Archive for the ‘social justice’ Tag

“Modern Educayshun” Video Shows Mad Reality of Social Justice Agenda   2 comments

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Dr. Gary Thompson’s Open Letter to Dr. Darling-Hammond on her Common Core Tests   11 comments

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Utah’s Dr. Gary Thompson wrote an open letter to Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond tonight.

 

Dear Dr. Hammond:

How does placing students in front of an experimental test that has yet to undergo extensive validity measures equate to accountability in the traditional manner in which you speak?

Let me answer that question for you in three simple words:

It.  Does.  Not.

Regards,

Dr. Gary Thompson

 

 

I want to give context so that you can fully appreciate the letter’s significance.

Darling-Hammond, of Stanford University, is on the list of “Top Ten Scariest People in Education Reform” for good reasons.  She works for private organizations that crush  Constitutional control of education; she promotes and writes books about socialist redistribution of wealth, and she plays key roles in the Obama administration’s fed ed goals.  She’s been an advisor and/or board member for:

1.  The Obama Administration’s Equity and Excellence Commission

2.  The CCSSO – Common Core co-creator

3.  The NGA – Common Core co-creator

4.  The CSCOPE of Texas

5. American Institutes for Research (AIR, Utah’s and Florida’s Common Core tester)

5. WestED (SBAC’s Common Core test partner)

6.  National Academy of Education

7. American Educational Research Association

8. Alliance for Excellent Education

–and more.

 

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Dr. Thompson pointed out to his Facebook friends that Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond has been very busily publishing this month.

Her sudden articles in the Huffington Post, The Hill, Stanford University,  NEA, ECE and elsewhere show that now, while Congress heatedly debates the ESEA/No Child Left Behind disaster, she’s  desperate to persuade Congress to use Common Core and its tests as “an engine to drive better educational practice.

Darling-Hammond paints a pretty, distracting frame around her ugly baby, the Common Core.  She pretends that the whole reason parents are pushing back is only high stakes testing and she mentions nothing else that parents are screeching about.  Apparently to her, the Constitution has nothing to do with it; experimentation on children has nothing to do with it;  data mining has nothing to do with it; unpiloted and shaky standards have nothing to do with it; validity-report-lacking tests have nothing to do with it.  She keeps the “conversation” on the clearly obvious: that  basing teachers’ entire value on a test students take is stupid; that stressing those test results rather than a child’s whole education is even more stupid. (Yes, the sky is blue and the grass is green.)

But what she’s really pushing for is NOT what parents want.  In “The Hill” blog post, she pressed for federal enforcement of Common Core tests: “urge the federal government to make sure districts provide annual assessments of student progress, while allowing states to develop systems of assessment”.  She added, “The Feds should continue to require states to flag districts that require improvement”  and “the Feds need to treat accountability as an ongoing process…”

Her article in HuffPo praises California for allocating $1.25 BILLION for Common Core and for eliminating “all the old tests while bringing in new and better Common Core assessments” and concludes: “the Common Core standards in California are an engine to drive better educational practice“.

Her strategy seems to be to get readers to start nodding with her about the high stakes tests, and then forget to stop nodding when she crosses the line and promotes a unicorn:  a gentler, kinder version of the same darn Common Core tests.  She uses the term “we agreed” seven times to make her point in one article, as she claims that reformers from a wide spectrum of political camps agree with her.  Dr. Darling-Hammond, please know the wide spectrum of political camps is loaded with those who disagree with you.  Case in point:  Dr. Thompson (an Obama voter in the last election) and me (long ago lovingly and correctly labeled a “right wing nut case” –by Dr. Thompson.)

Dr. Thompson put it this way to his Facebook friends tonight:

“Advocacy should never be used as a means to effect change in ethics,” –but because Darling-Hammond is doing so– “it makes it real easy for small-town Utah doctors like myself who do not hold positions of import at Stanford University to effectively ‘slam’ the Dr. Hammonds of the world… Not once did she mention the words ‘valid testing‘.  Parents are, and always must be, the resident experts of their own children.  I will always challenge those in positions of power who use pseudo science to back their claims. It is an affront to my profession.”

Then he posted his pointed letter to Dr. Darling-Hammond.

May his letter go far and wide.  May Darling-Hammond enjoy the mountains of money she’s made $erving the institution$ that aim to $tandardize education and data so that they can control citizens more effectively.  –And may Congress see right through her words.

Congress just might.

This month we saw Senator Vitter’s Local Control of Education Act  pass the U.S. Senate.  (Read it here.)  It doesn’t end Common Core, but it spanks the Department of Education for ramming it down our throats, and prevents conditional-on-common-standards-grants.

We also saw key members of the Senate and the House sign powerful  letters  (here’s the other) that demand an end to the funding and pushing of Common Core.

