Nationalized Education: Astroturf Gives Us Common Core

By: Sara Noble
Independent Sentinel

Robot teachers are popping up in classrooms in S. Korea and Japan. Are they in our future as we dehumanize the classroom and fill the school day with skill sets and tests, eliminating teacher ingenuity and student individuality in the process? Equip the robots with a taser to modify student behavior and we’re good to go.

Common Core curricula was rushed in, without teacher or parent input, and with the instigation of wealthy corporatists. It has not been embraced by teachers.

Our rigid educational system took shape in the industrial age and our future educational system might shape up to look computerized, churning out little automatons.

The only reason our schools have done well, despite the factory-like approach, is because educators and parents have humanized it. Now we have the Common Core Standards and they make the teacher into more of an implementer than an innovator.

Federal law prohibits the Department of Education from developing a national curriculum but Common Core Standards, a supposedly grass roots movement, provides a clever end-run around the law.

Common Core Standards have been implemented in 46 states and DC. It started as an astroturf movement with DC corporatists like Bill and Melinda Gates, whose foundation has poured millions into the venture, as well as organizations of corporatists like Achieve.

Business people under Mayor Bloomberg took over NYC schools and it was a disaster. What do they really know about education?

Common Core grew quickly when President Obama’s Race to the Top added stimulus funds to the mix.

The National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers sponsor Common Core. Unfortunately, many states’ governors agreed to adopt the Standards before they read them. Money and politics talk.

New York State recently adopted Common Core Standards and have published the guidelines for Language Arts and Mathematics on their website linked below. They are rigid and seemingly interminable. They seek to reduce all learning to skill sets and while they have value, they shouldn’t be the whole of learning, particularly not when teaching thinking skills. Learning is so much more than this.

They leave little if any time for teachers to be creative because they are massive and schedule every moment of the teacher’s day, actually more moments than a teacher has in a day.

They are doctrinaire.

In the videos linked below which describe the New York Common Core, an educator attempts to explain why it’s needed. He says that the graduation rate has gone from the low 60% to the low 70% and while that is good, more needs to be done, i.e. Common Core. He adds that even if the students graduate, many of them need remediation in college.

Maybe that is the reason why more are graduating – relaxed graduation standards? CUNY (City University of New York) found that 80% of their incoming freshman from NYC high schools needed remedial help.

New York expects everyone to go to college whether it is appropriate or not. Students in New York are no longer able to earn a vocational diploma and that was in place before they adopted the Common Core Standards. College used to be special, now it’s an extension of high school where the job was unfinished for many.

Remediation for college students is becoming commonplace but at a very high cost to students. People who are handicapped need special consideration for college, but when did that consideration become applicable to the general public?

Common Core appears to be a one-size-fits-all curriculum that drops cursive writing and Algebra I in eighth grade. Language arts and math are reduced to skill sets. Teachers will spend time on nonfiction, menus and dry informational texts.

The Common Core material is very regimented and does not appear to leave much room for teacher creativity. It is ironic that it attempts to teach and test critical thinking skills from a fairly linear approach.

This mode of learning is a radical departure from the past.

CREATIVITY

Teachers once had time to help children develop who they are as individuals. The more government in NY intruded on that process, the more congested the school day became with mandates and the less time teachers had with their students.

The Common Core takes this approach much further. Common Core is not only about children meeting a certain standard, it is also about all the children coming out thinking alike. It attempts to develop critical thinking skills as skill sets. Critical thinking as a set of skills is an oxymoron.

It was not so long ago, that educators recognized the limited value of standardization in testing, but that seems to have gone by the wayside.

It’s unfortunate for the majority of teachers who are creative because they will have to struggle to complete all the rote skills they are mandated to complete and to get the students to pass the tests, the many, many tests.

TESTING

Teachers in New York are subjected to the publication of students’ standardized test scores in the local newspapers, and the newspapers show no mercy.

Standardized testing is only good as a general measure and our testing is skewed. We test everyone, no matter their IQ, their disability, their life experience – everyone is lumped together – making it appear as if our students score lower than they actually do.

US students actually score at the top when compared with other countries, if the disadvantaged students are pulled from the mix as they are in the countries they are compared with.

Teachers must teach to the tests, at least here in NY. Instead of more tests, there should be fewer.

Common Core testing requires children get the right answer with the right method and they can be marked wrong if they didn’t use the prescribed method regardless of how they got there. It leaves little room for inventiveness.

NATIONALIZATION OF EDUCATION

Common Core will nationalize education. Common Core curricula will be monolithic and nationwide. It takes choice out of the hands of local authorities. Check out New York State’s guidelines on the link below and you will find that there is no time for anything but fulfilling the guidelines. Every teacher in every state will be asked to teach according to the same unbending guidelines.

Common Core has national standards that cannot and do not reflect the needs of specific areas of this very large country. They take education out of the control of localities and turn it over to one bureaucracy under one-size-fits-all style governance. Education needs to be in the hands of the local boards, educators and parents who can tailor the programs to meet their needs. A school in a ghetto has different needs from a school in a tony suburb of Long Island.

Once the national government is in charge, whom do you call if you don’t like it? The federal government is too powerful to question.

Impoverished children, gang children, and disaffected youngsters cannot and are not addressed by these curricula. In fact, it ignores them. They will still be poor or in gangs.

NY is great at pretending poverty doesn’t affect education, seeming to believe it is rude to even mention it. When we record student performance for the state bureaucracy, poverty is never a consideration.

LITTLE DETAILS

Common Core requires a sophisticated computer system, which many schools do not have. Common Core is another unfunded mandate. In New York, Governor Cuomo took funds from Long Island school districts and gave them to New York City.

The program appears to have been foisted on the children of the United States without any field-testing and I can’t find much in the way of public discussion on them before they were adopted. They came out of the blue for many.

What happens in the future if this curriculum no longer addresses the world at that time? It seems very inflexible to change.

Good teachers have always kept students to high standards but they were customized to meet the needs of the students. That might no longer be possible.

Another danger is the ability for the programmers to indoctrinate in one way of thinking. Textbooks are usually replete with errors. They take good literature and rewrite it into some abridged abomination of what it was. Textbooks will have a powerful role to play under Common Core and have already adopted their texts to meet the standards. Textbooks and accompanying videos are very expensive.

Common Core holds out the hope of teaching children to think independently and creatively while giving them little time to do so. It would have been nice if the public had a vote before they shoved it down our proverbial throats.

Click the link to view the empty skill sets of the Common Core NYS Standards.

For people who aren’t familiar with the astroturf comment, it was first used by Nancy Pelosi to express her viewpoint that the Tea Party was not grassroots, but actually a group promoted by wealthy Republicans:



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