Archive for the ‘literature’ Tag

How to Turn Great Literature into Informational Text   2 comments

Sharing Diane Ravitch’s:  How to Turn Great Literature into Informational Text.  Funny, yet useful!

 

 

Goodbye to English Departments   5 comments

applebook - Copy

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.

 

Video Lecture from Hillsdale College: Story Killers   3 comments

Dr. Terrence Moore of Hillsdale College speaks in this video about the Common Core standards in a college lecture entitled “Story-Killers: How the Common Core Destroys Minds and Souls”.

The architects of Common Core, Dr. Moore contends, are deliberately killing stories.

But why?

First Dr. Moore discusses what Common Core leaves out, in great detail. Then he asks (at minute 16:50) “what kind of mind, indeed what kind of soul will you have after going through this sort of stuff [Common Core high school]?”

He answers. This is the part we must hear.

“Nothing but mischief” is what students are learning that our country has been up to for over two centuries; and, that the past is a dark cloud that has nothing to teach us.

“No appreciation for beauty or heroism or faith” is what students will hold –because they will most likely never have discussed such things in relation to a whole book of classic literature.

“Not too high of an opinion as a family as an institution” nor of the love that holds families together –because no such models are being provided.

“Not to have been invited to love the thing we call good” and “not being taught how to laugh and how to find humor in the human condition” are additional results Dr. Moore sees coming from Common Core English classes.

Common Core high school English classes will take students down one of two roads, says Dr. Moore: either “utter boredom” or, “if you actually took these lessons seriously, down the depressing path of the prematurely jaded, postmodern anti-heroic view of life.”

He calls this movement intellectual and moral debilitation, as it deprives students of the best stories, and as it deprives them of learning about what it means to be human. Whoever controls the narrative, he explains, also controls the politics, the economics, the families, the ways we think, the ways we believe.

What is wrong with the rhetoric surrounding education reform, he asks? The architects of Common Core are simply asserting that their scheme will make students college and career ready, with no proof to back them up. “That is astonishing!” he says.

(Yes, it is.)

The authors of Common Core can point to no successes where this scheme has been tried. So the 45 states that have adopted Common Core, Dr. Moore says, “bought the farm, sight unseen.”

The traditional aims of education: truth, knowledge goodness, virtue, justice, industriousness, and happiness are no longer the aims of education.

“There is no search for happiness in the Common Core,” Dr. Moore says, noting that happiness was one of the main purposes for education according to our founding fathers.

Art, music and literature, he says, which are focused on the human soul, are being seen as increasingly dispensible under Common Core. Modern journalists are seen at the same status level as Shakespeare. “Drive by’s” of literature are now encouraged, rather than the careful, slow reading of a great classic work.

He speaks about the numbers of hours students are being put in front of a computer in the quest to prepare them for jobs. But “Jobs” he says, “do not make the human mind. The human mind makes jobs.”

Then he points out the wordiness and the silliness and the lack of age-appropriateness of many of the standards themselves.

There are pathetically humorous examples, such as why students studying “Frankenstein” don’t actually get asked to read the book.

“I am not making this up. This is straight out of the Common Core State Standards.”

Then.

He speaks about the Constitution.

“The scariest thing I actually think is written on the first page of the introduction to the Common Core…and I will read that… ‘The standards are intended to be a living work. As new and better evidence emerges, the standards will be revised accordingly.’ … Who gets to decide what constitutes new and better evidence? … The standards will be rewritten and rewritten again… what states have signed on to, they have no control over whatsoever.”

He says this is the way the progressives are pulling off the takeover. But Moore says that the authors of Common Core made two fundamental mistakes.

(minute 46:00)

First, they didn’t think that the American people would want to fight for its stories. They thought that the American people with the promises of a globally competitive society (as though we’d never seen that before) somehow would embrace computers and new technologies every new fangled idea in education and forget the fact that we as a nation understand what it means to be a globally competitive society and what we should be doing in the classroom is forming the minds and souls of the nation’s youth and therefore, we need our stories because stories are the thing that form and educate the heart.

“The second thing that they overshot and did not expect is that they simply underestimated the suburban mom. There is nothing that a suburban mom –or any mom, for that matter– cares more about than the heart and happiness of her children.

