Archive for the ‘teachers against common core’ Tag

Goodbye to English Departments   5 comments

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This article, published yesterday in Minding the Campus,  is published here with permission. 

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Professor Grabar’s essay comes to this pointed conclusion: “If all poetry, writing, “spoken word,” and gesture is equally valuable, we don’t need literature professors.” 

This is the perversion of the concept of equality and the meat of current “education reform”.  Ed reformers’ quest for social justice has taken over good judgment and even honesty.

But no matter what they say, the truth remains; and there are such things as beauty and truth.  There is value in the study of classic literature.  Equality of human opportunity never should have been confused with sameness of result, of effect, or mandated sameness.

The prime movers of education reform are unwilling to distinguish between the value of a book, of an academic disciplines, a tradition or even a fact– which facts are true, and matter a lot– enough to fight for?  Which ones matter a little?  Which “facts” and “studies” do not matter much at all, or are inappropriate –or are lies?  Which academic departments are dismissable, replaceable, overvalued by past generations?  And who gets to call the shots on what matters, anyway?

They ignore the wisdom of the ages and suddenly treat every every  ink stain, every thought and utterance from any source, from grunts to glory, as belonging equally in our universities and schools and in the minds and hearts of our children.

This point of Professor Grabar’s meets up with with what I desperately hope is not a new ed reform trend, (which is happening in Boston now) –one I was shocked to learn about:   they are doing away with history departments   and no longer hiring real history teachers.  History will be “incorporated” under the concept of  informational text in language arts classes.    It makes sense, when you look at the actual, long winded 18-word title of the language arts standards of Common Core:  “The Common Core State Standards for Language Arts and Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science and Technical Subjects.” 

Goodbye to classic literature departments, and to high quality history and science as well?

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Goodbye to English Departments

By Mary Grabar

English departments have pretty much given up on their mission of preserving a literary canon or teaching poetic form and rhetorical strategies.  Decades ago, politics of race, class, and gender overtook any concern for preserving and perpetuating poetic art.  In fact, to claim that there is such a thing as Literature was to align oneself with the right-wing Imperialists.

Today, “digital” is seen as dismantling the last vestige of literary hierarchy. James Pulizzi, in the New Republic, predicts, with no sorrow, that digitization will make literature departments “largely extinct.” His dismissal of traditional English departments is very casual: “As long as literature departments remain beholden to print culture, to the study and transmission of printed texts, they will continue to fade in relevance and prestige.”

English professors themselves have been ushering in this brave, new digital world.  Georgia Institute of Technology Professor Richard Utz last year lectured “hidebound faculty members who continue to assign and study only pre-computer-based media,” telling the English professoriate that they should “embrace, accompany critically, and shape the new discourses its students sorely need to communicate and compete: blogs, video essays, Web comics, digital archives, data visualization, and the like.”  The digital change is more profound than the transference of material from paper to screen.

The English Department home page of Georgia State University, where I earned my master’s in 1994, declares now, “We read the world.”  The profiles of faculty hired since my days as a student there reveal the changes and are representative of departments across the country.  Dr. Gina Caison’s work focuses on “southern and Native American studies.”  Her work is “interdisciplinary” and “incorporates her interests in performance studies and American visual culture.”   Dr. Caison seems to be doing very little analysis of the written word: her “book-length project” “explores the recurrent use of Native American history in literary and cultural texts of the U.S. South,” and she is co-producer of a documentary film about the history of “studying and collecting indigenous human remains.”  Whatever she is doing–drama, anthropology, history–it is a far cry from literary study. But even American literature anthologies have scalp dances and rain dances crowding out William Bradford and Anne Bradstreet.

Caison’s colleagues are doing similar work.  Dr. Lindsey Eckert “specializes in British Romanticism and Digital Humanities.” Dr. Mary Hocks does “digital rhetoric, visual rhetorics, and computers and composition studies.”  Dr. Audrey Goodman writes about “the literary and visual cultures of the American Southwest,” and Dr. Scott Heath “specializes in 20th and 21st century African American literature, black popular culture, and speculative race theory.”  He has a book contract on “hip-hop discourse.”

So what the University of Arizona is doing is only the logical conclusion in this move away from literature: they are eliminating the English department.  They don’t say this, but by moving English from the Humanities Department to the College of Social Behavior, they are relegating literature to the purely utilitarian.  They see the word as simply a means for persuading and transmitting information.  Such moves in higher education parallel the focus under the Common Core K-12 program on “informational texts,” which, as it turns out, often are slightly disguised ideological texts.

