A REPORT ON THIS WEEK’S STOP COMMON CORE RALLIES
This week, and especially Tuesday night, the Common Core Initiative took some tough hits. All on the same night, Florida had a newsmaking Common Core protest while Missouri had its Stop Common Core event, while here in Utah about 600 people gathered at the Capitol; on Wednesday, South Carolina was up to bat. More and more, people are taking a stand for local control: for the end of any involvement with Common Core.
Deseret News and Salt Lake Tribune reporters attended the Utah rally; read their reports here and here.
Here’s my shorter version of the events: photos first.
Siri Davidson, a Utah mother who began to home school her children because of Common Core math
Volunteers explained to attendees how to opt out of Common Core tests.
Attendance was strong at Salt Lake City’s rally to Stop Common Core on Tuesday night
Judge Norman Jackson, who gave the prayer, in this photo is on the front row, left.
After a prayer and a song, the rally began with Representative Brian Greene speaking about fairness and transparency in state school board elections. His new bill –if it gets a chance to be heard– creates it: House Bill 228. He asked Utahns to please write to the representatives and ask them to help push that bill out of committee so legislators may vote on it.
Representative Dana Layton spoke about her bill to restore local control of education, House Bill 342. She quoted Diane Ravitch’s words about Common Core from the speech/article “Everything You Need To Know About Common Core.”
State Senator Margaret Dayton spoke about the need for informed citizens and for a return to local control and away from Common Core.
Psychotherapist Joan Landes spoke about the psychological devastation that the age-inappropriate Common Core and its experimental testing wreaks on students.
Three essay winners read their essays and won boxes of Mrs. Cavanaugh’s chocolates: Brian Halladay, a member of the Alpine School Board; Amy Mullins, a teacher; and Cami Isle, a teacher. All the essays that were entered into the contest will be posted at Utahns Against Common Core.
I got to introduce these three writers, and got to explain why we held the essay contest. In the spirit of restoring legitimate learning and the joy of reading and writing, Utahns Against Common Core aimed to model the practice of written human conversation and critical thought –which happens in personal essays.
Common Core doesn’t encourage personal writing. It prefers technical writing and info-texts. In fact, David Coleman, lead architect of Common Core, explained why he ditched personal writing: ““As you grow up in this world you realize that people really don’t give a !% #*^ about what you feel or what you think… it is rare in a working environment that someone says, ‘Johnson I need a market analysis by Friday but before that I need a compelling account of your childhood.’ ” Coleman mocks personal writing and slashed it, as he also slashed the allowable amounts of classic literature, starting in elementary grades at just 50% but cutting more and more– until, as high school seniors, students must devote 70% of their readings to informational texts, allowing only 30% to be fictional stories, the stuff that makes us love reading in the first place. (Excuse me while I pull out my hair and scream.) So. Since Coleman mocks the personal essay and works to incrementally delete classical literature, we must work to restore them.
This is why we held the essay contest.
After the essay readings, teacher and author Sinhue Noriega spoke about Common Core being much more than just standards, and also being –despite proponents’ claims to the contrary– a curriculum; and he spoke about the unconstitutionality of the Common Core.
Attorney Ed Flint spoke about the Common Core-related law suit in which he is involved. Details here.
Radio host Rod Arquette spoke passionately, telling the story of how the Seattle Seahawks won the Superbowl this year in part because of the athlete who often asked the team, as his father had often asked him, “Why not you? Why not us?” Arquette turned the question to the audience. Why can’t we change the course of the Common Core? Why not us?
Representatives from the Left-Right Alliance, Libertas Institute, Utahns Against Common Core, FreedomWorks, and several other organizations spoke for just one minute apiece.
Dad Oak Norton and Mom Alisa Ellis closed the meeting with calls to action.
The words that stayed in my mind more than anything else from the evening were the words of retired Judge Norman Jackson’s opening prayer. These deserve to be remembered and pondered.
Judge Jackson prayed:
“Dear God and Father of us all,
We express our Gratitude for the time, means and opportunity to gather this day at the seat of our Government. We acknowledge our firm reliance on Thy Divine protection and guidance in all the affairs of life. And ask Thy forgiveness of our trespasses as we forgive those of others. Enable us to live with charity for all.
We thank Thee for the endowment of unalienable rights – including life, liberty and the education of our children. May our land, schools and homes be places of light, liberty and learning. Bless us and all citizens with the desire to be governed by correct principles. Bless those who govern with that same desire.
Protect parents, children and teachers from the designs of conspiring men and women. And from the pretensions of those who occupy high places. Preserve the sanctity of our homes from the decay of individual responsibility and religion. Stay the hands of those who would harm and offend our children. Grant us and all citizens the strength to be eternally vigilant in this great cause.
Bless the proceedings and participants of this gathering with Thy guiding influence and sustaining care. Bless us and our children with Thy holy light – we humbly pray in the name of Thy Son Jesus Christ. Amen.”
David Coleman: Bye Bye, Classics
Countdown # 9
This is the second in a countdown series of introductions, a list of the top ten scariest people leading American education reform. (#10 on the list is posted here.)
David Coleman, lead “architect” for the English Language Arts (ELA) portion of the Common Core, is not an educator, but a businessman. Recently promoted to president of the College Board, he has promised to align the SAT with the Common Core that he built. He plotted education for K-12 students, and now he’s plotting it for postsecondary students, too.
