Monday, April 15, 2013

The Common Core Curriculum: The Royal Lie pt.4

How is the Common Core Curriculum put across with a straight face? Even disconnected as most people are from the doings of their school boards (by the structure of their school boards), you'd think that all of the matters that have been raised in the Common Core related programs (see the preceding posts, here, here and here), would have to raise concerns across the public - this is about our children, after all- how is it all to be accomplished? How can is it gotten away with?

The answer of course is simple.


Which is something else that hasn't changed all that much over the last 2,500 years.

Then as now, in pursuit of power - those who seek or seek to hold onto power - must lie... but for a good cause. For the greater good. Of course. And back then, as now, the plans of the smartest amongst us, always seem to require a few well crafted royal lies, to put them across - because intelligence is so often seen as a tool to enable you to outwit reality - which is certainly the case today, though it is certainly not exclusive to our time.  Plato had Socrates frame, and justify his 'Royal Lie' like this:
"Then if any one at all is to have the privilege of lying, the rulers of the State should be the persons; and they, in their dealings either with enemies or with their own citizens, may be allowed to lie for the public good. But nobody else should meddle with anything of the kind; and although the rulers have this privilege, for a private man to lie to them in return is to be deemed a more heinous fault than for the patient or the pupil of a gymnasium not to speak the truth about his own bodily illnesses to the physician or to the trainer, or for a sailor not to tell the captain what is happening about the ship and the rest of the crew, and how things are going with himself or his fellow sailors.

Most true, he said.
If, then, the ruler catches anybody beside himself lying in the State,

Any of the craftsmen, whether he priest or physician or carpenter. he will punish him for introducing a practice which is equally subversive and destructive of ship or State.

Most certainly, he said, if our idea of the State is ever carried out."
Back in the old days, the Royal Lie took the form of a myth that the people were descended from people of Gold, Silver, Bronze or Iron, and only the philosopher kings were capable of determining who was born into which class, and so best fit to serve or enjoy whichever strata of society would benefit most by them. Of course modern society doesn't go in for anything as bizarre as that, right?
"We want one class of persons to have a liberal education and we want another class of persons, a very much larger class of necessity in every society, to forgo the privilege of a liberal education and fit themselves to perform specific difficult manual tasks."
Attributed to Woodrow Wilson, then president of Princeton, to the Federation of High School Teachers.
Uhmmm... really? Surely, if Woodrow Wilson did in fact say that a century ago, that was a long time ago, surely we don't believe such things anymore... right?

Well of course we don't go about weeding and sorting our human capital based upon some mythical heritage of gold, silver, brass or iron - preposterous!

This is the electronic age, after all, and what with the improvements that spin-meisters and word dancers have brought to the art of not saying what you mean, and getting more of what you want, we now know how to put things a bit differently, such as in this somewhat dated sample, four or five years ago, from "Pathways to College Network"....
"Data on student achievement provide critical feedback to community stakeholders, parents, students, and teachers. There is a growing impetus in some schools and districts for creating longitudinal student record data systems as repositories of individual student histories. These data can be used to improve curricular alignment and student transitions throughout the P-16 pipeline by identifying important variables that impact students’ academic progress at key points along the way. Such data systems can also be rich informational tools to aggregate individual records for analysis at national, state, and district levels in order to inform policy, planning, and resource allocation."
Would you like me to translate that? Sure, I'd be happy to:
"We want one class of persons to have a liberal education and we want another class of persons, a very much larger class of necessity in every society, to forgo the privilege of a liberal education and fit themselves to perform specific difficult manual tasks."
While it's true we don't go about weeding and sorting our human capital (and if referring to your child as 'human capital' doesn't alarm and piss you off, you are not thinking things through, not one bit) based upon some mythical heritage of gold, silver, brass or iron, we do do the very same damn thing through the equally mythical nonsense of standardized testing, and data gathering systems - beginning at birth.

The stated purpose of the system of standardized testing we've been so busily setting up, is to determine whether you best fit into the new labels for the old categories:
  • Lawyers, Doctors, Professors, etc (Gold.),
  • CEOs Politicians, Engineers, etc.(Silver),
  • Managers, Small Business Owners,Teachers, etc (Bronze) or
  • Workers, Military, Security, and those who need to be supported by everyone else, etc.(Iron),
And that sorting is accomplished today by means of standardized testing and data gathering, designed to grade your ability to swallow those government crafted 'texts', no matter how uninteresting and lacking in depth or value they may be, in service to one politically correct ideal or another... IOW:

Uncle ED wants you!

