Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Common Core Curriculum: Popular new answers to the same old question pt.3

So over the last two posts (here and here) we've seen that our current Common Core Curriculum efforts share in a 2,500 year history of ideas and events that demonstrate a lesson we desperately need to learn - or else be doomed to repeat once again. That lesson is, at least in part, that when smart people are put into positions of power, and are tacitly allowed, by reason of their smartness, to not feel bound to abide by those laws which they judge to be inadequate or outdated - and who, more importantly, have no internal sense of self-restraint regarding what should (or should not) be done unto others for the benefit of the greater good - then they will do exactly what they feel is the smart thing to do.

One of the conclusions that these would-be social reformers commonly arrive at, just as they have since at least Plato's day, is that they simply must ensure that the youth are taught those habits and ideals that are deemed favorable to the reformed state (and dear to those who will be in power over them), and that they must be the ones to decide what those habits and ideals are to be. But what is often overlooked, is that those in power do not take the steps required to 'educate' the children, without also also taking steps in regards to their parents. After all, if you decide what to do with the children, without also preparing for what to do about their parents... what if they should disagree with the plans you're making for their children?


As such smart people have so clearly seen since the time of Glaucon and Adeimantus, total control over the education of the young, requires the elimination of local control over the education of the young, which brings the question behind this series of posts back into view:
"What to do about the parents?"
It is a question that cannot not be addressed by those who have, or seek to have, the power to transform society. They've got to contain or eliminate the potential threat to their plans which children's parents - living anchors into the past - might conceivably pose to the forward motions of their transformational power.

There are two approaches which can follow from this.

The first approach follows from when you are dealing with people who believe in tangible concepts of Right and Wrong, who believe in the Right of people to live their own lives. In that situation the range of actions and responses which they will find open to them - in their own judgment - will be rather limited, comprising little more than discussion, debate and voting on options which can go only so far, and no farther, without the consent of those the actions are being applied to. The exercise of power in this approach tends to confine the actions of state to things which cannot be done, rather than what must be done, and public discussion and consideration of these ideas are essential to their policies being formed, and successfully carried out.

The second approach however, acknowledges few such restrictions upon its power. When you are dealing with people who consider the greater good - as they see it - to be more important than what IS good, that opens up a whole host of options to them, especially in regards to dealing with potential threats to their plans - which, after all, are being planned for the greater good. Given that criteria, then deciding upon the means to be used - be those exiling the parents, killing them, imprisoning, threatening, restricting their actions, publicly belittling them, intimidating or even lauding and rewarding them - is irrelevant. What is relevant, is whether or not the means selected will enable the most efficient exercise of power towards accomplishing their ends. Their ends are of far more concern, than concerns over the few who might be inconvenienced by their means, for the benefit of the many.

And thanks to an educational system driven by a pragmatic utilitarian philosophy (which almost literally means using the most immediately effective means to bring about the greater good), we have progressively found ourselves moving more and more into the path of the second approach.

To those ends, the various programs of Race To The Top and Common Core Curriculum Standards, have come up with some interesting new answers to our old question, being that if exiling, killing or sequestering the defective and unassimilated parents who still remain, aren't currently among your preferred options... then the next best thing is to exile them from contact with, say so over, or even knowledge of what their children are being taught in school.

Brilliant! Problem solved. Nothing more needs to be said and that's that.

Er... except for... how... exactly, could you possibly accomplish that? The latest answers are to be found in three easy, proRegressive steps, that are being taken today, all across the land.

1) The first answer, which Race To The Top is the century long culmination of, is to proRegressively centralize the information, discussion and debate of actions to be taken upon people (aka: power), further and further away from the involvement of local parents. The gradual centralizing of power away to ever larger and more distant school boards, staffed with increasingly inaccessible or unresponsive experts, headed by ever more highly paid superintendents, themselves all operating under state school boards, serves to insert multiple layers of separation between local parents, and those who have the power to make decisions over them, and in which they cannot in any practical sense, have meaningful involvement in deciding upon the direction and content of their children's schools and education.

Worse still, not only are local community decisions dissolved into larger boards, and those dissolved into the state school boards, but with Race To The Top, even the state boards are to be dissolved into regional school boards comprised of committees drawn from several states, so that the decisions of those living in states such as Missouri, will be attended to and dealt with, by generic committees overseeing several states, with little to no accountability to those very distant and smallish parents, way down there at the local level. And these new committees, whose centralized power is fast approaching maximum density, will be unable to act except as 'is best' for all, and the interests and concerns of individual states, individual districts, to say nothing of individual parents will, must be, dispensed with - for the greater good.

That is not an unfortunate by-product, that is the purpose - and the benefit - of centralizing power. If you are under the naive assumption that all of this is only about improving the education of our youth, you are very much mistaken; it is, and has always been, about the fundamental transformation of America. Barack Obama did not come up with that idea, it's just that he is perhaps the last relay runner in a race begun well over a century ago.

Ultimately, as the holy grail of centralization is to be found in the greatest distance that can be had from local concerns, the quest is to center their power at the Federal level - but not only does CCSI claim to not be a federally controlled program, it would be illegal if it were proven to be - so how can the quest be accomplished? It is pulled off, as any good magic trick is, directing your attention to the hand that can be seen, and performing your sleight of hand with the one that is not seen. They loudly trumpet the fact that the Common Core, in all its forms, are actually initiated and determined by the states. Pay no attention to the fact that their actions are only taken in response to offers of federal dollars (should they meet certain federally determined criteria).

