the national body of students, deprived of corn syrup, lapses into a countrywide coma brought on by conformist doses of Pythagorean theory and non- rhyming poetry those same Governors will plead with them to reenter the schools and supersize the portions doled out to induce a level of ADHD suitable to the new learning challenge.)
Feast your eyes on the draft of the Common Standards in English! Page after page of detailed specifications for what teachers must teach and students must learn. Reading this is such a delightful way to spend my time because no one else will, and that very fact, my friends, will confirm my stature as being smarter than everyone else in the room.
Oh my, I did forget that the College Board and all those test people will be all over this, licking their chops at the opportunity to test our little classroom buggers on all those little details, such as knowing Josquin Desprez, the Renaissance composer (from "What your Fifth Grader Needs To Know" from the Core Knowledge Foundation). Well, I suppose one has to deal with those people who are bereft of dual Ph.D.'s like me in Slavic Languages and Medieval Nuances of the Clergy. I am appalled that our tender little ones live in a culture where what we, the scholars of society, deem important to be learned, is actually challenged. After all, aren't we the ones with the cultivated language, the advanced degrees or, I must admit (since a few are actually colleagues), the power elite in education?
I suppose we must address how Common Standards affect teachers. Why should they mind that their days will be planned out by the minute? After all, there is now technology (that wretched nuisance destroying all semblance of intelligence), which can even monitor teachers' heartbeats and caloric intake, even while they teach, for heaven's sake! Glad to know there are some benefits of that intrusive invention called the Internet, created by a host of ADHD outliers and left-coast savants.
Worse yet, Edweek the other day, just had to open their prodigious kisser and spill some of the "issues" that others -- incapable of quoting obscure Prussian poets or policy-wonkdom code -- may notice, tarnishing the glow of everyone-knowing-the-same-thing-at-the-same-time:
They just had to mention those publishing companies - later in the piece - who actually make money from textbooks, ebooks, tests, and test prep, bringing in the possible agendas other than the wee-brains in the classrooms! We do not want the great unwashed masses of the public involved with these details, Edweek! (More divulging of background information here)."Participants in the invitation-only meeting at the NGA's Capitol Hill offices included professors, state commissioners of education, governors' education advisers, an elementary school math coach, representatives of education organizations, and state education departments officials."
Especially at my going rate for consulting in policy wonk-land - didn't you know it's running about $50,000 for a ten-day brain-dump (excuse the modern vernacular - on occasion, I slip). It is critical to keep the clueless even more so, and to have all believing common standards as the answer to our education woes (even though this all started so our lads and lassies didn't learn about volcanoes twice)!
Mississippi Students Love Arugula With Their Raspberry Vinaigrette?"
Then we have other people raining on my parade who have credentials in teaching at the K-12 level (can you imagine!). Heidi Hayes Jacobs, who may be clouding the College Board's sensibilities, challenged my life's singular-mindedness with her book, "Curriculum 21: Essential Education for a Changing World":
Valerie Strauss from The Washington Post had to do further damage by imagining real applications to our brilliant masterpiece, Common Standards. Who really cares how it all will work? I say, if you write it down and tell everyone what needs to be learned, it will happen, I tell you! Control makes the ones in control look smarter. Here's a glimpse of Strauss mucking around where she doesn't belong:"Myths That Shape Our Operational Visions of School:
Myth #1 - The good old days are still good enough.
Myth #2 - We're better off if we all think alike - and not too much.
Myth #3 - Too much creativity is dangerous - and the arts are frills."
Which brings me to the real reason people fear common standards. Forget all that is being said in the media and the hoo-ha mentioned above. It's really just a distraction...a smokescreen. Okay, I'll let you in on a secret - can you handle the truth? Here it is:"Once, schools gave youngsters a chance to learn how to read according to their own development. Now, a child who still can't read by the end of first grade is in deep trouble from which it can be hard to emerge.
With the proposed standards, what happens to these children in fourth grade when they are expected to explain major differences between poetry and prose, and to refer to such elements as stanza, verse, rhythm and meter when working or speaking about a poem?
What about eighth-graders who fell behind in fifth grade math and, try as they might, don't understand how to use linear equations to solve for an unknown and explain a proof of the Pythagorean Theorem on properties of a right triangle, as the proposed standard demands?"
What possible connection can there be with a child from the South or one from Alaska or Hawaii? Why should a Hawaiian student need to learn twenty seven formulations of snow, or the Alaskan need to deal with the precise spelling of pu-pu platter?
And only a North Carolinian needs to understand how many bales of tobacco leaf is needed for a carton of Marlboros. But this is only scratching the surface. First it will be just Math and English but before you know it every subject will be standardized.
Children in Connecticut will be expected to know how to catch, skin and cook gators in home economics classes, while their counterparts in Mississippi will be despairing over the ingredients for wilted arugula and frisee salad drizzled with a low fat raspberry balsamic dressing!
Now, that is tragedy!
Dr. D. Rigour
Thought Leader Extraordinaire
Originally published by The Daily Riff May 2010