Thursday, January 2, 2014

Made in the USA? Why Common Core Standards Will Never Produce A Stronger America


Since 2010, the Chamber of Commerce, the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governor's Association (all private, dues-paid organizations - all who owe some debt of gratitude to the Bill Gates Foundation for helping them to fund their efforts to shove Common Core down the throats of American students and parents) have told us that America MUST have every student on the same educational page utilizing the Common Core State Standards in order to produce college and career ready Americans.  America must use Common Core in order to graduate students from high school.   America must have high school graduates become college graduates because American companies will be unable to fill job openings from a pool of any other than college and career ready graduates.  American students not college and/or career ready will lie impoverished in the street with neither a job nor career.

This idea of nationalized standards intertwined with college and career readiness has been proposed at many different times across American history really, but not so fully as when Bill Clinton became president and used friend Marc Tucker's (president of the National Center on Education and the Economy) seminal work, Tough Choices Or Tough Times, as the basis for his administration's education and economic policy.
First, a vision of the kind of national — not federal — human resources development system the nation could have. This is interwoven with a new approach to governing that should inform that vision. What is essential is that we create a seamless web of opportunities, to develop one's skills that literally extends from cradle to grave and is the same system for everyone — young and old, poor and rich, worker and full-time student. It needs to be a system driven by client needs (not agency regulations or the needs of the organization providing the services), guided by clear standards that define the stages of the system for the people who progress through it, and regulated on the basis of outcomes that providers produce for their clients, not inputs into the system.
This idea is silly of course.  Without either college or career ready national standards, America was exceeding every country in the world in nearly every area possible - including putting men on the moon - until 1964 and LBJ's great Elementary and Secondary Education Act. 

I have attempted to refute this silliness since 2010, however a recent interview with Mike Rowe (creator and director of the recently-ended Discovery show, Dirty Jobs), gave me the impetus I needed to meet these charges head on.

For nine years, Mike Rowe traveled across the United States working various manual and skilled labor jobs (at the request of viewers) while recording his efforts for the show.  You could say that Mike has actually made studying 'jobs' his vocation and he speaks eloquently and intelligently about the issue. 

In the interview, he asks why it is that we as Americans are asking students to leave high school and attend college, where they inevitably become indebted to study a vocation for which they may never even be able to find a job that will allow them to repay their indebtedness.
“We’re lending money we don’t have, to kids who will never be able to pay it back, for jobs that no longer exist. That’s crazy, right? That’s what we’ve been doing for the last forty years.”
He also explains that today, there is a plethora of skilled trades open and in demand. 
"In fact, there are 3 million jobs out there (in the US) that companies are having a hard time filling."
Of these, only 8-12% require a college degree.

Additionally, a recent interview with John Ratzenberger (Cheers), describes his reasoning for wanting to create a new series called, "Made in America"..."We're running out of people who know how to make things. The average age of someone who knows how to actually make something in manufacturing is 58 years old."

Goodness.  It seems to me as though neither JOBS nor CAREERS are the problem here.

So, what is the problem?  Why would we be sold a bill of goods telling Americans that we must have COMMON standards by which to educate our children for college and a career?

Well, I think it might have something to do with the fact that we tax many businesses at such an exorbitant rate, many can make better profit by using cheaper labor and materials from overseas, so overseas they go - taking their jobs with them.

How about the fact that for years, powerful labor unions have destroyed business after business (look at the American steel industry) as CEO's - too fearful of a work stoppage and their all-important bottom line - cave in to union demands of more and higher wages and pensions than can even be supported by the returns it generates.  

What about the fact that we simply don't teach the basics in public grammar school anymore.  Goodness, we don't even call it 'grammar' school anymore because we rarely teach grammar to young children anymore - it's passe' - it's not as exciting or stimulating as allowing young children to experiment with spelling and word usage in a non-graded journal of their own creation.  We don't teach kids how to sit still and copy letters, or sit still and write cursive, or, well heck, SIT STILL.  After all, in our world of creativity and repudiation of all that is boring, why in the world would we want to foster skills that train children to be patient and still and quiet?

Then there's the post WWII era mentality of, "our kids will have better than us", which gave rise to a generation of kids that believed they deserved to leave college and enter the workforce behind a desk with a six figure salary.  A generation, which itself, spawned a generation with an entitlement load of even greater toxicity level.  Today, many young people can't be bothered to be at work on time or respond to the needs of customers or bosses because work ethic has taken a backseat to the instant gratification afforded by everything in their lives, from fast food to personal communication.

Face it:  many kids today don't WANT to have a job in a warehouse - even if that job would more than sustain them.  This is viewed as 'grunt' work by our current coddled and entitled generation who has been told they 'deserve' everything from a big screen TV to phones and cars.

Yes, Marc Tucker and his ilk have done their job.  They have made "dirty jobs" a thought as unwelcome as the loss of an iPhone.  They have turned America into an amorphous, squeamish, bloated, government-dependent nightmare from which those of us who value "work" and all that can provide in life from money to wisdom can't awake.

So no Virginia, common national standards are not solution to the problems this country has with college or career - WORK is.