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.

22 comments:

  1. Here! Here! Right on! Way to go! Super! I agree wholeheartedly with your essay, Mr. Greene. You have gotten to the core (no pun intended, I assure you) of why ccss is orgasmic to businesses. Well written, sir, and thank you. p.s. I especially love the word "fluffernuttery."

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  2. Right on! I've been saying this for years. Lets get t the real problem with our education system. The universities and colleges that trained our teachers. Theses institutions are business first education second. Money drives what and how they teach. Yet, we are producing the most inefficient educators. I just watched a program that talked about we get our teachers from the bottom one third of the academic achievement pool. We are not putting out the best product from our colleges and universities. There is no training or mentoring programs in most school districts. The principals and the leadership are not trained in leadership, management, supervision, or training. In fact, most have little experience in these areas. How can we expect our students to achieve when we are putting a defective product in front of them? Now we are substituting technology for teaching. Technology needs to supplement teaching not be the focal point.

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    1. Norbert, whatever you watched was just more Gates funded propaganda. Of course colleges of education and school districts have internship and mentoring programs. That's mandated in many states. And of course principals are trained in "leadership, management, supervision and training". In fact, the business model has long been very much a part of their preparation. It's all a pack of lies and what they probably didn't tell you is that what those same "reformers" want is to replace formally trained, experienced teachers with 5 week trained people from Teach for America (TFA) and, after a mere two year commitment to teaching in the classroom, to then be able to catapult those TFAers into positions as principals and superintendents, so they can promote the corporate "reform" agenda.

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    3. Norbert, you completely missed the point... perhaps YOUR teachers were defective in teaching YOU the main idea and drawing conclusions... or maybe there was nothing wrong with them... perhaps YOU just never mastered those skills.

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  3. I've never read a more vivid, and thorough piece on this issue. Thank you.

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  4. @Norbert...the source that you watched is a BS source meant to belittle educators again. It is not the educators that are lacking. Given almost insurmountable tasks, teachers are cranking out amazing lessons day in/day out (during their paid time) and planning, grading, and researching at home on their unpaid time. The system of testing is busted and does not accurately reflect the teaching that is going on to our precious students. I am a 25 year teacher, I do a kick ass job, and I'm pretty tired of hearing how the teachers are defective from people who have not spent a day in a classroom of 45+ 17 year olds. It's crowded.

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  5. Here is the comment I posted to the article: "the truth is the development and voluntary adoption of the common core was a remarkable exercise in bipartisan cooperation led by states" bipartisan, yes--voluntary, no, more like imposed on states by the federal DOE in exchange for RttT money and/or waivers from NCLB. The NGA and CCSSO were largely funded by Bill Gates. It was Gates money that developed the CCS(sic)S and pushed for the implementation. No early childhood professionals were involved in developing the standards for the youngest students, who are now subjected to bubble-test test prep in pre-K and K. How can you justify back-mapping college ready academic standards to pre-K? How can you justify one-size-fits-all standards in a diverse nation, with students from varied backgrounds with varied interests? How can you justify beautiful, unique, and bright children hating school and feeling stupid because their teachers are forced to use scripted instructional materials that are not appropriate for their developmental level? Were special educators or professionals who work with English language learners included in the development of these standards? NO. The Common Core rhetoric sounds reasonable to people who are not involved with public school work, but the implementation has been deplorable. Listen to the children, listen to the parents, listen to the teachers, listen to the principals. The CCS(sic)S promotes the opposite of what children need--engaging materials that honor their experiences and their voice. "Businesses are the primary consumers of the output of our schools, so it’s a natural alliance." Do you seriously believe that any parent would agree that children are the "output of our schools" and that an education for the 21st century means merely developing skills that are marketable? Children are precious and deserve an education that nurtures their uniqueness and their humanity. This will naturally lead to a healthier economy and society.

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  6. Bravo! We are indeed in a forced alliance of unnatural connections!

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  7. Thanks for such a brilliant article about something so wrong. Let's try not to let this happen during our watch.