The rest of you... not so much.

BTW, standardized, for Cubberly didn't simply mean uniform, but LARGER, applying to MORE, encompassing as many people as possible, in the same way and for the same reasons that he always sought to make schools larger and more impersonal, which had the effect of to centralizing power into smaller and more distant locations; with a similar purpose of having the individual disappear into the collective mass - more democratic that way, doncha know.

The Common Core Royal Lie is that these 'standards' have any legitimate claims to being effective standards.

Politely put, that's a crock.

Here's a sampling from the explanation recently given by Diane Ravitch, long time historian of education, researcher and educational policy adviser, for why she could not support the Common Core Standards,
"...I have come to the conclusion that the Common Core standards effort is fundamentally flawed by the process with which they have been foisted upon the nation.

The Common Core standards have been adopted in 46 states and the District of Columbia without any field test. They are being imposed on the children of this nation despite the fact that no one has any idea how they will affect students, teachers, or schools. We are a nation of guinea pigs, almost all trying an unknown new program at the same time.

Maybe the standards will be great. Maybe they will be a disaster. Maybe they will improve achievement. Maybe they will widen the achievement gaps between haves and have-nots. Maybe they will cause the children who now struggle to give up altogether. Would the Federal Drug Administration approve the use of a drug with no trials, no concern for possible harm or unintended consequences?

President Obama and Secretary Duncan often say that the Common Core standards were developed by the states and voluntarily adopted by them. This is not true.

They were developed by an organization called Achieve and the National Governors Association, both of which were generously funded by the Gates Foundation. There was minimal public engagement in the development of the Common Core. Their creation was neither grassroots nor did it emanate from the states.

​In fact, it was well understood by states that they would not be eligible for Race to the Top funding ($4.35 billion) unless they adopted the Common Core standards. Federal law prohibits the U.S. Department of Education from prescribing any curriculum, but in this case the Department figured out a clever way to evade the letter of the law. Forty-six states and the District of Columbia signed on, not because the Common Core standards were better than their own, but because they wanted a share of the federal cash...."
The entire system of Race To The Top, Common Core Curriculum Standards, and all the other variations upon the theme, are being created to centralize power politically, financially, culturally, and aspirationaly  reforming the very bricks of the state and social structure (aka: your child) into materials better suited to their vision of an improved society.

These standards are a lie, and they are being pushed in service to what lies always serve - the pursuits of power. It is what they pursue. Our children are simply the means to their ends. That does not mean they are being done for nefarious purposes. Honestly, I'd feel relieved if I could assign it all to deep dark conspiracies of bad people plotting to do things they know they shouldn't do - people that know they are doing what is wrong, and feel bad about it - unfortunately I can't do that. I suspect that each component is, at root, being formed from the well meaning plans of well intentioned and very smart people, driven by vaguely grasped, but poorly understood philosophy, a desire to improve our world, no particular opinions on what is right or wrong and helped along by a failure to have learned that reality doesn't like being fooled.

IOW, what drives the reformers of today, are the same motivations that drove Glaucon & Adeimantus in Plato's Republic, 2,500 years ago:
  • The children were not being considered as values in and of themselves, but simply as means to an end - their ideal state.
  • The essential means to that end without the interference of parents, can only be accomplished (assuming you don't want to go the Pol Pot route) by the state having unlimited control of the education of the inhabitants of the state.
  • With control of the Education of children, not only are the current parents controlled, but you also progressively eliminate the threat of future parent's views which might be unsuited to the ideal state
And what is the thing most threatening to such a state?

Thoughtful people who question the ideals the state depends upon, and who are willing and able to discuss the matter with others. Can't have that.

Fortunately, when you change the purposes of Education from the moral and intellectual development of a virtuous and self governing persons (the form of education which progressive education supplanted), to churning out smart people with useful skills, then thoughtful people who care about what is right and true, progressively become more and more scarce.
You should have a look at the latest euphemisms for just such a state's schools: the concept of "Next Generation Schools".
"...The most profound concept in this graph shows how the next generation school will eliminate representative government. Notice that the new system bypasses the community, governance, and finance. Draw your attention to the blue lines that are most important to this agenda. They are: your child, called human capital, assessment which is testing, technology, and any time and any place. Testing and technology become the most important part of this agenda to create the human capital of the future for the international global workforce. How will abolishing representative government work?..."
Since Jefferson first envisioned the structure of school districts as a necessary means of preserving liberty (his proposal didn't pass, but still served as a model), they've become the most fundamental, if informal, building block of governance in America. The school district is central to how people choose which homes and neighborhoods to seek out, they have extensive ties into the community, businesses, funding, and they form distinctive centers within our neighborhoods. Yet the noble intentions of Jefferson's plan have been transformed into the means of subverting liberty at the most basic political levels, and even more fundamentally, in the hearts and minds of the children who become the parents of the next generation.

