Tuesday, December 23, 2014

What Merriment Is the King Pursuing Tonight?

Modern-day ed. "reformers" invariably deal in inconvenient contradictions.  First, there was Rhee, former head of Students' First, jovially describing how she had her class tape their lips shut to the point of bleeding.  Then there are a whole spate of reformers who preach the Common Core, high-stakes tests and junk-science teacher evaluations, yet refuse to send their kids to schools that practice the same.  One such reformer is NY State Ed. Commissioner John King, now on his way to D.C.  King's kids had been schooled at a private Montessori in Greenbush, NY, dubbed Woodland Hill.

In the wake of the oxymoron, Susan Kambrich, head of Woodland Hill, attempted to explain it away.  According to her, "When I looked at the pedagogical shifts that are part of the Common Core, it felt like we were already doing those things."  She followed up, "Montessori education lends itself very well to the initiatives of the Common Core."  Not all agree.  Some are quick to point out that Maria Montessori was more about teaching to the whole child, allowing greater latitude for unstructured play and exercise.  She never would have stood for a punitive test-based learning culture.

Teachers at my school have also looked at the standards and remarked that we do all these things.  Some say it without realizing our kids will be Common-Cored alive in Global History and Geography come the Spring of 2015.  When it comes to pass (or in this case fail), perhaps we will be comforted by the fact that even Woodland Hill's fifth-grade class failed its 2013 State math test miserably.

That is what happens, I guess, when it seems you have been doing Common-Core-type things all along.  Like an unsuspecting deer, you walk into the headlights of a high-stakes test.  It is the equivalent of a rapidly firing machine gun.  You marched off to war with a bounce in your step, but when the guns fire, it's hit the ground and good luck!

Now, that King is on his way to D.C., he will have the opportunity to put his money where his children's mouths are.  Will he become a public-school parent?  Will he subject his kids to classes focused on test prep?  Will he subject his kids to tests made to drain the living spirit from them?  Will he subject his children to tests that academically drown even reputable swimmers?

Let me conclude with a quote by Maria Montessori.  Perhaps when King is considering into which school he should enroll his children, he will be thinking more of Montessori's sentiments than his own promulgation of the Core:

“We cannot know the consequences of suppressing a child's spontaneity when he is just beginning to be active. We may even suffocate life itself. That humanity which is revealed in all its intellectual splendor during the sweet and tender age of childhood should be respected with a kind of religious veneration. It is like the sun which appears at dawn or a flower just beginning to bloom. Education cannot be effective unless it helps a child to open up himself to life.” 

― Maria Montessori
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