So there is definitely, definitely hope.

 

 

 

Guarding the Minds and Hearts of Our Children: What Utah Parent Whitne Strain Discovered While Taking the SSAT   3 comments

Guarding the Minds and Hearts of Our Children

By Whitne Strain

As parents desiring to find a proper high school education for our 13 year old son, my husband and I have been researching a prep school in Indiana that shares our values of faith, founders and traditional academics.  This school employs the services of the SSAT (Secondary School Admissions Test) exam as most prep schools do.   To help my son, I voluntarily took the first practice exam which we purchased directly from SSAT.org.

I labored through the reading comprehension portion, shocked and dismayed.  Within the nine essays presented were subjects on racism, an anti-Christian sarcastic dig, environmentalism, class warfare, history revision and collectivism.  Any follower of current affairs recognizes these issues as tools of manipulation used by those of the “progressive” ideology.   Here is one example:

“Approximately 28 percent of all energy used in the United States is devoted to transportation and of that fraction, 40 percent is supplied in the form of gasoline to fuel the nation’s nearly 255 million registered passenger vehicles.  Americans use more energy to fuel their cars than they do for any other single purpose. The fuel used by American automobiles and personal trucks would just about fill all the energy needs of Japan, a nation of over 127 million and the world’s largest consumer of energy after the United States and China.  In an urgent effort to reduce consumption of an increasingly costly fuel whose chief reserves lie overseas, the government has RIGHTLY [emphasis added] identified the American automobile and current habits of its utilization as prime targets for change.”

My first thoughts were, “Do any of the teachers and administration of these schools ever read these tests?   Isn’t it presumptuous on the part of the creators to include politically charged, behaviorally persuasive essays for children in 8th grade?”

This started me on a journey and here is what I found:

The SSAT board consists of 19 participants who mostly come from private schools across the country.  I found that the board chair, Kilian Forgus, is a spokesperson for one of their 2014 annual meeting sponsors, inResonance. On the face of it, I see a financial conflict of interest.

More concerning to me, though, is their keynote speaker, Charles Fadel, Founder and Chairman of CENTER FOR CURRICULUM REDESIGN. On Fadel’s website at www. curriculumredesign.org/about/team/#charles, he is presented as a global education thought leader and expert who was the liaison with UNESCO, the World Bank and Change the Equation (STEM) while the Global Education Lead at Cisco Systems. Of the other six speakers, five had backgrounds in global aspects of culture, trade, demographics, marketing and business .  Progressive ideology uses the word “global” freely as a euphemism for  ”make everyone the same”.  One of the speakers, Amy Wilkinson, recently spoke at a National Governor’s Association meeting, the birthplace of the national institution of Common Core.

Can anyone say CONNECTIONS?  Are these the types of philosophies that influence the design of that test? After three hours of research, I stopped for the night, but I can tell you that I’m not done.

Ezra Taft Benson, Secretary of Agriculture for President Dwight D. Eisenhower, speaking at a conference on February 28, 1966 in St. Louis, Missouri had this to say,

“To take over our schools, the educational system will first have to be federalized and then prostituted entirely to serving the propaganda needs of the state planners with absolutely no regard for truth or scholarship or tradition.”

Is this happening today?  Is the SSAT just one of many means of prostitution and propaganda? Are the SAT and ACT similar? Who is guarding the minds and hearts of our children?

I ask myself whether it’s worth fighting.  The machine is so big.  I’m just one mom.  But I’ve decided to adopt this statement from Secretary Benson’s  same speech: “We must be neither fatalists nor pessimists.  We must be realists, of high character and deep spirituality.”

If enough of us see this, we can stop it.

 

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Thank you, Whitne Strain!   Parents, please research textbooks and other materials found in schools, soon to be found in our children’s minds.  I want to back up Whitne’s perspective with my own recent experience (and encourage all parents and teachers to do this.)

 

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Is This Curriculum Politically Neutral?

by Christel Swasey

For the past few months I’ve been tutoring some high school students, part time.  The students are enrolled in an online, digital school.  I’ve been appalled by the online school’s lack of political neutrality and the emphasis on the same types of things Whitne Strain mentioned above:    curriculum that is extremely politically charged, an extreme environmental focus, the assumption that global warming is a settled scientific fact (not just in the “environmental science” class but also in English class) and an emphasis on collectivism –along with a de-emphasis, even in the U.S. history class, on our founding fathers.

For example, I read one test question for an environmental science class that  went like this (paraphrasing, from memory):

“Which of the following terms best describes an environmental movement that views the rights of the majority of people as more important than the rights of individual property owners?  a) environmental law  b) environmental justice  c) environmental activist  d) other”

The question was not teaching science.  It was teaching a one-sided political message.  It was teaching that the public (the government) could have the right to infringe on individuals’ property rights –maybe for any reason, but at least for environmental reasons.  This may be common speech among extreme left-wing politicians –but in school!?