Today, we have a digital miasma of information with college graduates trained to discernment only to the point of being able to distinguish politically unacceptable ideas from those that are.  Anything that does not go along with the current political pieties is considered “far-right,” “extremist,” or “reactionary.”  These are terms used by professors and in assigned reading material.

Poetry then becomes nothing more than self-expression of momentary impulses or fleeting observations without regard to form or tradition–kind of like Tweets or Facebook posts about the delicious overstuffed sandwich on the plate.  Anyone can be a poet–as long as the message is acceptable politically.  At poetry slams in coffee houses across the country the pencil-scribbling on the step to the podium garners as much applause as the carefully constructed (rare) villanelle.  The subjects of the “poems” are usually the scribblers themselves–the outrages against them personally and the failure of the world to grasp their vision of justice.

If all poetry, writing, “spoken word,” and gesture is equally valuable, we don’t need literature professors–not even those specializing in “digital media.”  It’s a sad day for those of us who love and teach literature.

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I hope you are screaming and pulling out your hair as you read this. I hope you remain one of the squeakiest and most annoying wheels in the ears of your local and state school board, and that they receive emails and calls from you often enough that they no longer smile when they hear your name.    Their disdain doesn’t matter; the children do.

Our children deserve at least as high quality an education as we received.  This ed reform movement ain’t it.

 

Thank you, Mary Grabar.

 

Letter from a Los Angeles Teacher   8 comments

This letter was sent this week from a Los Angeles teacher to Donna Garner, an education news writer.  

It is published here with permission, but without the name of the teacher.

 

 

Hi Donna,

 

I’ve been following your emails regarding Common Core, and the situation certainly is not pretty. Thanks a million for all you do. Many of my liberal friends are no longer liberals. They’re being screwed, and now they know it. We teachers had a meeting with the man who is basically in charge of all school programming, and it isn’t pretty. He’s leaving since they want him to reapply for a job; but he knows his job is being cut. He will be gone. More on that in a minute –

 

Hopefully Common Core can be neutered. I heard that 35 states have legislation to either restrict or eliminate Common Core. WOW!

 

Most of our math teachers are puzzled themselves by what they have seen in CC.

 

Our dept. chair (who is a vocal liberal and was a proponent of CC) came back from a district-wide meeting. He said the entire CC plan was so illogical that his hands were literally shaking after the meeting was over.

 

I personally don’t think we have seen the worst of CC as of yet, just a mild prelude. That’s why it needs to be eliminated and right now! Anyway, thanks ever so much for the emails and updates. I share them with my fellow teachers.

 

I learned today that LAUSD is eliminating the Special Ed. dept. altogether. I have no idea what they are doing, but it sounds crazy.

 

Our staff was asked to “apply” for a new school daily operations plan, whereby we could hire our own principal and have a say in the day-to-day operations. That has all backfired as of today, and one of the teachers said she would sue if she has the option. They have made it a living hell for teachers.

 

LAUSD is also getting rid of all Advanced Placement teachers. They have to reapply to get a job – now teachers will be called “Instructional Advisors” instead of teachers. Welcome to the real Common Core. Welcome Facilitators. We are no longer to be considered teachers.

 

People don’t understand the forethought into Common Core and what the feds want to implement. I’ll work at Home Depot or Wal Mart if it gets me out of here “yesterday.”

 

I am leaving California and moving to Texas. I would have left this year but because of health problems, I could not afford to leave my insurance. However, I am in the process of trying to get my Texas teaching certificate… At first, the Texas assessments were only given in Texas, but now they are available in San Diego. I’ll try and take them, but…we’ll see. I used to be a salesman, and I can do that again. I will do anything to get out of LAUSD.

 

Donna, please keep letting people, teachers, and parents know what is going on in the schools here. If parents really knew, they would be utterly shocked. This is where the education is heading. Complete control by the Feds. They are doing it to the teachers right now, yet the unsuspecting public is like the proverbial “frog in boiling water.” It’s over with here!

 

Anyway, just thought I’d let you know where Common Core is going. We in LAUSD are at the forefront. I’m going to try and document as many of the changes as possible so that I can send it to you. Maybe you can use it to alert the rest of America.

 

Take care, Donna, and thanks for helping me see some of the CC stuff; the whole picture is clearly coming into view now. I hope Texas is a better place for me to live and teach.

 

XXXXX

The Latest Fed-Ed Assault on Local Control: Mandatory Preschool and Principals’ Re-Education Programs   11 comments

Nothing real supports the  outrageous, increasing, ongoing federal overtake of schools. Federal bluffing and federal pretense to education authority continues because it is upheld by the stupored, undefending millions of us who aren’t aware of our right to control education locally  –and who do not defend it.