“And when that comes into danger, suburban moms who vote and who know how to organize themselves (as two ladies in Indiana do, named Heather Crossin and Erin Tuttle) and who can form organizations like Hoosiers Against the Common Core, they will mobilize people and they will take action and state legislatures then have to listen…”

The issue that is boiling right now (other than Obamacare) in this country right now, is Common Core. And this is a fight over our schools and ultimately the souls and minds of our young people.”

“This is the time to take our stories back. After we do that, we can take our schools back, and once we have our schools back we are on the road to taking our nation back.”

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Thank you, Dr. Moore.

Video: Hillsdale College Lecture on Common Core   15 comments

The video below is part of a new series about Common Core, from Hillsdale College.

At 37:00 Professor Daniel B. Coupland speaks about the servile quality of Common Core’s skills-based focus: “As long as students are told that the end of education is a job or a career, they will forever be servants of some master.”
He further quotes Heartland Institute’s education policy analyst Joy Pullman, who spoke recently at a Wisconsin hearing on Common Core: “In a self-governing nation, we need citizens who can govern themselves. The ability to support oneself with meaningful work is … only a part of self-government. When a nation expands workforce training so that it crowds out other things that rightly belong in education, we end up turning out neither good workers nor good citizens.”

Professor Coupland continues: “The ancients knew that in order for men to be truly free, they must have a liberal education that includes the study of literature, history, mathematics, science, music and art. Yes, man is made for work, but he’s also made for so much more… Education should be about the highest things. We should study these things of the stars, plant cells, Mozart’s requium… not simply because they’ll get us into the right college or into the right line of work. Rather, we should study these noble things because they can tell us who we are, why we’re here…”

Quoting another professor, Anthony Esolen, a professor of Renaissance English Literature at Providence College in Rhode Island, Coupland says:

“What appalls me most about the standards … is the cavalier contempt for great works of human art and thought, in literary form. It is a sheer ignorance of the life of the imagination. We are not programming machines. We are teaching children. We are not producing functionaries, factory-like. We are to be forming the minds and hearts of men and women… to be human beings, honoring what is good and right and cherishing what is beautiful.”

In closing, Professor Coupland proundly says:

“If education has become –as Common Core openly declares– preparation for work in a global economy, then this situation is far worse than Common Core critics ever anticipated. And the concerns about cost, and quality, and yes, even the constitutionality of Common Core, pale in comparison to the concerns for the hearts, minds, and souls of American children.”

Amen.

Common Core and the Fiction/Non-Fiction Question   Leave a comment

Common Core and the Fiction/Non-Fiction Question.

Read this post by Diane Ravitch.

She says: “It is interesting that the two loudest voices defending [common core] are Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Educational Excellence and the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, both quite conservative groups.

The way the issue is framed unfortunately misses the point, at least the point that I and others have raised.

Why do the [common core] standards mandate a proportionate split between fiction and non-fiction?

Who thought it was necessary to turn NAEP’s instruction to test developers into a mandate for teachers?

Who will police the implementation of the arbitrary ratios of 50-50 or 70-30?

If the ratios apply to all courses, can’t we assume that students will read “informational text” in math, science, civics, history, and other subjects, leaving teachers of English language arts to assign as much fiction or non-fiction as they want?

In the interests of clarity, here’s what I want: the ratios should be eliminated. They are an overreach. They have no basis in research or experience. There is no justification for imposing them.

I urge this not as a partisan of fiction or non-fiction, but as a partisan of common sense.”

Yes!

Common Core: “Obtuse Mumbo Jumbo”   2 comments

http://www.cato-at-liberty.org/common-core-caught-in-its-own-tangled-web/

Yesterday, Cato Institute published a great article that exposes some serious problems about Common Core “education.”

Here’s my favorite part.

