Sunday, June 8, 2014

CCSS: Schooling for Wretched People in a Miserable World

The Council of the Great City Schools (yet another group apparently set up to make money by shilling for the Core) has created a marvelous promotional video for the Core. Done in the style of those high-speed marker-drawing videos that the interwebs love, and narrated by a possible-non-caucasian lady narrator, it does a fabulous job of distilling the world view embedded in the Common Core complex.

I'm not going to break it down second by second. Instead, lets look at some of the assumptions built right into the program

Education Is A Single Staircase

The central image of the video is the stairway. The stairway is a single path, always heading upward. It should be exactly the same for everyone-- in fact, every "problem" that the video brings up is visualized as ways in which two separate sets of steps aren't exactly the same. Differences are bad. We feel so strongly about this that we even lie about how the new CCSS staircase is just like the international staircase, because Same is Good.

It's a Dog Eat Dog World

"Like it or not," says the video grimly, the world is all about measuring and competition. We see athletic winners blocks with big piles of money going to the top spot. The world is all about competition. Here is a cartoon American competing with cartoon grads from Shanghai and look-- the Shanghai grads are getting all the money.

So it's clear that not only is life all about competition, but there is only one way of keeping score-- and that's with money.

But, Plateaus

The video highlights one of the oddly self-negating qualities of the Core Complex. Our students need to compete, but we've also got plateaus on the steps where we will gather all the students and make sure they're all on the same step. So it's like a race-- but a race where at the end of every lap, everyone has to sit and wait until all the runners have caught up.

Measures Are For the Fatherland, Not the Child

The video makes it clear that one of our big problems is that the different staircases, different tests and different measures make it hard for the Supervisory Other to see what's going on. I actually appreciate the honesty in this point of view-- it certainly beats the usual line that students and their teachers are somehow too boneheaded to know how the student is doing.

But here it's clear. They don't need to know. It's the bosses, the overlords, the fatherland, the high potentates of business and government-- these are the people who need a good, solid dependable report on how well the education system is doing and what kind of product it's churning out.

This video is worth watching because it captures just how small and meager and bleak is the world envisioned by the reformsters. Our students are to all toil away on exactly the same path, with exactly the same steps, to exactly the same destination, where the only measure of their success or worth in this upward rat race will be how much money they get. And that education, as flat and uninspiring as it is, is not being provided for the benefit of the students, but to benefit the uberclass that runs the schools and the factories and the government, the same uberclass to whom the students and the schools are accountable.

What a miserable joyless de-humanizing version of education. What a sad model of a pointless life for wretched people in a miserable world.


  1. Love this essay. Thank you for your interpretation of this video and your words. I am presently writing a speech to be presented to my district's school board regarding their plan to spend state money being given to them through California's new school funding formula. My districts wants to include in our Local Control Accountability Plan - LCAP, more and more testing, gathering of data, and measuring. They will be measuring scores on district math and ELA tests, English Language Development tests, vocabulary tests, and physical education tests. When they can't get a test of the students, they will be sending "district leaders" around each week to observe how often our objectives are written on the board and if our students are "engaged" in the lesson using methods like pair-share, choral reading, choosing non-volunteers to answer, saying the objective every 90 seconds (truth), and having your students repeat the parts of the objective or lesson over to you so repeatedly it would put anyone to sleep. This is what is happening in one of the largest elementary districts in California. This all due to a pervasive belief that teachers are not to be trusted with their students, the interpretation of the standards, the instructional strategies, to create their own tests to inform their teaching, and even the result of their work. This 26 year veteran teacher is tiring of this nonsense, but can not stand still and see public education die in the hands of these reformers who don't give a damn about our students.

    1. If they're so fond of data, don't hesitate to ask one of your district leaders for the quantitative study that proves such inane pedagogy actually works.

    2. Amen. But they're the "Educational Leaders," after all. Sal all around.

  2. I just posted the following comment on my FB page:
    Yikes. I agree with Curmugucation's take on this video - in this video "Common Core" puts forth a rather Social Darwinian view of the world as if it's 'unavoidable.' It's just a variation on Lady Thatcher's 'TINA' argument for globalization: 'There Is No Alternative.' Bullshit. There are ALWAYS alternatives. Like: dealing with poverty.
    This is cunning propaganda for creating even more conformity than we already have in the U.S.
    Under the (no doubt 'well-intentioned') guise of creating equality in U.S. schools - they avoid all discussion of why we have disparities - could it have anything to do with how some wealthy districts spend TONS more money on their schools? No, it's all about how the miracle of Standardized Tests will save us...
    At about 44 secs. into the video (after dire predictions about how 'uncompetitive' we are in comparison to, say, Shanghai) - they show the Shanghai grads being showered with money compared to the pittance the U.S. grad is getting...which neatly (and deceptively) turns the whole discussion away from the fact that we've become one of the World's most unequal cultures after decades of siphoning money up the food chain to fatten the already obscenely wealthy 1%.