Two federal overtake moves stand out in my mind today as heart-stoppingly wrong.  These are things that we should firmly, loudly oppose.

  • The first is Secretary Arne Duncan’s mandatory preschool.  In his “Statement for the Record” to Congress concerning the new education budget request, Duncan lay aside the former practice of calling federal preschool voluntary.  In this recent (April 29, 2014) speech, Duncan called for mandatory preschool:  “The third major priority in the 2015 request is to continue the President’s commitment to expanding educational opportunity for millions of children through a $75 billion mandatory Preschool for All program…” he said.

 

  • The other is the Department of Education’s principals’ re-education program, aka “Principal Ambassador Fellowship” (PAF).  Do you like the idea of federally-approved-and-groomed, model “Fellowship” principals, teaching your local principal how to “engage with” federal policies?  Me neither.

From the Department of Education’s site, learn why the PAF program exists: —“principals should have meaningful opportunities to both contribute to and understand the  [federal] policies” —“to implement needed reforms, all stakeholders… must understand the intent of [federal] policy…” —“PAF’s will spend time gaining greater knowledge of the content of key federal programs and policies…” — “Principal Ambassador Fellows (PAF) are hired.. to facilitate cooperation between the Federal Government and the non-Federal entity…”

The Department of Education Secretary said, on the very same page where he announced the PAF program, that “The best ideas in education will never come from me or anyone else in Washington, D.C.  They’re always going to come from a local level.”  Yet principals are also told to understand and engage with federal policies.    Such doublespeak. It is pretty unlikely that principals lack or need “greater knowledge” of the federal agenda.  Given the increasing number of examples of defenders, notably schools like Maesar Prep in Utah, superintendents like Joseph Rella in New York, or the example of the state of Washington, which recently refused to tie teacher evaluation to Common Core student testing and got punished by Arne Duncan’s yanking of the state’s NCLB waiver– given these examples, it is more likely that principals are showing signs of resistance to the federal standardizations being shoved down their throats. Good for them.

Incompetent Pearson “Wins” PARCC Contract. Big Surprise.   Leave a comment

Mercedes Schneider has written another detailed, rich article exposing the “unprecedented education profiteering” scandal that is Pearson Education’s partnership with the U.S. Department of Education.

Read it:     Incompetent Pearson “Wins” PARCC Contract. Big Surprise..

 

U.S. Secretary of Education Punishes Children of Washington State as State Stands Up For Teachers   4 comments

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by  Whitne Strain and Christel Swasey

 

Long ago, the horrific invading soldiers of Genghis Khan used children as shields.  Seeing innocent children sandwiched between defenders and invaders, few defenders would continue a defense.

That  image, from “The Miracle of Freedom: Seven Tipping Points that Saved the World” comes to mind as we watch the U.S. Secretary of Education’s recent war against what he sees as a noncompliant Washington State.

Washington State became a thorn in Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s side when the state refused to comply with the federal agenda that would  tie teacher evaluations to students’ Common Core test scores.

Washington State’s leaders had listened to teachers and parents; they then stood up to the unconstitutional federal demands and just said no. They would not comply with the damaging policy of tying teacher evaluation to student scores.

The federal response was a punch in the face: Duncan stripped Washington of its waiver from ESEA (aka No Child Left Behind).

Why is that a punch in Washington State’s face?  Losing the waiver means that Washington now will get reburied in the absurd, impossible NCLB mandates –and  will lose funding.

Duncan not only punished Washington state; he especially punished the state’s neediest children.

According to the Washington Spokesman-Review, “Washington is the first state to lose control over federal dollars used to help students in the poorest schools. The result: Districts will be forced to set aside the $40 million they had been getting for those student services”.

We wonder: how does Duncan sleep at night?

barack arne

Read his wordy, meaningless federal explanation letter here.  It is so verbiose and devoid of goodness that we won’t quote a single word.  But do read teacher Peter Greene’s clever and hilarious teacher’s translation of Duncan’s letter to Washington, it here  —  spot-on.

peter greene   Here’s Greene’s conclusion:

Washington got to ignore its violation of federal NCLB laws if they agreed to install Duncan’s own untried, untested, unproven, unsubstantiated but very specific prescriptions about how to use CCSS [Common Core] tests to evaluate teachers and principals…    Duncan doesn’t just believe that CCSS [Common Core] test-based measures of teachers and principals are a good idea. He doesn’t just deny every stone on the mountain made out of evidence that he’s wrong. He has given CCSS test-based measurement the full weight of federal law.  

