Thursday, May 3, 2012

Common Core Stepford Wives


I read an article today that made me comment.  I mean, I read stuff all the time about education 'reform' that makes me WANT to comment, but I persuade myself to avoid the futility - who cares about the comments section, really...anyone?  If it's not snarky?

Today, I saw a number of articles in the Education GadFly  (which shows up in my inbox, since I have an email subscription) that caught my eye.  It was called, "Early reports from the heartland show support for the Common Core".  Now, believe it or not, ROPE members do attempt to read articles in support of the Core, in case there's some solid evidence out there chronicling their worth, but also to see what new yarns are being spun about these fabulous standards so we can go about systematically debunking them.

These were the first two paragraphs of the article:
When I read reports like that of my colleague Kathleen Porter-Magee’s “Is there anything ‘common’ left in Common Core” I’m reminded why I like spending time with real educators and teachers in Ohio. Kathleen’s post provides a brutally concise and accurate summary of the political fights now swirling around the Common Core academic standards. She offers a glimpse into what rabid critics on both the far Right and Left are saying about the effort. The various ravings are epitomized by Susan Ohanian (whoever that is) claim that “the reality is that if people who care about public education don't find a way to fight [the Common Core standards], public schools are dead—and so is democracy.”)

But, in the heartland the conversations are very different and far more practical. Out here the issues aren’t political. Rather the talk focuses on how can educators most effectively implement the Common Core standards to improve instruction for students.
My family lives in Ohio.  I live in Oklahoma.  Though I (and my kids) love Ohio, Ohio is NOT the heartland, nor will it EVER be the heartland - maybe especially because it's IN THE EASTERN PART OF THE COUNTRY - but also not from the perspective of a born and bred Okie.  I could go into a veritable essay on why Ohio isn't the "heartland", but I would digress, so let us push forward.

Here are the first two paragraphs of what 'is working' according to author Terry Ryan.
  • Educators see the “big picture,” the “global” problems that the Common Core aims to address, i.e. U.S. students’ lackluster performance among their international competitors and the large number of high-school  graduates who are not prepared for college or a career.
  • A common language around the Common Core is being widely used. To a person, the educators spoke of ‘rigor and relevance,” “formative assessments,” “short cycle assessments,” “formative instructional practices,” “professional learning communities,” “curriculum-based assessments,” “curriculum alignment,” “curriculum maps,” “project-based learning,” “portfolio-based assessments,” “higher level thinking,” “performance-based testing” and “critical thinking skills.
Isn't this crazy, but I'm out on the first one!?  As one of those "conspiracy-fixated groups and individuals in our society" I take exception to the fact that US education needs to be solving GLOBAL problems and comparing Singapore students to American students.  Then there's the fact that we in no way believe the sole task of our public schools is preparing kids for college!  Kids should be given a well rounded education and allowed to determine what they will do and where they will go after school - absent of pressure to attend an over-rated, expensive, indoctrination facility full of highly touted, tenured teachers with bloated salaries, giving out degrees like "Women's Studies" that can't possibly allow a young person to get a job outside that of 'barista'.

The second bullet point is what gave me the fit that caused me to write the following comment to the article:

Hmmmm....as one of the apparent evil naysayers that are attempting to upend Kathleen Porter-Magee’s 'precious' Common Core State Standards (I think there was a 'precious' in the Hobbitt, wasn't there?) by addressing specific concerns regarding the Federal intervention in education and the lack of local control that comes with it (for example; if my child is not responding to the English standards being used - if she's not responding to more 'technical' texts and would like more 'pleasure' reading, what do I do? Call Ghostbusters?), I would just like to maybe make a point by using...the Stepford Wives - since I'm on movie analogies here anyway.

Yes, I said the Stepford Wives.  Does no one remember the very interesting near end of the movie when Joanna stabs her friend Bobbie because she thinks she's become one of 'them' and Bobbie doesn't bleed or scream but merely starts calmly saying, "But Joanna, I want to be your friend, I want to be your friend" over and over?

I do, and I guess it's not terribly hard for me to see Bobbie calmly (albeit robotically) saying the words and phrases, "‘rigor and relevance,” “formative assessments,” “short cycle assessments,” “formative instructional practices,” “professional learning communities,” “curriculum-based assessments,” “curriculum alignment,” “curriculum maps,” “project-based learning,” “portfolio-based assessments,” “higher level thinking,” “performance-based testing” and “critical thinking skills.”, over and over and over again.  (By the way, most ALL of this Core-Speak, has to do with Constructivism - the theory prescribed by John Dewey - the Father of Progressive Education - the stuff that hasn't worked since it was put into widespread use in the 1960's - which is another reason we disagree!)

I know as a parent and education watchdog, I've heard ALL these words - in various iterations - and each and every time I hear them, I hear Bobbie saying them, over and over and over, like a broken record.

I guess this simpleton, backward Bible belt midwesterner from the ACTUAL heartland, would rather remain just that, than a soulless robot repeating nonsense from a program I was given by someone else in order to get money to Guinea Pig yet another untested, unproven, education 'reform' program on the backs of the KIDS which is really all this is about anyway - isn't it? 
Now that I've re-read it, I think I would add one more thing.  We are NOT a Communist country.  We don't train workers - we train children (up in the way they should go and not depart from it).  A one size fits all set of standards is meant for children to be trained up in the way of the worker - for a job.  We don't believe that stuff here in America, where everyone has a chance - so long as they take it - and everyone succeeds or fails on their own merit.  Heaven help us that so many today either don't know this to be true according to American history, or simply choose to forget it because it's easier to have the government raise your children for you.