Schools should teach, and used to teach, that all Americans have constitutional rights, including the right and control of their own property.  Now it seems that some are teaching that individual, constitutional rights are subservient to environmental socialism.

Tutoring other high school students in their online English classes this summer, I noticed the same extreme left-wing rhetoric.  I didn’t write down the questions but recall –for example–  many global warming political cartoons popping up multiple times even within one English test.  This didn’t seem to match what English classes are supposed to be teaching.

Test questions in this English class took a one-sided stand, making the assumption, for example, that global warming was a settled scientific fact –and that this message belonged in an English class.   I asked the online school to take a look at the controversies and debates among scientists in the news to see that global warming is highly controversial, and far from a settled science.  I asked them to consider tossing out these inappropriate questions.

Regardless of parents’ own political ideology, I think most would agree that school is not the place for any type of subtle political indoctrination.  Just as schools are forbidden from preaching a particular religion, schools must be forbidden from preaching a particular political doctrine.

Parents and teachers, we can’t move a mountain all at once.   But we can start by being more aware.  We can notice what is being emphasized and re-emphasized, and also notice what isn’t there and should be.

Tell your local and state school boards that you insist on politically neutral curriculum.  Look at the curriculum for yourself.  You’ll soon dodge anything from Pearson and Microsoft, for example, which together form the world’s largest and most powerful education sales group partnership and which also happen to be working for the United Nations’ Global Education First Initiative.  Ask yourself as you read:

  • Is it promoting “social justice” (socialism and collectivism over classic Americanism) while teaching math, English, history or science?
  • Is it glorifying the politically controversial United Nations and “global citizenship”? (As I noticed years ago that the widely-used Pearson “Human Geography” textbook does)
  • Is it pushing minimizing or degrading the American Constitution and founders?
  • Does it push environmentalism into every subject, promoting environmental activism as an appropriate or necessary behavior for students?    (To get up to speed on this issue, look at minute 4:00 -6:05 on http://youtu.be/T3ErTaP8rTA –the Pearson Education CEA Summit speech.  Pearson CEA Sir Michael Barber said “citizens of the world” including every child, “all 9 billion people who will be alive in 2050″ must have all teachings multiplied by “ethical underpinnings.” Barber explains that “ethical underpinning” is “shared understanding” of earth and “sustainability” that every child in every school around the world will learn.  Ethics, to Barber, have nothing to do with the supreme sanctity of human life, individual liberty or the Golden Rule.  It’s simply education for the environmental collective.)

So, if you see the typical “learning target” which says something like: “Students will understand current global issues and their rights and responsibilities in the interconnected world,” which is a learning target that I recently saw in my own child’s student disclosure– then speak up.

Say that it troubles you, and say why. Speak from the heart.

I recently explained this to one of my children’s teachers, after receiving the above mentioned “learning target”.  I said, “Even though we are of Swedish heritage and speak Swedish at home, I have taught my child to be a deeply rooted American citizen, and to avoid teachings that push global citizenship.  I’m opposed to the now-popular concept of “global citizenship” in education, because rights and responsibilities as Americans differ dramatically from those held in other countries or those promoted by the U.N., and I don’t want my child to think of himself/herself as subject to global values, laws, or global governance, which allow for fewer freedoms than those guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.” 

 

If schools do not respect your wishes, take your business (and children) elsewhere:  to private schools, to home schools, or to a different public school where the principals and curriculum directors still respect parental research and input.

 

 

Video: Utah Dad Speaks About Common Core   11 comments

Utah Dad, Oak Norton, made this information-packed presentation last week, entitled “Pulling Back the Curtain:  What’s the Real Agenda Behind Common Core?”

 

 

 

Oak Norton’s educational research story began when he asked his daughter’s third grade teacher why she hadn’t been learning the multiplication tables and was told, “We don’t do that anymore.”  That day, he bought multiplication flashcards for his daughter, realizing that it was time to take education back into his own hands.  This led to his many years of research on education reform, condensed in this one-hour presentation.  Mr. Norton shares the concentrated top of his research iceberg, discussing the historical roots of compulsory (forced government) education and answering why there is such a defined socialist agenda for national education.  That defined agenda includes teaching sex ed to five-year-old school children; officially tracking children from birth through the workforce; and central planning by the government of all education, including preschools.

Thank you, Oak Norton.

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.

 

The SAT “Upgrade” Is A Big Mistake: By Peter Wood   3 comments

This article was originally posted at MindingTheCampus.Com.  It is reposted with permission.    The author is president of the National Association of Scholars.