So what will happen to Washington, and who will do it? Or will the legislators freak out and panic, installing Arne’s junk science system at the 11th hour to win back his Kingly affection? You can bet a few other states will be watching… “ 

 

Thank you, Mr. Greene.  Yes, we are watching.

 

The Dying of the Light: How Common Core Damages Poetry – by Esolen, Highfill, Stotsky   10 comments

UT High School Physics Teacher Resigns Over Common Core   6 comments

Utahns Against Common Core published the resignation letter of Utah high school physics teacher Stuart Harper today.  The letter is powerful.  These are the words of a noble man, and his resignation is a tragic loss to Utah’s school system.

When will our state leaders acknowledge the train wreck of Common Core and turn our state around?  When will they read and heed teachers like Stuart Harper?

Read the full letter here. 

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“… After much research I know that the Common Core (CC), the way it has been implemented, and the reforms which have accompanied it are wrong. They are unsound, of poor quality, take power from local government, and further empower federal agencies and policy makers. Most importantly, their enactment was unconstitutional, both in Utah and in the nation. However wrong CC may be, my reasons for resigning are only tangent to this constitutional breech. I was aware of the core before signing on, and though I did not approve of it I gave my word in contract to teach whatever curriculum I was given.

In the summer of 2013 a personal letter I had written,  stating my concerns with Common Core, was posted on the Utahns Against Common Core website. It was an opinion piece, not a scholarly review. I saw no problem with stating my opinion, it is my right as a citizen, at least so I thought.

A few months later, I was informed that the Utah State Office of Education (USOE) had learned of my published letter and was not happy with my opinions or concerns. Local school authorities were instructed to meet with me and put me back in line. During this meeting with the district representatives I was told that I was shallow, ignorant and emotional in the way I wrote my concerns and that by writing things like this I would create rebellion and insubordination across the district. I was told I can have an opinion with other state’s educational systems but as a teacher in the state of Utah I cannot be concerned with my own state’s educational affairs.

I reminded them that my intent was not to promote rebellion, but to simply encourage personal research on the subject and exercise freedom of speech on my off time, as a citizen and father. I was told “Those freedom of speech rights you are probably referring to do not apply.”

I was shocked, but I stood my ground. I made it clear that if I continued to be intimidated into silence that I would resign same day. I told them that I have given my word to teach what they want me to in the classroom and would continue, but I would also continue to use my rights as an American citizen to effect political change. They said I could share my research if I get my facts straight, but even then my job is on the line. When I told them that I would continue to research information from original sources as well as writings from those for and against Common Core they were confused. They discouraged me from seeking information from anywhere other than the USOE, and accept only their interpretations of the facts. I refused, reminding them that true education comes from educating yourself on all sides.

I was threatened on three separate occasions with professional action all because I stated my opinion. I did not resign at any of the instances where I found myself threatened because I realized that I had given my word that I would teach for the year, and I will not break my word. However I refuse to remain in an environment that clearly has no respect for the Constitutional right of free speech. I refuse to be a part of the problem.

Over the years the school system has fallen far below what it should be. The public school system is just that – public. It should represent those served by it – We the People. Each level of the system (classroom, school, district and state) fails to remember that its duty is to the people, not to the establishment. We should be representing what is in our students’ and our community’s best interest. Our current system expects acceptance and conformity to its decisions and policies by all of its teachers and administrators. Further, it expects this without questioning or voicing concerns and even goes as far as intimidating and threatening those who have differing opinions. Any society or organization that silences and discourages freedom of speech removes the possibility to express ideas, and without competing ideas we close the door on true education and open the door to tyranny.

… We have lost control of the classroom and continue to hand more and more power over to the government. Our current system no longer promotes learning, but rather focuses on training. It teaches what to think, not how to think. It is now a system of hoops for students, teachers, and administrators, and with further national control and regulations of education, these hoops have been set on fire.

I believe that until we can get education to become self-sufficient where it no longer relies on the funding and intimidation from federal and even state levels, until we can bring education back to learning how to think and not being trained for a test, and until we can bring freedom back to the individual teachers, students, and schools, our public system will continue to decay. I hope the system and its people can exercise the self discipline to do this, but where I cannot foresee this happening, my greatest hope for education now resides in home-schools, home-school groups, and in private education.

My hands are tied within this system. But I now know that I can be more productive on the outside. I will continue to promote true and correct educational principles, awareness of civic affairs, and our duty to be involved. I am going to be a part of the solution. Asking questions is the essence of education. All I encourage of others is to ask questions, seek truth and not be afraid to share that truth with other Americans who are willing to listen.

Sincerely,

Mr. Stuart Harper

Teacher, Citizen, and Father”

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