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Sunday, February 2, 2014

Peter Greene on Common Core State Standards

Monday, December 2, 2013

The Wrongest Sentence Ever in the CCSS Debate

At Impatient Optimists, a Gates Foundation website, Allan Golston recently wrote a notable piece entitled "America's Businesses Need the Common Core." It's a notable column, not because it has anything new to add to the discussion (it's a rehash of the usual pro-CCSS fluffernuttery), but because it contains this sentence:

Businesses are the primary consumers of the output of our schools, so it’s a natural alliance.

As a semi-professional hack writer and fake journalist, I can tell you that it's a challenge to fit a lot of wrong in just one sentence, but Mr. Golston has created a masterpiece of wrong, a monument of wrong, a mighty two-clause clown car of wrong. Let's just look under the hood.

Output of our schools. Students are not output. They are not throughput. They are not toasters on an assembly line. They are not a manufactured product, and a school is not a factory. In fact, a school does not create "output" at all. Talking about the "output" of a school is like talking about the "output" of a hospital or a counseling center or a summer camp or a marriage. When talking about interactions between live carbon-based life forms (as in "That girl you've been dating is cute, but how's the output of the relationship?"), talking about output is generally not a good thing

Primary consumers. Here's another thing that students are not-- students are not consumer goods. Businesses do not purchase them and then use them until they are discarded or replaced. Students are not a good whose value is measured strictly in its utility to the business that purchased it.

Businesses are the primary consumers. Even if I correct "primary consumers" to mean something more human-friendly, this is STILL wrong. Businesses are NOT the primary recipients of the benefits of well-educated young humans, because the purpose of education is NOT simply to prepare young humans to be useful to their future employers. A good education prepares them to be good citizens, neighbors, voters, parents, and spouses. All of those people are stakeholders, too. And the number one stakeholder when it comes to the student's education-- that would be the student, whose education will prepare that student to get maximum use of his own personal constellation of skills to chart the life path that he chooses.

To shoulder yourself to the front of the great society-large crowd of stakeholders in education and declare boldly, "Yeah, we're more important than anyone else here" is a truly impressive display of ballsiness.

So it's a natural alliance. Let's pretend for a moment that this conclusion isn't predicated on the totally-wrong first clause. If business and education represent a natural alliance, then maybe business could start acting like allies instead of ham-handed paternalistic patronizing bosses. Pick the business of anybody on the Gates Foundation board of directors. Pick any one. Now imagine me, a teacher, showing up at the CEO's office and saying, "Hey, some of us at my high school formed a study group and we've come up with some recommendations about how your business should be run. And if you don't want to listen to us, we'll call up our friends in DC and make you listen to us."

I can imagine lots of responses. None of them would be, "Hey, you must be my ally!"

I thank Mr. Golston for managing to crystallize so much of what's wrong with the Gates-business crowd's view of the entire education and Common Core situation. I would like to also point out that there is some paternalistic elitist BS in this as well, because we're not talking about ALL education. This crowd will gain credibility with me the first time I pick up the paper and read about them marching into the main office of their child's exclusive private school and saying, "I pay good money to you guys in tuition and endowments, and I want YOU to become a pilot program for my school reforms. We're going to put all of these in place, here, where my child goes to school, so that I can show everybody else how great they will be."

No, if a sentence like Golston's turned up in the materials for an elite private school, the phone in that main office would be ringing, and it wouldn't be to deliver congratulations. Nobody would let a sentence this wrong come anywhere near their own child.

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