Neal McClusky writes:  “I sure hope the Common Core doesn’t have lessons on ambiguity, because I don’t think the crafters grasp the concept. This explanation couldn’t be much more ambiguous, stating that English classes must focus on literature “as well as” nonfiction. Sure sounds like a 70-30 or 50-50 split could be mandated under that. This is, of course, exactly the kind of obtuse mumbo-jumbo one should expect from a document — and overall effort — that tries to simultaneously be revolutionary and innocuous. And wouldn’t it have been wonderful if this sort of thing had been hashed out before states were cajoled into adopting the standards? But then there would have been public disagreements, and all the silliness of people holding different opinions is exactly what destroyed past efforts to impose uniform standards on the country.”

Fiction vs. Nonfiction Smackdown: Washington Post   Leave a comment

For those who still believe Common Core is “rigorous” and good for kids, here is a must-read from Jay Mathews and the Washington Post. 

http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/fiction-vs-nonfiction-smackdown/2012/10/17/cbb333d0-16f0-11e2-a55c-39408fbe6a4b_print.html

Fiction vs. nonfiction smackdown

By , Published: October 17

There is no more troubling fact about U.S. education than this: The reading scores of 17-year-olds have shown no significant improvement since 1980.

The new Common Core State Standards in 46 states and the District are designed to solve that problem. Among other things, students are being asked to read more nonfiction, considered by many experts to be the key to success in college or the workplace.

The Common Core standards are one of our hottest trends. Virginia declined to participate but was ignored in the rush of good feeling about the new reform. Now, the period of happy news conferences is over, and teachers have to make big changes. That never goes well. Expect battles, particularly in this educationally hypersensitive region.

Teaching more nonfiction will be a key issue. Many English teachers don’t think it will do any good. Even if it were a good idea, they say, those who have to make the change have not had enough training to succeed — an old story in school reform.

The clash of views is well described by two prominent scholars for the Pioneer Institute, a Boston-based public policy group, in a new paper. Sandra Stotsky of the University of Arkansas and Mark Bauerlein of Emory University say the reformers who wrote the Common Core standards have no data to support their argument that kids have been hurt by reading too much fiction. They say analyzing great literature would give students all the critical thinking skills they need. The problem, they say, is not the lack of nonfiction but the dumbed-down fiction that has been assigned in recent decades.

“Problems in college readiness stem from an incoherent, less-challenging literature curriculum from the 1960s onward,” Bauerlein and Stotsky say. “Until that time, a literature-heavy English curriculum was understood as precisely the kind of pre-college training students needed.”

The standards were inspired, in part, by a movement to improve children’s reading abilities by replacing standard elementary school pabulum with a rich diet of history, geography, science and the arts. University of Virginia scholar E.D. Hirsch Jr. has written several books on this. He established the Core Knowledge Foundation in Charlottesville to support schools that want their third-graders studying ancient Rome and their fourth-graders listening to Handel.

Robert Pondiscio, a former fifth-grade teacher who is vice president of the foundation, quotes a key part of the Common Core standards making this case:

“By reading texts in history/social studies, science, and other disciplines, students build a foundation of knowledge in these fields that will also give them the background to be better readers in all content areas. Students can only gain this foundation when the curriculum is intentionally and coherently structured to develop rich content knowledge within and across grades.”

The Common Core guidelines recommend fourth-graders get an equal amount of fiction and nonfiction. Eighth-grade reading should be about 55 percent nonfiction, going to a recommended 70 percent by 12th grade.

Bauerlein and Stotsky say that could hurt college readiness. The new standards and associated tests, they say, will make “English teachers responsible for informational reading instruction, something they have not been trained for, and will not be trained for unless the entire undergraduate English major as well as preparatory programs in English education in education schools are changed.”

Pondiscio says he admires Bauerlein and Stotsky and doesn’t see why English classes have to carry the nonfiction weight. Social studies and science courses can do that. The real battle, he says, will be in the elementary schools, where lesson plans have failed to provide the vocabulary, background knowledge and context that make good readers.

Those who want the new standards say learning to read is more than just acquiring a skill, like bike riding. It is absorbing an entire world. That is what the fight in your local district will be about.

