Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Jennifer Rubin Strikes Out

Over at the Washington Post, Jennifer Rubin took her turn at propping up the ever-besieged conservative defense of Common Core. She did not succeed. (even though I'm giving her an extra swing or two).

Strike One

Rubin starts out with the old standard "We were getting totes whupped on the PISA by all the other kids on the playground, which was completely a crisis because we're worse than Korea and the Netherlands." She crunches some of the subdivisions with a bit more style than the classic version of this argument, but she still fails to spackle over the giant hole in this argument, to wit:

Exactly what is the linkage between standardized test supremacy and anything? Where is the evidence that greater standardized test scores are linked to economic prosperity or military supremacy or better symphony orchestras or happier, more attractive children?

Foul Ball

She points out that the Core is NOT curriculum, as in, it is not responsible for those evil lessons trying to brainwash children into thinking the federal government is better than your mom. She is not wrong here, though she misses the nuance that CCSS made the widespread distribution of such baloneyicious school material far more likely.

She airs out the new talking point-- this should be a pedagogical debate, not a political one. Which is true. It was true back when many of us were saying so, but the pro-Core folks had the political upper hand so they pooh-poohed the pedagogical points. Live/die by sword, and all that.

Strike Two

You have to propose an alternative. Personally, I reject this argument. If a doctor wants to cut out my lungs for no good reason, I do not have to answer the question, "Well then, what other organ do you want me to cut out instead?" It's the Reformsters who wanted to change the education world; it's the Reformsters who have to make a case for doing so.

But I accept that the game has already started. Fortunately, there are plenty of alternatives out there. Some states had perfectly good standards before we started, so they could use those. There is a very interesting open source approach out there. Even I have a proposal for standards. Plus guys like Tom Hoffman who can explain the issues in great detail.

Rubin is okay with states coming up with their own standards, though she figures they'll just be cribbed from the CCSS like the Indiana standards are. I'm not sure if she realizes the reason for that (hint: it's not a pedagogical reason-- it's the other one).

Strike Three

Rubin's other big point is that the Core is already happening, and so we just can't stop. This is a particularly entertaining argument from a conservative right now, and I look forward to hearing conservatives bring it up as a defense of the Affordable Care Act. Or will their argument be, "It's really bad so I don't care how far the train is out of the station, we have to stop it before it causes more damage." I'm betting on door number two.

She reminds conservatives that they like standards and rules, and they like businessy stuff, and I think she is maybe half right there, depending on which conservatives we're talking to. But hey-- lots of states are doing things, and "the economies of size are unfolding " which means corporations are heavily into financial foreplay as they begin disrobing the national market for education stuff and you don't want to stop them in the middle of that! You don't want to be THAT guy!


Rubin actually writes this sentence in her conclusion. "But the results will speak for themselves." This is worth remembering because we've been at this long enough for results to start talking, and what they're saying is "No signs of success around here, buddy!" Nothing about CCSS and its attendant reforms smells like anything other than flop sweat. In fact, the more results we see, the more people seem to get the sense that the results are saying, "Run away!" The only people who are seeing success anywhere in the neighborhood of the CCSS regime are the people making money from it. And that is a small, select, and increasingly outnumbered group.

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