When cure is worse than disease don’t take the medicine
by Roger Hines
July 19, 2014 10:35 PM | 2584 views | 3 3 comments | 26 26 recommendations | email to a friend | print
“Read and comprehend literature at the high end of the grades 11-CCR text complexity band, independently and proficiently.”

Say what? Yes, you read it correctly — if you made it to the period. Now you know what a Common Core standard for 12th grade English reads like. When I think of the nation’s governors (practical executives) and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (business people), I don’t think of this kind of language. Yet the governors initiated it, and the U.S. Chamber touts it.

Maybe the problem is the standards were jointly initiated by the governors and the Council of Chief State School Officers (that means all the nation’s state school superintendents). Probably it was the state school superintendents who contributed the gobbledy-gook language. They use it a great deal.

Oh, the chicanery of the name Common Core, not to mention its origins and implementation. “Core” implies the heart of a matter. “Common” implies widespread acceptance or practice. So far, so good.

But … is the Affordable Care Act turning out to be affordable? Has the Defense of Marriage Act resulted in the government’s defense of traditional marriage? No! And neither is CC a widely accepted idea nor does it get to the heart of the matter regarding what students should learn.

But that didn’t keep governors and state departments of education from jumping on the bandwagon. Top-down has never been so clearly demonstrated. A bandwagon has never filled so fast. Forty-six states have adopted the jargon-ridden standards, though several states have begun to have second thoughts. More on them momentarily.

We should credit the nation’s governors for trying to improve our schools. But governors are politicians. Their perspective is what invites critique. It is too narrow. Couple that with the U.S. Chamber’s perspective and you get what Dr. Diane Ravitch calls “early 20th century factory-line thinking.” Ravitch, America’s most respected education historian, opposes CC.

Simply put, CC is a list, a grade by grade level list of things students K-12 should learn, according to the governors and their 27-member writing committee composed of teacher union leaders and representatives of the testing industry. (Chicanery alert.) Incredibly, most of the standards read like the one above, frequently and confusingly referencing each other. Currently, the list holds standards for English and math only.

CC proponents are dismissing opponents as dupes of talk-radio bombast. Proponents claim CC will not lead to further federal intrusion into education; however, President Obama quickly adopted them and used his Race to the Top money as the proverbial carrot to entice states to adopt the standards. See why the bandwagon filled up so fast?

A second look at the arcane standards has led the governors of Louisiana, Indiana, Utah and Oklahoma to back away from them. Even the nation’s governors in their annual conference early this month left CC off their agenda, indicating its new hot potato status.

Opponents also dislike what CC portends. Although the standards now affect only English and math, when biological science standards are added, what views on the origins of man will the standards address? When history is added, what events and people will be included or left off?

Our governors and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have done to teaching and learning what Mark Twain’s formal study of piloting did to his love for the river. In “Life on the Mississippi,” Twain describes how his steamboat pilot training killed the beauty and the rapture he held for the river.

Nobody who has read Twain would accuse him of being a romantic. Twain was a pessimist whose pessimism grew deeper as his days grew longer. Even so, he appreciated life’s mysteries and the ebb and flow of nature. Twain didn’t object to his job training, but to the way his mentor turned an art into a science.

Today, teachers and students are having their rapture turned into regimen. Standards plus tests, plus be-all scores are not what inspired Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison or Henry Ford. Those titans of commerce were moved by curiosity and the inventive spirit. There’s nothing common about that.

Common Core textbooks, lesson plans and tests are a vendor’s paradise. (Chicanery alert.) In an attempt to objectify all things, as did Mark Twain’s trainer, we have crowned uniformity and factory-line thinking.

Schools must have standards, but small groups of parents, teachers and local school administrators could sit down and produce them in a day’s time. It doesn’t take Bill Gates’ millions or fancy consultants to tell us what our children need to learn.

One of the Republican state school superintendent candidates, Mike Buck, favors CC. The other Republican, Richard Woods, opposes it. Their run-off on July 22 should tell us where voters stand on the matter.

Roger Hines is a retired high school English teacher in Kennesaw.

Comments-icon Post a Comment
July 20, 2014
Roger, you say..."When I think of the nation’s governors (practical executives) and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (business people), I don’t think of this kind of language. Yet the governors initiated it, and the U.S. Chamber touts it."

You're right, this is not their language. It's nobody's language except some education geek who's using our children as lab rats to experiment with this language. But, this same geek and his colleagues are served up as learned experts in the field of education complete with long lists of academic credentials that prove that they are in fact learned experts; and, the governors and business people crumble and support CC. It's kind of like the "Emperor's New Clothes" most people see it as a sham but no one is going to dare question "Royalty"; and that's the way it is with this CC business, no one is going to question the education Royalty.
give em heck rog...
July 20, 2014
yip...dem dang spoilt kiddos ain't got no need fer duh nashnal standerds dat sposedly keep em perpaired fer cawledge. Day jes need to lern cipherin, reedin, rightin jes like we dids...and lookie how gud we's terned out huh Roger.

All dat nashnal horgworsh is jes dem dang libbrals tryin a git us awl confooosed. Scuse me know wile i go a figgure out how's dis danged puter werks gin.
Roger Hines
July 21, 2014
Giv'em Heck, your colloquialisms are easier to understand than the jargon of the standards. Have you read them? Please do.
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