As anticipated, Dozer (AKA angry Republican boyfriend) did not especially enjoy my last missive. I’m sure it was the conservative overlords comment. He missed all the points about NOT discouraging higher education and cutting funding for enrichment programs that intellectually benefit our wee beasties. He also jumped right over the idea that just maybe access to information is a good thing. Additionally, I received feedback about teachers sharing opinions that are unpopular… except I don’t know who gets to decide what that is or who is the official censor. Also, I don’t really want a censor, because those guys are usually pretty far into their religious beliefs or are very indoctrinated in government propaganda. Please think of guys like Hitler, Stalin, Mao Zedong and ask yourself if you really love the idea. It’s ok, you don’t have to say it out loud.
Anyhoo, his focus was on Common Core curriculum, which he feels strongly is a Democratic party initiative. First, I hate Common Core math as much as any other person in this country. I’m sorry to tell you this, but in no way does 8+5=10. Sorry, there is only one correct answer and none of these kids are going to be able to run a cash register. That said, it’s not a matter of states rights vs. federal overreach. The idea of a national standard is great. The standards themselves are actually pretty good. What is failing dismally is the implementation, resources available and training. I looked it up and the first person to propose any kind of national standard was Janet Napolitano in 2006, while chairing the National Governor’s Association in her former position as the Governor of Arizona. Initially, she wanted to improve math and science education… I know, right, she’s the devil. In the logical course of things, a little light bulb went on that made it occur to her that a national standard would allow all the kids to be learning similar material. Kind of THESE ARE THE THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW TO BE A HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATE. I don’t know if they included balancing a check book, but they should have. Yup, she’s a Democrat.
This was partly because the No Child Left Behind Act, which was a really well intentioned, Republican initiative brought to you courtesy of W, encouraged individual states to set the bar low for testing in order to receive federal dollars for education. (If you look bad, you get less money. We’ll go ahead and evaluate your performance based on test scores from tests we’re going to let you write. Up to speed?) OK, so the NGA and Council for Chief State School Officers thought having one national standard was a good idea… fyi, these are both bipartisan groups. Wrap your head around this for a second, the kids in say…. Georgia, ought to receive the same high quality education as the kids in Alaska. Realistically, people complain about the math aspect of common core curriculum, and rightly so, because my kid is struggling because I don’t know how many cupcakes the boogey man eats on the roof at high noon. Which is how much sense a lot of that makes to me. The meat and potatoes standards are actually pretty damn good. Kind of like NCLB… it was great in theory, but those next steps weren’t taken to make it work the way it ought to.
I presented all of this to Dozer, who asked me if I got to vote on Common Core. Nope. I also didn’t get to vote on No Child Left Behind, or IDEA (special ed laws) and nobody calls to see what I think when they cut recess time. What I did get to vote on was my elected officials who make these decisions. At the end of the day, they have amazing ideas and fairly shitty follow through. This was as true for NCLB as it is for Common Core.
The devil is in the details, always. To create phenomenal, cosmic change you have to plan all the things. Some of the greatest thinkers of our time worked hard to create a set of standards that should create a better environment for kids in America. But they stopped there… They are now crying that publishers won’t write new text books, nobody is training the teachers, no one will help. Seriously, boy and girls… you are telling me you can’t write curriculum and provide adequate training? Miss Shannon can write curriculum and she only has a lowly associate degree. The folks that created this system fell down on their jobs and didn’t have any implementation process, so it’s failing. After spending roughly five years, hundreds of thousand dollars… you didn’t have another six months to blow out some curriculum? They probably ran out of funding and should have had a bake sale. What it all comes down to is that the machine, our government is not winning any prizes for planning ahead.