 

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The SAT “Upgrade” Is A Big Mistake

Guest post by Peter Wood

 

The College Board is reformulating the SAT.  Again.

The new changes, like others that have been instituted since the mid 1990s, are driven by politics. David Coleman, head of the College Board, is also the chief architect of the Common Core K-12 State Standards, which are now mired in controversy across the country.  Coleman’s initiative in revising the SAT should be seen first of all as a rescue mission.  As the Common Core flounders, he is throwing it an SAT life preserver. I’ll explain, but first let’s get the essentials of how the SAT is about to change.

Changes

The essay is now optional, ending a decade-long experiment in awarding points for sloppy writing graded by mindless formulae.

The parts of the test that explored the range and richness of a student’s vocabulary have been etiolated. The test now will look for evidence that students are familiar with academic buzzwords and jargon.  The College Board calls this “Relevant Words in Context.”  Test-takers won’t have to “memorize obscure words” but instead “will be asked to interpret the meaning of words based on the context of the passage in which they appear.”

The deductions for guessing wrong are gone.  Literally, there will be no harm in guessing.

Math will narrow to linear equations, functions, and proportions.

The scale on which scores are recorded will revert to the old 800 each on two sections, from the current 2,400 on three sections.  (Goodbye essay points.)

The old verbal section will be replaced by “evidence-based reading and writing.”

All the tests will include snippets from America’s Founding Documents.

What They Mean

The College Board’s announcement of these changes came under the headline “Delivering Opportunity: Redesigning the SAT Is Just One Step.”  The “delivering opportunity” theme is divided into three parts:

Ensure that students are propelled forward.

Provide free test preparation for the world.

Promote excellent classroom work and support students who are behind.

There is a thicket of explanation behind each of these headings, some of it beyond silly.  We learn, for example, that the College Board, “cannot stand by while students’ futures remain unclaimed.”  Unclaimed?  Like lottery prizes?  Like coats left in a checkroom?

If you work your way through this folderol, it appears that the College Board is launching a whole battery of new diversity programs.   “Access to Opportunity (“A2O”) pushes (“propels”) low-income, first-generation, underrepresented students to college.  The “All In Campaign” aims “to ensure to ensure that every African American, Latino, and Native American student who is ready for rigorous work takes an AP course or another advanced course.”  Another program offers college application fee waivers.

Those initiatives bear on the redesigned SAT mainly as evidence of the College Board’s preoccupation with its ideas about social justice.  The announcement of the changes in the SAT itself is succinct–and friendly, with helpful icons to get across ideas like “documents”–

The redesigned SAT will focus on the knowledge and skills that current research shows are most essential for college and career readiness and success. The exam will reflect the best of classroom work:

  • Relevant words in context
  • Command of evidence
  • Essay analyzing a source
  • Math focused on three key areas
  • Problems grounded in real-world contexts
  • Analysis in science and social studies
  • Founding documents and great global conversation
  • No penalty for wrong answers

The student who comes across the College Board’s explanation–and maybe even the journalist who reads it–might miss the full weight of that key phrase “college and career readiness.”  That’s the smoking gun that what is really happening in the College Board’s revision of the SAT is that the test is being wrenched into alignment with the Common Core.  That phrase, “college and career readiness,” is the Common Core mantra.  The Common Core was vigorously promoted to the states and to the public as something that would “raise standards” in the schools by creating a nationwide framework that would lead students to “college readiness.”

But alas, as the Common Core Standards emerged, it became apparent that they set a ceiling on the academic preparation of most students.  Students who go through schools that follow the Common Core Standards will be ill-prepared for the rigors of college.  That is, unless something can be done on the other end to ensure that colleges lower their standards. Then everything will be well.

The Bind

None of this might matter if the Common Core were just a baseline and students and schools could easily move above it if they wished to.  The trouble is that the Common Core has been designed to be a sticky baseline. It is hard for schools to rise above it.  There are two reasons for that.

First, it uses up most of the time in a K-12 curriculum, leaving little room for anything else.

Second, the states that were leveraged into it via Obama’s “Race to the Top” agreed that students who graduate from high school with a Common Core education and are admitted to public colleges and universities will automatically be entered into “credit-bearing courses.”  This is tricky.  Essentially what it means is that public colleges will have to adjust their curricula down to the level of knowledge and skill that the Common Core mandates.  And that in turn means that most schools will have little reason to offer anything beyond the Common Core, even if they can.

In this way, the Common Core floor becomes very much a ceiling too.  The changes in the SAT are meant to expedite this transition.

The Common Core Connection

The life-preserver that the College Board is throwing to the Common Core is a redefinition of what it means to be “college ready.” The SAT after all is a test aimed at determining who is ready for college. An SAT refurbished to match what the Common Core actually teaches instead of what colleges expect freshmen to know will go far to quiet worries that the Common Core is selling students short.  If the SAT says a student is “college ready,” who is to say that he is not?

