Thursday, November 14, 2013

CCSS: Lowering the Bar

College and career ready.

We can discuss the many and varied flaws of the CCSS all day, but those four words are all it takes to shove me off the CCSS bus.

That's it? That's your idea of what an education is for? All we send students to school to do is to get vocational training for a job? Or to go to college, which is just four more years of vocational training for a more impressive job.

I could wax rhapsodic about the value of the whole human experience, about how our minds, bodies and spirits are meant for more than the simple grind of the workplace. I could talk about how nobody ever lay on a deathbed whispering, "Oh, if only I had spent more time getting college and career ready." I could serve up some tasty rhetoric, like "What good is making a living if you don't have a life?"

But instead, let's look at the practical implications of this, and since the pushers of CCSS are practical people, let's ask them these questions repeatedly.

If a young woman's intention is to become a stay at home housewife and mother, should she be allowed to drop out of school?

Does this mean we can drop all arts programs now, because none of our students are going to be making a living as artists and musicians? Well, no, some of them might. But this gets tricky-- a future professional musician needs the experience of playing in an ensemble-- should we force all the future engineers to play an instrument or sing in choir so that our handful of future professional musicians have the appropriate preparatory experience? And by the way-- notice that for that sentence to be clear, I have to write "professional musician" but not "professional engineer." That's because lots of folks can be musicians without being professional musicians-- does being a musician without making a living at it count?

What about shop class and sports programs? And if I'm sure I'm going to pursue a non-science career, can I just drop out of math and science classes?

Of course the answer to that last one is "no" because in CCSS, one size fits all. But how does that work if I'm going to be college and career ready? Are we preparing every single student for exactly the same career? If we are, which career is it? If we aren't, why are we applying the exact same standards to everyone? Ditto the colleges-- are we preparing everyone for exactly the same college with the exact same major? And are we preparing them to be biology majors at Harvard, or English majors at Wassamatta U, or welding at Anywhere Technical Institute? How can the answer be both/either if they are being prepared with exactly the same standards??

And we haven't even started on the "clarification" that the "career ready" portion really means "ready for a career that will provide them with a living above the poverty line." Which means "none of the part-time minimum wage jobs that now drive much of the economy." (Which leads to the question, who will be working at Wal-Mart when all high school graduates are working at the above-poverty jobs that are going to magically appear to receive them?)

"College and career ready" sounds so harmless, so benign, so perfectly reasonable. But it's really a signpost that signals how myopic, ill-thought-out, and contrary to the values of both America and good education the CCSS are. When I look at the CCSS, I know something smells, and I don't have to dig deeply at all to find the source of the stink.

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