This one I repost because the current talk about the problems with the results of the election says little about addressing the causes for those results. Ultimately, how a person votes, how people are swayed, whether or not they vote sensibly or not, whether they are adequately informed or not, whether they are taken in by propaganda and false news, has to do with the ways in which they think and how they go about thinking through things to arrive at their sense of what is true and what is right. For years, I have been speaking out about the inadequacy of the American way of educating people and the consequences of this for the American democracy. For some of those years, I have been directly arguing with the people who, like Diane Ravitch, believe that the Common Core State Standards are somehow not only bad but evil that, if one looks at specific standards, such as those noted in the piece below, they should look like the antidote to ignorance and group think rather than means for ruining minds. What I think the critics, many of them claiming liberal credentials, mean is that the CCSS are about disrupting the reign of conformity as a proper outcome for instruction, this conformist thrust embodied in the textbook/teacher guide, one answer not to be questioned by students or teachers who are very much encouraged by those who choose and by the books to stick to what the manual says to be correct. Think about this! Why would anyone want to encourage students to believe in the validity of answers forced upon them but, worse, to believe that good students do exactly that, this conveyed through the rewards proffered that award points for repeating what one is told!!!
So, if you read nothing else of what is written below, do read the CCSS examples and decide for yourself if such outcomes are righteously in line with goals related to proper citizenship in a democracy or anti-democratic as some opponents of the Standards have argued.
Repost: In defense of the Common Core Standards, December 9, 2013
I find the current conversation (where ever it is taking place, who ever is participating) concerning the common core standards to be confusing and rather mind-boggling as any educational/social/political conversation I have ever encountered. I think this may be a good thing, a good beginning to a conversation that educators can never leave if they wish to be relevant, one which too many do too much to avoid, the question of what the purpose of education is and, along with this, what the purpose should be, avoidance, I think, precipitated by the fact the question forces one to address the gap, the gap that exists between what is and should be.
When it comes to the CCSS, I look at the individual standards, particularly the ones for the secondary grades, and find much in them that helps me make the case of instruction relevant to the cause of the democratic society, instruction aimed at growing the individual intellect, empowering people by helping them to learn skills that make the act of thinking more powerful and cause people to treat knowledge as something other than stuff to be remembered. Reading the criticism coming from educators I respect causes me to wonder if we are reading the same standards documents. We are, but we may be concerned with different matters and have different notions of what actually does matter.
It seems to me that a good amount of the criticism is aimed not at the actual standards but at how they were developed and by whom they were developed. I am well aware of the fact that but a handful of people were responsible for creating the standards and that many who might have been consulted were not. This, it seems, is always the case when initiatives such as this are developed; a group of people get together or are brought together to fashion a prescription for solving the problems the current system is being blamed for causing. The group finds advocates for the plan and those advocates sell the plan to whoever it is who has the power to implement it.
This is pretty much the “process” that created the CCSS, but, this said, this does not mean that the standards produced are bad. In fact, again, reading the standards for the secondary schools, these seem to be enabling rather than debilitating. They call for thoughtfulness, from teachers and their students, more so than any other set of standards I have seen. They are not as prescriptive as most standards are, leaving much room for individual teachers to figure out how to go about moving students to types of thinking essential for real participation in this complex society that exists in a very complex world.
For those who somehow think that what schools have been doing over the last ten to twenty to thirty years, I ask that they look at the manner in which the educated public has gone about making the important decisions Americans are called upon to make and the consequences of those decisions. Are Americans being properly and adequately educated by the teachers who have been teaching what they have been told to teach all this many years? Is it alright that good numbers of people know more about the quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys than the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, or more about a bad call on the field than about a decision made in the court that will in consequential ways affect their lives?
I have read many a post on sites such as those run by Diane Ravitch and Herbert Kohl where teachers, all teachers, are being defended against the new expectations, the argument being that what they are doing is good, good enough and that the new standards are an imposition, even an attack upon their virtue. I, on the other hand, see the CCSS as having the potential to liberate the truly good teachers, a good many of whom feel as though they have been deceived into believing that the schools are a place where the intellectually astute, the intellectually alive can find others, like minded, who will work with them to constantly reshape the institutions into places relevant to building a world where lots of smart people get together to build a sensible society that has the features any truly sensible and intellectually engaged person would desire, a real democracy that is respects the opinions of its people because its people are intellectually able, intellectually engaged enough to deliberate so effectively as to live up to the basic standards of thoughtfulness required for a functioning and functional democracy in which what is for, of, and by the people is truly good for the people.
I ask the critics to stop focusing on the David Coleman aspects of the CCSS, the involvement of Bill Gates and other billionaires trying to wrest control of education in America and use what these people have created as a means to keep them from getting their way, over and over and over again. The CCSS have built into them the excuse for dismantling the power elite that rules over us in spite of democracy, in spite of the real purpose of schools in a democratic nation, to educate citizens for participation in the decision making processes that are the engine of self-governance, the most precious gift human beings can receive for this is what allows them to be free as individuals amongst other individuals who also prize and deserve their freedom.
The sensible approach to the CCSS is to do what Peter Elbow recommends people to do when trying to figure out how to deal with the issues that confront them. He says that we need to play the “believing game,” that is, work to understand all the arguments that support a particular perspective before moving on to the “doubting game,” just as important in the decision making process, but considerably more potent when applied after the argument at hand is understood for all it is worth. In this case, in the case of the CCSS, I think it would be in the best interests of all, all here to include all human beings living now and into the future, to look at what they contain that may be of real worth. The rest, after careful deliberation can be rejected but rejected because there is truly good reason to do so, rejected because they interfere with the growth and development of individuals who are able to deliberate effectively using the best information and sound reasoning to come to conclusions that govern right action.
Tell me what is wrong, for instance, in asking English teachers to teach so well as to allow students to “Delineate and evaluate the reasoning in seminal U.S. texts, including the application of constitutional principles and use of legal reasoning (e.g., in U.S. Supreme Court majority opinions and dissents) and the premises, purposes, and arguments in works of public advocacy (e.g., The Federalist, presidential addresses)”? This is standard RI.11-12.8 and I would love to see the day when all graduates of our schools could do such a thing, be willing, on a regular basis to do such a thing, and be highly competent in developing a sensible analysis of such critically important matter, matter that really does matter.