The new changes in the SAT are meant first to skate around the looming problem that students educated within the framework of the Common Core would almost certainly see their performance on the old SAT plummet compared to students educated in pre-Common Core curricula.

The subject can get complicated, so it is best to consider an example.

Pre-pre-calculus

Perhaps the most vivid example of how the Common Core lowers standards and creates a situation which invites mischief with the SATs is the decision of the Common Core architects to defer teaching algebra to 9thgrade.  That move, along with several other pieces of the Common Core’s Mathematics Standards, generally means that students in high school will not reach the level of “pre-calculus.”  And that in turn means that as college freshmen, they will be at least a year behind where college freshmen used to be.  Instead of starting in with a freshman calculus course, they will have to start with complex numbers, trigonometric functions, conic sections, parametric equations, and the like.

Of course, lots of students who go to college today never take a calculus course and are in no way hindered if their high school math preparation stopped with binomial equations.  The trouble comes with students who wish to pursue science, technology, or engineering–the “STEM” fields. College curricula generally assume that students who set out to study these fields have already reached the level of calculus.

One might think that students who have aptitudes and interests in these areas could simply leapfrog the Common Core by taking accelerated math courses in high school.  Some indeed will be able to do just that.  They will be students who attend prosperous schools that have the resources to work around the Common Core.  Or they will be students whose parents pay for tutors or courses outside school.

We can be confident that Americans will be ingenious in finding ways to circumnavigate this new roadblock. And we can count on the emergence of entrepreneurs who will serve the market for extra-curricular math instruction.  There is no reason to think that MIT and Caltech will go begging for suitably prepared students.

But there is reason to worry that a large percentage of bright and capable students in ordinary American schools are going to be shortchanged in math.

And while I have chosen math as the example, the Common Core is up to similar mischief in English, and the SAT is being similarly altered to match the diminished K-12 curriculum there too. Those who have followed the debate on the Common Core will have some idea of how this works out.  The Common Core prizes “informational texts” above literature, and it prizes teaching students how to treat documents as “evidence” above teaching students how to search out the deeper meaning in what they read.  The Common Core approaches reading and writing in a utilitarian spirit. Clearly this has some power. It fosters certain kinds of analytic skills–those that might be called forensic.  But it scants the cultivation of other aspects of reading and writing, especially those that depend on analogy, implication, and aesthetic sense.

That’s why the Common Core has such limited use for imaginative literature and why it so readily turns to out-of-context excerpts and uprooted fragments.  Information is information; it does not much depend on a sense of the whole; nor does it depend on gathering in the unsaid background.  The now infamous example of the Common Core’s deracinated approach to writing is a reading of the Gettysburg Address shorn of any explanation that it was a speech commemorating a battlefield, let alone the battlefield of the decisive battle in the Civil War.

Presumably the Common Core folks will repair this particular mistake, but it is telling that it happened in the first place.  And it is telling that the College Board has adopted all the same conceptual devices in the new SAT:  relevant words in context, command of evidence, analyzing sources, and using fragments and excerpts of historical documents.  None of these by itself should raise concern.  Each is a legitimate line for testing.  But note that they come unaccompanied by anything that would balance the focus on “evidence-based” inquiry with examination of other skills.

A Puzzle

Why should a grandly announced effort to raise school standards end up lowering them instead?  The answer lies in the convergence of several political forces.  Politicians see a can’t-lose proposition in the conceit that everyone should have the opportunity to go to college.  School standards that really separated the wheat from the chaff would be unpopular.  Americans today like the pretense that the only thing that holds us back is external circumstance, not natural limitation.  And the academic “achievement gap” between Asians and whites on one hand and blacks and Hispanics on the other has made forthright discussion of standards extremely difficult.

For all these reasons, we Americans were in the market for a new brand of educational snake oil and the Common Core provided it.  Politicians on both sides of the aisle lined up to buy franchises: Obama on the left, Jeb Bush on the right, and many more.

Now that the charm has worn off, the politicians have become hotly defensive about their support for Common Core. This isn’t the place to delve into their excuses and recriminations, but it is important to remember that that rancor is the backdrop to the College Board’s decision to change the SAT. Again.

test

SAT Down

My account of what lies behind the changes differs quite a bit from whatThe New York Times reported. The Times story emphasized Coleman’s heroic decision to take on the test preparation industry, which profits by exploiting the anxieties of students over how they will perform on the SAT.  Test preparation can be expensive and thus wealthier families have an edge. According to the Times, Coleman declared, “It is time for the College Board to say in a clearer voice that the culture and practice of costly test preparation that has arisen around admissions exams drives the perception of inequality and injustice in our country.”