How can a one-size-fits-all alignment make sense for all students –whether bound for a minimum wage job, a two-year college or the top university in the world– prepare each using a one-size-fits-all Common Core program? Either the lower-level students are to be pushed beyond reasonable expectations, or the higher level students are to be dumbed down. Or both.
Coleman is an outspoken antagonist to narrative writing and is no fan of classic literature, so he singlehandedly slashed most of it from the education most children in America will know, either already –or soon. Ask your kids, but remember, Common Core testing begins in 2014, so the intense pressure for teachers to conform to Common Core is yet to be fully felt.
What did Coleman do to Language Arts? He mandated that dreary informational text, not beautiful, classic literature, is to be the main emphasis in English classes, incrementally worsening as students get older.
What it looks like: little children in an ELA classroom may read no more than 50% classic literature. High school seniors may only read 30% classic literature. The other 70% must be informational text, which means everything from historical documents (um– why not read those in history classes?) to insulation installation manuals, presidential executive orders, environmental programming, and federal reserve documents. These are actually on the recommended reading list.
Another weird twist to Coleman’s Common Core is that he says students must “stay within the four corners of the text” as if that were possible. Context is not to be part of a discussion? Outside experience is not to be compared to the informational text? For a thorough, and eloquent, explanation of what has happened to English Language Arts because of Coleman’s influence, please read “Speaking Back to the Common Core” by Professor Thomas Newkirk of the University of New Hampshire.
What Coleman does not understand (–hmmm, maybe actual English teachers should have been invited to those closed-door meetings–) is that narrative is so much more than a style of writing.
Narrative isn’t just using the “I” word. It’s more than “What I Did Last Summer.”
Narrative is a pattern woven (often unconsciously) into every style of memorable writing, whether argumentative, persuasive, expository, etc. The best informational texts are narratively satisfying.
Coleman’s knocking down of narrative writing and slashing of it from academic standards is both ignorant and, to English teachers and astute kids, really confusing. For a funny, punchy review of the muddly ELA writing standards, read Professor Laura Gibbs’ “Inspid Brew of Gobbledygook”.
David Coleman is largely ignorant in the field of writing language arts standards. One member of the official Common Core validation committee, Dr. Sandra Stotsky, pointed this out and refused to sign off on the validity of the Common Core standards.
And David Coleman is not even nice, as you’ll see from the video linked here, where he mocks student narrative and uses the “sh–” word in a professional development seminar for teachers.
Lastly, Coleman’s large financial contribution to the campaign of Education Committee Senator Todd Huston (Indiana) whom Coleman hired for the College Board after his election, forms another branch of reasons that I can not trust this man to make wise decisions affecting children.
How Did David Coleman Persuade a Nation
To Drop All Things Beautiful From Schools?
I imagine if David Coleman were to value a diamond, he would base its worth solely on the fact that it’s the hardest substance in nature. The diamond’s beauty, its way of bringing people joy, or its history as the symbol of eternal romance, would not matter to Coleman. Just so long as the darn rock can drill through some stuff. That’s how he thinks about reading and writing.
This is why he has gotten rid of all things beautiful in education:
- No more cursive.
- No more traditional math.
- Very little classic literature, to make room for mostly informational text.
- Informational texts to include insulation manuals and Executive Orders, in the English classroom.
That’s Common Core. The perfect lockstep methodology for delivering whatever the person or people at the top consider to be appropriate for the rest of the nation. A potential propaganda machine with no amendability by local voices. It’s under copyright by the “sole developers,” the National Governors’ Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO).
And the Common Core English standards were produced under the direction of David Coleman, who moved from being the national standards leader to being president of the College Board in one fell swoop.
Is this the man you want leading a nation’s educational standards?
Not me. In fact, I don’t want any one man having that much power over so many.
Remember back in B.C.C.? Before Common Core? We used to determine standards locally, not top-down from Washington. We were free to soar as high as Massachusetts, or to fail as badly as the worst of the worst. It was up to us.
It seemed almost that we remembered the spirit of the Constitution, the spirit of independence and local power, once upon that pre-common core time. The promoters of Common Core continue to claim it’s a grass-roots, state-led initiative. But who can honestly see it that way, when nobody even knew about Common Core until the elite groups that produced it, had already sold it to governors and state school boards without a public vote or any kind of vetting by the average teacher, parent or principal? It was an under-the-radar sneaky move that nationalized American education just like any other socialist nation’s educational system. And we are stuck with it, until enough people tell their school boards and governors NO.
As for David Coleman, he’s not a teacher and never has been. Somehow he still managed to acquire the job of central architect of the now mostly-national Common Core English Standards –and also, to repeat, to drill the fact into our collective conscious– he became president of the College Board and he is now aligning the Common Core standards with college entrance exams. Yes, the SAT.
My purpose for writing today is not to figure out how he wormed his way to such positions of power without any teaching experience. My purpose is to ponder the unlovely place he’s taking us, to shake us up and help us to see that he’s wrecking the beauty and effectiveness of real education.
The absolutely least lovely comment I’ve ever heard from any educator, ever, came from David Coleman:
“As you grow up in this world you realize that people really don’t give a shit about what you feel or what you think… it is rare in a working environment that someone says, ‘Johnson I need a market analysis by Friday but before that I need a compelling account of your childhood.’ That is rare”
It’s on this very short video clip:
What kind of legitimate educator would speak so narrowly about the purposes and benefits of writing narratively? Such a dreary-minded, utilitarian philosopher should not be honored with the leading of our nation’s K-12 –and now, also, our nation’s university– environment.