Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Common Core Holds About as Much Promise as Communism

The Common Core is staked by idealism, a lot of money and, in some cases, the desire for personal profit.  Some of the worst ideas in history have been staked by idealism.  People who love to play in the realm of ideas, but have little practical experience or foresight might think one set of standards spells equality.  In this case, it doesn't.  I would say it sacrifices our diversity to accept one definition of success molded by the power brokers in our society.

In theory, every student could learn the same lesson on the same day, if we relinquish the power of millions of minds to one set of educational dictators.  Then, as the UFT's Leroy Barr envisioned, his son could reluctantly say goodbye to the great state of New York and pick up on the same page in the equally great state of California.

But what is lost?  Freedom, for one; diversity for others, student interests and teacher strengths.  What is gained?  Professional negligence:  If students in one classroom cannot keep up, the train moves on without them.  When new lessons build upon old skills, the students are run over by the train.

Most Common-Core advocates surely don't desire a curriculum made uniform to the extent envisioned by Leroy Barr.  Still, one set of standards poses many of the same problems.  It also fails to recognize that many students have diverse skills which will allow them to soar in society, but only if the Common Core does not hold them down and crush them first.  Will the Common Core reward a student's musical genius, creative gift, or upside-down way of looking at things that might turn a problem on its head to solve it?  No, it looks past these things in the name of standardizing standards.

Common standards fail us because they treat children as interchangeable parts.  Children are distinct.  They possess so many diverse talents.  I have said before people are pieces of a puzzle.  Some fit together and some don't.  All are necessary, however, to complete the full picture.  No two are exactly the same.  Many years ago, I put together a thousand piece puzzle of the English countryside.  I'm not sure who in heaven's name gave me that gift, but it helped me to look closely at shapes.  There were hundred of pieces of green and hundreds of pieces of blue, but each was different, all were necessary.

The resolution adopted by the AFT in July is entitled, "The Role of Standards in Public Education."  No one would argue there is no role for standards in public education.  But many would very powerfully argue that standards should not be standardized.  The resolution exposes the Core's past weaknesses.   Yet, the resolution clings to the Core and advocates for a "support-and-improve" system.  It speaks of "promise and potential."  It advocates an "improvement plan" for a tragically flawed system.

In some ways, the UFT leadership is like a party elite in a communist state.  It views personal reward.  It  surely doesn't have to  suffer under the system like the average citizen.  It represses dissent through loyalty oaths with lucrative purse strings and now, oddest of all, through the supposedly iron fist of its president.  The Common Core may look good to some on paper, but to those who value democracy, it is impractical and intensely hostile.   In the name of "equality," it would destroy us.  The Common Core holds about as much promise as Communism.
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