An Expert’s View of Common Core’s Focus on Nonfiction Texts   Leave a comment

Reblogging from Boston Globe’s Rock the Schoolhouse:

 

An Expert’s View of Common Core’s Focus On Nonfiction Texts

by Jim Stergios  August 30, 2012

The Common Core national standards are increasingly controversial, with Utah, Indiana and a number of states that had adopted them now reconsidering. A recent New York Times education blog notes the following:

Forty-four states and United States territories have adopted the Common Core Standards and, according to this recent Times article, one major change teachers can expect to see is more emphasis on reading “informational,” or nonfiction, texts across subject areas:

   While English classes will still include healthy amounts of fiction, the standards say that students should be reading more nonfiction texts as they get older, to prepare them for the kinds of material they will read in college and careers. In the fourth grade, students should be reading about the same amount from “literary” and “informational” texts, according to the standards; in the eighth grade, 45 percent should be literary and 55 percent informational, and by 12th grade, the split should be 30/70.

And seeing itself as a potential vendor, the Times chirps cheerfully:

“Well, The New York Times and The Learning Network are here to help.”

There’s been a lot written on the loss of literature in curricula around the country. And there is good reason for that. As I noted in testimony to the Utah Education Interim Committee:

Massachusetts’ remarkable rise on national assessments is not because we aligned our reading standards to the NAEP. Rather, it is because, unlike Common Core, our reading standards emphasized high-quality literature. Reading literature requires the acquisition in a compressed timeframe of a richer and broader vocabulary than non-fiction texts. Vocabulary acquisition is all-important in the timely development of higher-level reading.

     But even if you agree with the idea of refocusing our classrooms on nonfiction texts, what is the quality of the offerings suggested by Common Core, a set of standards copyrighted by two Washington-based entities (the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association)?

I can think of no one whose opinion might be better informed on the topic than Massachusetts’ own Will Fitzhugh, who founded The Concord Review in 1987 and has received numerous prizes and appointments as a result of his work there. For those who aren’t familiar with The Concord Review, it is a quarterly journal that has now published 1,033 exemplary history research papers (average 6,000 words), on a huge variety of topics, by high school students from 46 states and 38 other countries. The journal accepts about 6% of the papers submitted.

In a January 2011 piece highlighting his work, then-education reporter Sam Dillon of The New York Times noted that Fitzhugh

showcases high school research papers, sits at his computer in a cluttered office above a secondhand shop here, deploring the nation’s declining academic standards…His mood brightens, however, when talk turns to the occasionally brilliant work of the students whose heavily footnoted history papers appear in his quarterly, The Concord Review. Over 23 years, the review has printed 924 essays by teenagers from 44 states and 39 nations…

Fitzhugh is deeply concerned by the fact that the majority of students pack up their duffelbags and computers, and head off to college without ever having completed a genuine research paper on history. The Concord Review has been a labor of love that seeks to change that sad state of affairs. In a piece entitled “Skip the Knowledge!” published inEducationViews.org at the start of August 2012, Fitzhugh articulated his view on the value of Common Core in getting students to be truly college-ready in reading and writing non-fiction texts:

It is not clear whether the knowledge-free curricula of the graduate schools of education, or the Core experiences at Harvard College, in any way guided the authors of our new Common Core in their achievement of the understanding that it is not knowledge of anything that our students require, but Thinking Skills. They took advantage of the perspective and arguments of a famous cognitive psychologist at Stanford in designing the history portion of the Core. Just think how much time they saved by not involving one of those actual historians, who might have bogged down the whole enterprise in claiming that students should have some knowledge of history itself, and that such knowledge might actually be required before any useful Thinking Skills could be either acquired or employed. If we had followed that path, we might actually be asking high school students to read real history books—shades of the James Madison era!!

and

Keep Poor James Madison, back in the day, spending endless hours reading scores upon scores of books on the history of governments, as he prepared to become the resident historian and intellectual “father” of the United States Constitution in the summer of 1787 in Philadelphia! If he had only known what we know now thanks to the new Common Core, he could have saved the great bulk of that time and effort if he had only acquired some Thinking Skills instead!

In a piece entitled “Turnabout,” which came out Tuesday, Fitzhugh goes further.

    The New Common Core Standards call for a 50% reduction in “literary” [aka fictional non-informational texts] readings for students, and an increase in nonfiction informational texts, so that students may be better prepared for the nonfiction they will encounter in college and at work.

