Monday, June 2, 2014

When You're in a Hole...

Valerie Strauss covers the news from OK that one more state is Mighty Unhappy with Common Core. Unlike the pretend rejection of the Core happening in other states, the OK legislature has laid out a set of standards for how it shall be determined that the new standards do not resemble the Common Core Standards. They are rejecting both CCSS and the horse they rode in on.

That piece of legislative legerdemain awaits a gubernatorial pen stroke (or lack thereof) to determine its fate. That'll be fun to watch. But in the meantime, I was struck by the appearance in Strauss's article of a hot new talking point that is a serious contender for Dumbest Argument in Favor of Keeping CCSS.

The Oklahoman newspaper quoted Steven Crawford, executive director of the Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Administration, as predicting that “chaos” would ensue if the Core is rescinded. One middle school math teacher, Heather Sparks, Oklahoma’s 2009 Teacher of the Year, was quoted as saying:
“For next year, we’ve already written our curriculum map and the pacing guides for the Common Core standards. It’s kind of disheartening. If these are repealed, we’ll have to go backward.”

We've seen this on a couple of occasions now, including John White's spirited defense of those poor Louisiana teachers facing the totally confusing and disorienting CCSS defection of Gov. Jindal.

The argument seems to be that, having come this far, we just have too much invested in time and effort and blood and sweat and, well, if not tears, a little bit of mistiness right at the corner of our eyeballs, right there-- anyway, we've put so much into this, we can't just back out now.

So, you know, it's a good idea to throw good money after bad. And we've got yourself dug deep in a hole, you should totally keep digging. If you're stuck waist deep in the Big Muddy, you should totally listen when the big fool says to push on. When the snake oil salesman says you need to buy just a few cases more to get your health back, well, then, buy a hundred cases! When you've already lost your car and home, it's a great idea to keep feeding coins into the one-armed bandit.

It's not that Core opponents aren't sympathetic to this disinclination to change direction. After all, a few of us may have expressed a similar sentiment back when we were being told that we needed to dump out everything we'd done in the past and get with the Common Core program right now, right this moment, build-the-plane-while-we-fly-it immediately.

The difference is that back then, we had no reason at all to believe that jumping on the Common Core school bus would take us anywhere we wanted to go. We know with a high degree of certainty that it is a one-way trip to Education Malpracticeland.

So, pro tip for Heather Sparks and other CCSS boosters-- if the best thing you can say about your product is, "Well, you've already thrown a bunch of money away on it. You shouldn't back out now!" and not something like, say, "Let me tell you how great this is working," you are doing a very poor sales job. It may be that you're a lousy salesperson, or it may be that you've got a product that no salesman could make attractive, but either way, you're in a hole and you should stop digging.


  1. Thank you again. I only hope that people other than educators are reading your blogs (I'd toss a few administrators into that mix, frankly).

  2. Okay, I'm believing this is an Einstein quote. "Insanity: Doing the same thing...... expecting different results." (I say that because my librarian friend kindly let me know the fish climbing a tree quote attributed to Einstein may not be his.)

    So, education reform is insanity. We have had twelve years of standards-based reform since NCLB passed. It failed. Clearly. Now, we want to continue reform with new... learning standards?!

  3. I appreciate what you are saying about Oklahoma. But Missouri is kind of interesting too, at least for now. We are convening "work groups" to write new standards in math, ELA, history/government and science. I guess they could end up looking like CC. But -- there are a lot of legislators opposed and a really well organized anti-education reform group "Missouri Education Watchdog". At first, I thought this group was going to be home schooling conservatives, and some of them are. But many of them are very pro-public school. So I have hope that we will be able to come up with something "better than Common Core" as a result of these work groups. Also, totally take your point about voting. This lifelong progressive Democrat is "not going to do it this time". Our pro-Common Core education commissioner is unpopular with Dems and also with Republicans -- except "business roundtable" -- anyway, I really think there is hope in Missouri. We'll see.

  4. Sorry to go off track but every time I see the "plane" thing my mind skips straight to this story. One day I asked my 10 year old the question "What do you think about the idea of someone building a plane that is already in the air?" He started this 10 minute rant full of statements like "Don't pilots have a million checklist's to do before the ever take off? I thought they had to check and double check everything before they took off." "Why would anyone want to ride in a plane that was not finished? Suppose you get to 20,000 feet and find nothing works the way it was supposed to." He just went on and on and every single comment was appropriate in relation to Common Core even though he was unaware of the connection. His last comment was "Don't people usually use a metaphor to make something sound better than it really is? Why would anyone use this one? It's an awful idea!" I wonder what he would say to this teacher of the year. I suspect he would suggest we find a safe way to get off ASAP.