How exactly the changes in the SAT will combat that “culture and practice” is unclear.  The test preparation industry itself seemed to shrug at Coleman’s oration.  The Timesquotes a vice president for Kaplan Test Prep saying that “Test changes always spur demand.”

Coleman is far from the first to rejigger the SAT to advance a notion of equality and justice.  The SAT was invented in 1926 to open the doors to college for students who were natively smart but came from unpromising backgrounds.  Over the decades it became a primary tool for college admissions officers to match potential students with the level off rigor embodied in a college’s curriculum. The goal was to find students who in all likelihood would succeed.

That began to change with the push for racial preferences in college admissions in the 1970s and 1980s. As colleges and universities more and more foregrounded the goal of “diversity” in admissions, the SAT began to look like an embarrassing artifact of an earlier time.  It stood for established standards and evidence of intellectual reach at a time when it had become much more useful to emphasize “evolving” definitions of excellence and achievement.  The new approaches emphasized cultural variety in how people think and what they think about, and the greater relevance to college work of “personal perspective” and viewpoint over mere knowledge.  Likewise “experience” began to seem as valuable in a college applicant as intellectual skill.

The first real fruit of these new concerns was the “recentering” of the SAT’s scoring system in the 1990s, which ballooned the scores of mediocre students and erased the differences among students at the higher end of the scale.  Then, among other changes, came the elimination in 2002 of the verbal analogies portion of the tests, which jettisoned a section for the explicit reason that black students on average performed less well on it than they did on other sections.  That same year the College Board removed the “asterisk” that indicated that a student had taken the test with special accommodations such as extra time.

So the attempt to use the SAT as an instrument to advance “social justice” is, in a sense, more of the same.  We can expect most colleges and universities to welcome Coleman’s changes in that spirit. But there are always costs, and sooner or later we will pay them.  We are embarking on a great expansion of the left’s long-term project of trading off our best chances to foster individual excellence for broadly-distributed access to mediocre education.

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Thank you, Peter Wood.

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THE STORY KILLERS by Dr. Terrence Moore – Book Review   4 comments

storykillers book

Michelle Malkin has called The Storykillers  “a stopcommoncore must-read.”

It is a must-read.  It’s interesting and important.  It’s packed full of understanding about the Common Core English standards, which are ruining the love of learning as they distort what it means to be educated.

The book pits logic and common sense against the theories, deceptions and absurdities of the Common Core.  It cuts through the Common Core’s wordiness and plainly states this truth:  that Common Core is stunting and killing both the classic literature stories themselves and The Great American Story of liberty and self-government, stories that our children and our country cannot do without.

In  The Story Killers: a Common Sense Case Against Common Core, Dr. Terrence Moore tells us that the restoration of legitimate, time-tested classic literature —the best that has been thought and said and done and discovered“– can solve  America’s educational decline.  The faulty theories of Common Core can not.

If you don’t read book, please remember Dr. Moore’s most important point:  We Must Fight For Our Stories— which Common Core is stealing

The great stories are not disposable!  Who persuaded us that they were?  Losing them means losing, piece by piece, what it means –or meant– to be us.  No amount of supposed career prep info-texts can pretend to make up for that.

Good readers, regardless of what they did after they grew up, developed the love of reading/learning by reading stories.  Young and old need stories to process life.  Great learners fall in love with learning not because of manuals, articles, and  informational texts but because of fascinating stories.  Classic works of literature are being neglected, shortened, misinterpreted and replaced, under Common Core.  And THE Great American Story– the story of freedom —  is being undermined along with the other classics that Common Core neglects.  The book explains exactly how this is happening, using the standards themselves as its centerpiece.

We must fight for our stories.

applebook - Copy

Dr. Moore’s book asks questions like this one:  Why does the new Common Core edition of the  American literature textbook, The American Experience, by Pearson/Prentice Hall 2012, contain sections on government forms,  and an EPA report?  Is this the new and “more rigorous” literature that will prepare our children for college?  Or is it an attempt to “keep the nation’s children from reading stories, particularly traditional stories that run counter to the political ideology” of the authors of  Common Core?

Dr. Moore points out that a widespread, fraudulent adoption of Common Core brought us the fraudulent reading (and math) theories upon which Common Core Standards rest. Common Core was never pilot tested as it should have been, before virtually the whole country adopted it.

You know how long it takes for a new drug to get on the market before it receives approval from the FDA,” he writes,  “Yet here is the educational medicine, so to speak, that all the nation’s children will be taking every day, seven hours a day– and no clinical trials have been done.”

Dr. Moore points out, too, that “most of the money that funded the original writing of the standards came from the deep pockets of Bill Gates. Perhaps related to this fact, the Common Core will have students working far more with computers… the people behind the Common Core also have a hand in running the tests and stand to gain financially…. the other people who stand to make out like bandits are the textbook publishers. If that’s not enough to get one wondering, it turns out that the actual writing of the standards was done in complete secrecy.