In addition to memos, technical manuals, and menus (and bus schedules?), the nonfiction informational texts suggested include The Gettysburg Address, Letter from Birmingham Jail, Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, and perhaps one of theFederalist Papers.

History books, such as those by David Hackett Fischer, James McPherson, David McCullough, Ron Chernow, Paul Johnson, Martin Gilbert, etc. are not among the nonfiction informational texts recommended, perhaps to keep students from having to read any complete books while they are still in high school.

In the spirit of Turnabout, let us consider saving students more time from their fictional non-informational text readings (previously known as literature) by cutting back on the complete novels, plays and poems formerly offered in our high schools. For instance, instead of Pride and Prejudice (the whole novel), students could be asked to read Chapter Three. Instead of the complete Romeo and Juliet, they could read Act Two, Scene Two, and in poetry, instead of a whole sonnet, perhaps just alternate stanzas could be assigned. In this way, they could get the “gist” of great works of literature, enough to be, as it were, “grist” for their deeper analytic cognitive thinking skill mills.

As the goal is to develop deeply critical analytic cognitive thinking skills, surely there is no need to read a whole book either in English or in History classes. This will not be a loss in Social Studies classes, since they don’t assign complete books anyway, but it may be a wrench for English teachers who probably still think that there is some value in reading a whole novel, or a whole play, or even a complete poem.

But change is change is change, as Gertrude Stein might have written, and if our teachers are to develop themselves professionally to offer the new deeper cognitive analytic thinking skills required by the Common Core Standards, they will just have to learn to wean themselves from the old notions of knowledge and understanding they have tried to develop from readings for students in the past.

As Caleb Nelson wrote in 1990 in The Atlantic Monthly, speaking about an older Common Core at Harvard College:

The philosophy behind the [Harvard College] Core is that educated people are not those who have read many books and have learned many facts but rather those who could analyze facts if they should ever happen to encounter any, and who could ‘approach’ books if it were ever necessary to do so….

The New Common Core Standards are meant to prepare our students to think deeply on subjects they know practically nothing about, because instead of reading a lot about anything, they will have been exercising their critical cognitive analytical faculties on little excerpts amputated from their context. So they can think “deeply,” for example, about Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, while knowing nothing about the nation’s Founding, or Slavery, or the new Republican Party, or, of course, the American Civil War.

Students’ new Common academic work with texts about which they will be asked to Think & Learn Deeply, may encourage them to believe that ignorance is no barrier to useful thinking, in the same way that those who have written the Common Core Standards believe that they can think deeply about and make policy for our many state education systems, without having spent much, if any time, as teachers themselves, or even in meeting with teachers who have the experience they lack.

It may very well turn out that ignorance and incompetence transfer from one domain to another much better than deeper thinking skills do, and that the current mad flight from knowledge and understanding, while clearly very well funded, has lead to Standards which will mean that our high school students [those that do not drop out] will need even more massive amounts of remediation when they go on to college and the workplace than are presently on offer.

“Turnabout” may mean many things, including fair play, a reversal of direction or evenwhat we might call a turncoat. (My own favorite reference is to Hal Roach’s screwball, gender-bender comedy of the 1940s.) But the more serious people look at it, the more Common Core is looking like an attempt to revive that merry-go-round of ed fads that have never worked in American education–and are best abandoned.

http://boston.com/community/blogs/rock_the_schoolhouse/2012/08/an_experts_view_of_common_core.html

Posted August 30, 2012 by Christel Swasey in Uncategorized

Tagged with , , ,

A 2012 Reading of Orwell’s 1984   Leave a comment

I borrowed 1984 and read it cover to cover this week.

It’s a well-written, totally alarming book.  A screamingly important book.

It’s a powerful warning against socialism. It’s also a graphic, atheistic, violent book that doesn’t offer any ray of hope.  So don’t read it if you haven’t.  I’ll give you the summary.

Then I’ll share the quotes that remind me of Common Core education, and quotes that point to the new data collection by our state and federal government using our schools.

Summary:

Winston Smith lives in a society that has “progressed” past individual privacy and freedom.  His job is to rewrite history regardless of what is actually true.  There are no laws in this world; there is only the will of “Big Brother,” the all-knowing, all-powerful government.