With a flourish of announcements and press releases they state that their standards are defined and controlled by independent consortias, and assume that you will pay no attention to the fact that those consortias are beholden to the Feds. They claim that their curriculum and classes are to be driven not by federal mandates, but by objective testing, and the schools have got to perform well on the tests to remain in good standing - and hope you will pay no attention to the fact that those tests are driven by the Feds. Teachers, they say, are empowered to teach as they see fit, and control their classroom materials - but pay no attention to the fact that if their classes do not score well in their blizzard of tests, they will be seen as failing.

Pay no attention to the money man behind the curtain, all is well, these programs have been initiated by the states, districts, teachers and parental concerns.

One reason why the local schools have to perform well on the federally mandated tests, is that one of the powers that Race To The Top, et all, hands over to the Feds, is the power to declare a school to be failing, and could even be turned over to 'private' Charter Schools. One reason why local teachers must see to it that their students perform well on the incessantly regular testing given to them, is that the Feds will have the power to replace individual teachers should they not measure up to its standards... and, via Missouri Education Watchdog: how are teachers feeling??
"...Tired of being afraid to stand up for what I know is right for our kids and our country because I am afraid of losing my job and being unable to pay my bills.

Tired of my superiors being afraid to stand up for what they know is right for our kids and our country because they, too, are afraid of losing their livelihood.

Tired of wanting to be better, volunteering to do additional work, and watching helplessly as any progress I have made is brushed aside by the newest educational reform acronym.

Tired of being told, “Ohh, sorry, but my hands are tied,” accompanied by a half smile, a shrug of the shoulders.

Tired of spending hours of my life documenting and sorting and filing instead of revising and learning and improving.

Tired of wasting taxpayer money on binders and tabs and computer paper and ink.

Tired of being a taxpayer, watching as my money is spent on binders and tabs and computer paper and ink instead of STUDENTS and STUDENTS and STUDENTS and STUDENTS...."
Yay testing!... right...? And should the Feds require those teachers to be replaced, the replacements are more than likely to come from the Fed's preferred cadre, such as "Teach for America", recent college graduates who more than likely have little or no actual teaching experience, but who do have lots of enthusiasm and willingness to follow orders in order to build their resumes.

That is standardized testing in action, and it is fully in accord with Ellwod P. Cubberly's original goals for testing, made over a century ago - and proRegressively being realized today.

And for those of you banking on private businesses saving the day with Charter schools... there's bad news. If the 'Charter School', has to conform to the standards and curriculum that is defined by the Feds for all the other schools - and they do - then the only meaningful difference you're going to see is in how well the janitorial staff and lunch lines are managed.

Same bad news for Home Schoolers too, I'm afraid - Common Core intends to see to it that your standards are common to their core as well, standards of behavior and 'comprehension' - to which they will put your (oh, excuse me Melissa Harris-Perry, OUR) children to the test. Regularly.

2) The second answer, from Common Core Curriculum, comes through how they will be defining, updating and maintaining the content of the textbooks which schools purchase, teachers teach from, and students are given their views through. Unfortunately the process of defining and choosing textbooks too often cause firestorms of controversy, which proRegressives would prefer to avoid, and so in an effort to avoid political controversy (meaning a situation in which you might have a say), they've begun creating consortias of those who just know best, experts (like Glaucon & Adeimantus? Yep, exactly like them) to whom all delicate decisions can be outsourced to, by forming organizations that are transforming themselves into 501c3 organizations.

These Common Core approved organizations, whether small consortias or larger ones such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, proudly tout the benefits they bring with their financial aid and alleviation of another a cash drain from the public purse. Not so touted, however, is the fact that by removing the power of the purse from those who are being 'served' by them, it has the happy result of completing the removal of you from the process; further distancing local parents from those decisions being made about the education of their children, centralizing power still further away, and not only from local levels, but even seemingly beyond that of federal reach.

The situation being produced is an administrative bureaucrat's wet dream - when no one can claim to be in charge, then those who are in power answer only to their own smart selves.

That in itself, is a fundamental transformation of America.

3) And thirdly, the pièce de résistance, states like Texas, of all places, are leading the way with curriculum management systems such as CSCOPE, which provide the final, and by far the most innovative answer to the old question of ''What to do about the parents'' - it exiles them from having any contact with the curriculum.

How? By copyrighting the curriculum, by forcing teachers to sign non-disclosure statements so that they are forbidden from discussing their lesson plans with their students parents, thereby preventing parents from even seeing the curriculum and discovering what they might wish to complain about.

Complain? To who? There is no local principal or other person in authority that you can speak to about your problem, and who also has the authority to do something about it. That power has been centralized away to faceless committees in distant locations, which if, not already located several states away, needs the approval from still others who are located several states away, from you, their problem. Problem solved.

Now, not only will your children answer 'nuthin'' to your question of 'what did you do in school today?', teachers will also tell you 'nothing' about what they did with your child in school that day.

Nothing more needs to be said and that's that.

Well... except for how to put it over on the little people. And... as usual, my post has grown too long (and you would be amazed by how much I've already left out), but there's still one more topic that must be addressed - the Royal Lie that the system is - before we can look at how to go about attempting to remedy the situation. Tomorrow.

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