(Shocking! Terrible! And true.  Yet how many people know these facts in the face of so many ceaseless Common Core marketing lies being put out by the likes of Exxon, Harvard, Jeb Bush, the National Governors’ Association and even the National PTA, all of whom were paid by Bill Gates to say what they say about Common Core.  Don’t listen to them!  They are financially bound to say what they say.  Listen to people like Dr. Moore, who do not accept money from the Gates club.)

In his book, Dr. Moore talks a lot about what is NOT in the English standards as well as what’s there.

The traditional aims of education– to pursue truth, to find true happiness, to be good, to love the beautiful, to know the great stories of our American tradition– are not the designs of Common Core, he says.  The Common Core is a program that kills stories in order to direct people to “be preoccupied with only  the functional aspects of human existence and to have almost no interest in the higher aims of life.”

plato

Dr. Moore reminds us that controlling stories (or the lack of stories) is the same thing as controlling people:   “Plato pointed out in his Republic a book never read in today’s high schools, nor usually even in college– whoever writes the stories shapesor controls– the minds of the people in any given regime.”

The book’s title describes the killing of two important types of stories:

The great stories are, first, the works of literature that have long been considered great by any standard of literary judgment and, second, what we might call the Great American Story of people longing to be free and happy under their own self-government. The Common Core will kill these stories by a deadly combination of neglect, amputation, misinterpretation…”

Then,

On the ruins of the old canon of literary and historical classics will be erected a new canon of post-modern literature and progressive political doctrine. Simultaneous to this change, fewer and fewer works of literature will be read on the whole. Great literature will be replaced with ‘information’ masquerading as essential ‘workforce training’.”

Moore explains that the proponents of Common Core hold up “the illusion of reform” while continuing to “gut the school curriculum” and to remove its humanity.  He points to page five of the introduction to the Common Core where  this chart appears for English readings:

Grade Literary Information
4 50% 50%
8 45% 55%
12 30% 70%

So our little children under Common Core aligned school books won’t get more than 50% of their reading from stories.  And our high school seniors won’t get more than 30% of their reading from stories.  The bulky 70% of what they read must be informational text:  not poetry, not plays, not novels, not the books that move our souls.  In English class.

Thus literature is on the wane in public schools,” Dr. Moore writes, and traditional literature classes are being eroded, despite the fact that the Common Core proponents aim to deceive us and make the “public believe that they are requiring more rigor in reading.”

Dr. Moore calls us to fight for our children’s access to the great stories.

There has never been a great people without great stories. And the great stories of great peoples often dwell on the subject of greatness. They dwell on the subject of plain goodness as well: the goodness that is to be found in love, marriage, duty, the creation of noble and beautiful things. It is patently obvious that they authors of the Common Core are uncomfortable with these great stories of the great and the good.  They are plainly uncomfortable with great literature. And they are even more uncomfortable with what might be called the Great American Story.”

Read much of what the so-called education reformers are speaking about lately, and you’ll see it:  they call for sameness, common-ness, for the forced redistribution of teachers and funds, and above all, for equality of results.  Not greatness.  Not the ability for a single student or school to soar above the rest.  No exceptionalism allowed.  (Anyone ever read Harrison Bergeron?)

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Obama advisor Linda Darling-Hammond, the testing companies, the Common Core copyright holding groups– the reformers seem to avoid the concepts of goodness and greatness in favor of a twisted version of “social justice” equality, which is, frankly, theft, along with being as foolish as the reasoning behind the society of Harrison Bergeron, which is in no way truly fair, or truly helpful.

“…They fully expect us to shrug with thoughtless indifference.  Do not be fooled.  The fate of our stories is the fate of the nation,” writes Dr. Moore.

book and kite

Dr. Moore does the unthinkable:  he subjects the Common Core Standards to actual critical thinking (which they claim to promote).

Since everyone loves the expression ‘critical thinking’ these days, let us subject these standards to a little critical thinking.

He questions the  Common Core Initiative’s obsession with technology and testing.

bored by screen

Computers are a lot more like televisions than anyone is willing to admit… it is true that art teachers can now much more easily show their classes great paintings and sculptures by using the internet.  It is likewise true that history teachers can employ actual speeches of Churchill or Reagan using videos found on the web. Ninety percent of the time, though, that is not how the computer is being used… The arch-testers of the Common Core champion the use of the technological elixir that cures all illnesses and heals all wounds without even pausing to warn us of the potential side effects… we are not invited to consider how much technology is compromising the old literacy. Least of all are we supposed to realize that the remedy for our growing twenty-first-century illiteracy is traditional, nineteenth-century education.”