In this world, “Big Brother” screens transmit and receive information in every room and alley, everywhere, 24/7. Screens cannot be shut off.  Even unhappy facial expressions on someone’s face are cause for the “Thought Police” to come and delete an individual in the night.  Children are encouraged to view public hangings and violent films, and to turn in their parents to “Big Brother” for unorthodox statements or actions parents might commit.

Winston commits the crimes of writing in a diary, of having a love affair, and of seeking to join a group of freedom fighters that he is not sure really exists. For these crimes, he is captured and tortured, rather than killed; the aim of “Big Brother” is not just to kill but rather to convert deviants like Winston. After severe, months-long torture and brainwashing, Big Brother succeeds in the conversion of Winston Smith. The last sentence of the novel is:  “He loved Big Brother.”

Excerpts:

Excerpts that remind me of Common Core:

“Even the humblest Party member is expected to be competent, industrious and even intelligent within narrow limits…” p. 158

“Even the literature of the Party will change. Even the slogans will change. How could you have a slogan like ‘Freedom is Slavery’ when the concept of freedom has been abolished?” -p. 47

“The two aims of the Party are to conquer the whole surface of the earth and to extinguish once and for all the possibility of independent thought.” p. 159

“Newspeak is the only language in the world whose vocabulary gets smaller every year…the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought. In the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it. Every concept that can ever be needed will be expressed by exactly one word, with its meaning rigidly defined and all its subsidiary meanings rubbed out and forgotten… Every year fewer and fewer words and the range of consciousness always a little smaller.” p. 46

“Power is tearing human minds to pieces and putting them together again in new shapes of your own choosing.” p. 220

Excerpts that remind me of the alteration of FERPA laws federally to take away parental consent over student data, and of the new free Common Core preschool system:

“Children will be taken from their mothers at birth, as one takes eggs from a hen.” p. 220

“Nothing was illegal since there were no longer any laws.” -p. 9
“There will be no loyalty except loyalty to the party… there will be no wives and no friends… there will be no art, no literature, no science… if you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face forever” p. 220

“The only secure basis for oligarchy is collectivism…concentration of property in far fewer hands… the new owners were a group rather than… individuals… Everything– had been taken away from them and since these things were no longer private property, it followed that they must be public property… economic inequality has been made permanent.” p. 170

Excerpts that remind me of data privacy invasion, such as our new, federally granted, “State Longitudinal Database System” and “P-20” implemented by Utah:

“The Party is concerned…how to discover against his will, what another human being in thinking” -p. 159

“The telescreen received and transmitted simultaneously. Any sound that Winston made, above the level of a very low whisper, would be picked up by it; moreover, so long as he remained within the field of vision which the metal plaque commanded, he could be seen as well as heard… How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. You had to live– did live, from habit that became instinct– in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard…every movement scrutinized” pp. 6-7.

Excerpts that remind me of the USOE and the State School Board’s turning a deaf ear to teachers and parents who oppose Common Core:

“The Party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command.” – p. 69

“Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them… Doublethink lies at the very heart of Ingsoc, since the essential act of the Party is to use conscious deception while retaining the firmness of purpose that goes with complete honesty. To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient…” pp. 176-177.

“Researches that could be called scientific are still carried out for the purposes of war, but they are essentially a kind of daydreaming and their failure to show results is not important.” -p. 163

“His heart went out to the lonely, derided heretic on the screen, sole guardian of truth and sanity in a world of lies.” p. 16

Excerpts that remind me of people who are not standing up and fighting against Common Core:

“They were like the ant, which can see small objects but not large ones.” -p. 79

“The Proles, if only they could somehow become conscious of their own strength, would have no need to conspire. They needed only to rise up and shake themselves like a horse shaking off flies.” – p.60

As I read and copied down these excerpts, I thought about the untruths and the trend toward collectivism that has become so popular among educators in D.C. –and I thought about the lies that have been promoted by proponents of Common Core, about its implementation without a vote, about its purposes, its history, its amendability, and its data-gathering on students without parental knowledge or consent.  What do you think? 

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