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  8. This whole piece is spot on, but I think you hit the nail on the head right here: "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."
    Students are not these things, but sadly this is exactly what most people seem to believe that they are. Sadly, this is precisely the thinking which leads to most adults feeling like they are used until they are discarded or replaced, and live in fear of how quickly that day will come. Our society on the whole seems to believe in the idea that we human beings are measured, precisely, in our utility to business' bottom line, and non-stop progression.

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  9. You rock. I love reading your stuff. You put everything I'm thinking into words so much more eloquently than I could. Keep up the good fight.

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  10. Love your analysis. As I read, I thought about both students and teachers as objects, as postmodern other, as on the fringe. I, a fellow cranky old teacher, approve and concur.

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  11. Bravo! A brilliant riff on all that is wrong with reformy approaches to children and learning. Golston is completely unqualified to say anything about education. I think his MBA is showing.

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  12. Norbert, I graduated high school and college with honors. I was not in the bottom third of my class, I was near the top. I've been a teacher for thirty years. Most of the teachers I worked with were fabulous, totally dedicated, hard-working people who devoted tons of extra hours to their job on evenings and weekends. Anyone who wants to comment on teachers should go try doing it first. Most schools are in need of substitute teachers. Try it for a while, than see what you have to say. I totally agree with Aimee...this is exactly what big business thinks of the majority of people: as a commodity to be used up and exploited for profit. That's how it's always been. There was a little forced decency and respect for people after the unionization movement but most unions have been outlawed so we're now moving back to an age of complete worker exploitation. Big business doesn't want a well-educated populace that can think for themselves because then they wouldn't be able to coerce and fool everyone so easily. They want non-questioning little robots that are easier to take advantage of, easier to control. The dishonest propaganda vilifying America's schools and teachers is ubiquitous in this country. Just like the lie that's continually being spread around about a shortage of qualified STEM graduates; those lies are specifically designed to convince Congress to offer more work visas to foreigners because they can pay those foreigners less than half of what they'd have to pay an American graduate. I heard someone bragging recently that he hired an engineer for $24,000 a year. Who would want to go into engineering in this country with salaries like that? Who would want to pay for 4-5 years of college to study their butt off only to be rewarded with a job that paid barely above the minimum wage? The STEM lies and propaganda are explained very well in these articles: http://www.cjr.org/... and http://www.cjr.org/reports/what_scientist_shortage.php?page=all

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  13. Agreed. We are not preparing a labor force to be exploited and controlled by the Masters of the Universe. But that has been the agenda

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  14. Great post. Thank you for all of your brilliant writing and analysis.

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  15. I think you just jumped to the top of my favorite bloggers list. Actually Diane is still #1 because I followed her link to you.

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  16. Let's say (and I am not) the statement is true. How much are the "consumers" paying for those goods? If the employees come from a pool of graduates, how much is corporate industry paying for the developed free thinkers able to innovate, create, and collaborate to produce the successful businesses it requires? Even if secondary and post-secondary education were job-training (and, again, they are not), by their own reasoning corporations (if corporations were capable of reasoning) need to pay the taxes that provide for that "training," and have those taxes reach the "trainers" themselves, and begin paying for the society that supplies them with their sustenance, (not by supplying widgets but vital organs, to shift the metaphor).

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  17. Brilliant piece and right on target: Your comment that:
    “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”
    Pretty much says it all.
    I would add, though:
    As the only consumer of manufactured products, do people (or schools) get to tell manufactures how to operate and what to do to correct for the damages their production processes cause them or absorb the expenses of operating in the way they do? Is this idiot suggesting that this alliance qualify representatives of schools to have a natural right to tell business how to treat their employees? We could accept that.
    Businesses expect to treat students much as they do any of the raw or prepared materials (like roads and real and social networks they use) as things that are rightfully theirs – that is not an alliance. But it is really more than that for students because businesses believe that students would have no future at all (like be dead) if they had not set up their business to need and pay wages to people.
    Also, let me pick up on another reader’s comment -- Sheila Resseger’s leaves off with: “Do you seriously believe that any parent would agree that children are the "output of our schools" and that an education for the 21st century means merely developing skills that are marketable?” I would add, ‘and then turn around and not be able to specify what the most needed skills will be and where they will be needed much less at what market price’.

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