Since proRegressive Education won the spin wars and eliminated actual Education as the purpose and goal of schools,  they have been repurposed to inculcate those useful skills which self-styled leaders of industry - from J.D. Rockefeller to Bill Gates - have proclaimed to be the real demands for modern life. Those 'real demands' of modern life, have somehow been the same as what was needed to succeed in the "...19th century!...", the "...20th century!...", the "...21st century!...", so that our nation could beat the "...Germans!...", the "...Russians!...", the "...Japanese!..."... and now the Chinese. Truth be told the needs of 'modern life' have been more realized in what has been left out, than what they added in, but whatever the case, it has been in service to those ends of skillful, rather than thoughtful, graduates, and modern schools have been the bountiful means of producing what was needed to consolidate and centralize power. And it has been through that lever, that the influence of the individual has been diminished and silenced in the face of those who simply know that they are better suited to using that power, sucking it from individuals, decade by decade, regulation by regulation, law by law, with the central government growing in strength, even as the local community and its sense of itself, has been withered by it.

The explanation has always been that we needed more of those skills and habits that smart folk said would be most important to their vision of an 'improved' world, and your children, from back in the time when your grand, and your great grand parents, were the children, down to today, have been seen as little more (and in many ways much less) than the raw material needed for the production of their ideal administrative state. And such a state is a place where everything can, and must be, continually measured, monitored, tested, and adjusted as needed, in order to keep things rolling along - over you when need be - in the most efficient manner possible - and oh, how that is possible today (via Missouri Education Watchdog):
"Data mining techniques can track students’ trajectories of persistence and learning over time, thereby providing actionable feedback to students and teachers." Here is just a sample of what they envision collecting:
  • "functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) and physiological indicators offer insight into the biology and neuroscience underlying observed student behaviors.
  • Researchers can examine consistency in participant’s ratings to determine the strength of the belief or skill. Self-report can also be used to measure process constructs; for example, in the Experience Sampling Method (ESM), participants typically carry around a handheld device that “beeps” them at random intervals, prompting self-report of experiences in that moment (e.g., Hektner, Schmidt, & Csikszentmihalyi, 2007). Such data can be used to make inferences about emotions, thoughts,and behaviors within and across specific situations.
  • Sensors (attached to the student) provide constant, parallel streams of data and are used with data mining techniques and self-report measures to examine frustration, motivation/flow, confidence, boredom, and fatigue. [plan for the]... development of systems and devices that can recognize, interpret, process, and simulate aspects of human affect. Emotional or physiological variables can be used to enrich the understanding and usefulness of behavioral indicators. Discrete emotions particularly relevant to reactions to challenge -- such as interest, frustration, anxiety, and boredom -- may be measured through analysis of facial expressions, EEG brain wave patterns, skin conductance, heart rate variability, posture, and eye-tracking.
  • The MIT Media Lab Mood Meter (Hernandez, Hoque, & Picard, n.d.) is a device that can be used to detect emotion (smiles) among groups. The Mood Meter includes a camera and a laptop. The camera captures facial expressions, and software on the laptop extracts geometric properties on faces (like distance between corner lips and eyes) to provide a smile intensity score. While this type of tool may not be necessary in a small class of students, it could be useful for examining emotional responses in informal learning environments for large groups, like museums."It's not a field trip. It's a data gathering session.
Another source of data about students’ perseverance is school records about grades, standardized test scores, attendance, dropping-out, discipline problems, social services used, and so on.

As we have said, the data tracking with Common Core is setting up the infrastructure to facilitate the easy collection of data on our students for someone else's benefit. "The Expanding Evidence report points to important trends in the availability and application of technology-supported institutional-level data for supporting at-risk students (U.S. Department of Education Office of Educational Technology, 2013). Data at the institutional level is becoming increasingly streamlined and cross-referenced, improving the capacity to link student data within and across systems."
The Royal Lie is not only about Education, but the fundamental transformation of America.

Tomorrow, working towards the counter reformation of educational reform.
(Cross posted at The Bell News)

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