He asks us to re-examine the assumption that because technology has changed so much, schooling should also change so much.  “Does schooling belong in that class of things that does not get ‘updated’ every week…  human institutions and relations for which we must be initiated into certain permanent ways of thinking, lest we be cast adrift on a sea of moral, cultural, and political uncertainty?”

He points out that education should not be confused with job training and that “going to college” is not the same thing as gaining knowledge; and that the authors of Common Core are “lumping college readiness and career readiness together” without stopping to explain what either means nor how either will be affected by the lumping.

He points out that while the standards claim to wield the power to prepare children for “the twenty-first-century global economy,” that claim is based on nothing.  It’s just a claim.  And we have had economies to worry about since the beginning of time, none of which would have succeeded by taking away stories and classics, the very core that made people in the not too distant past far more literate than we are today.

He opposes this “pedestrian preoccupation with what will happen when children turn nineteen” because it “undermines the powers of imagination and of observation,” powers which are too important to ignore.  Think about it:  imagination makes children read and helps them to love books.  No little child is motivated to read because he/she is concerned about college and career, years from now.  The child reads because the story is interesting.  Period.

Dr. Moore also points out that the history of successful literacy shows a very different path from the one Common Core is leading America to follow.

Historically, what created the highest literacy rates?  Dr. Moore points out that it was high church attendance, combined with emphasis on the Bible, and schooling with an emphasis on traditional learning!  (And the Bible is composed mostly of stories and lyrical language, not of “rigorous informational texts.”)

Dr. Moore points out that Colonial Massachusetts and 18th-century Scotland had nearly universal literacy.  Newspapers in the 18th century were written at a far higher level than the journalism of today (which is written at the sixth-grade level.)

Yet the authors of Common Core insist that students should read far more recently written, informational texts, such as newspaper articles… Ergo, the literacy for the twenty-first-century global economy will be built upon the cracking foundation of our present semi-literacy. Was there not once a famous story-teller who said something about not building a house upon sand?”

He asks us to remember that the careful reading of stories enables us to “learn about good taste and manners. We learn all the the individual virtues and vices… human emotions… Through this vicarious activity, we are compelled to examine ourselves and thereby attain what used to be called self-government… What is a better study of ambition leading to ruin than Macbeth?  Wat is a better study of indecision and imprudence than Hamlet? What is a better example of adolescent love and passion in their raw state than Romeo and Juliet?  What is a better model of command than Henry V?… We hang onto these stories… that teach us who we are and who we ought to be. The study of human character through great literature, then, teaches us how to live.”

In the book’s last chapter, Moore explains that what is permanently valuable to students does not change very much.  He writes that a genuine common core would have included a group of magnificent books that each truly educated person would have read, at the very least.  Under THE Common Core, however, mostly informational, unproven texts and text excerpts are listed –and there is no set core of classic books.  He writes,  “Had the Common Core English Standards held up just a few great books, college professors could finally know what their incoming students had actually read.  Heck, even advertisers and comedians could know what jokes they could tell about literary characters”  Moore says that “the Holy Grail of school reform” is the set of “great books of our tradition.”

He recommends that students would read –PRIOR to high school–  titles such as The Tempest, Animal Farm, A Christmas Carol, and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Then Dr. Moore lists a classical high school curriculum (which he says has been working in the schools in which he has helped to implement it):

Homer’s Iliad  (The whole thing, not a drive-by excerpt); the WHOLE of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, Hamlet and Macbeth; the WHOLE U.S. Constitution; Le Morte D’Arthur, Pride and Prejudice, Plutarch’s Lives; Moby Dick; Huckleberry Finn, 1984; A Tale of Two Cities; Crime and Punishment; The Scarlet Letter, The Mayflower Compact; Uncle Tom’s Cabin The Prince; Confessions of Augustine; poetry by Frost, Longfellow, Dickinson, Poe, Whitman, T.S. Eliot, Shakespeare; biographies of Benjamin Franklin and Theodore Roosevelt, speeches by Winston Churchill, Martin Luther King, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan; and so on and so on.

Despite everything that is being taken away from the American English curriculum because of Common Core, despite the damage that is being done to children’s love of learning by removing the thing that makes people love to read and become great readers– stories– despite all else he exposes about the Common Core, Dr. Moore’s bottom line remains this one:

Anyone who thinks I have travelled too far afield or have jumped to conclusions about the true aims of the Common Core should read one further phrase found on the opening page of the English standards.  That phrase is more alarming and more revelaing than all the jargon about a new literacy and college and career readiness. ‘The Standards are intended to be a living work: as new and better evidence emerges, the Standards will be revised accordingly.’ …The authors of the Core are  forecasting that their program will change over the next ten, twenty, forty years… but the same people will be in charge. What will be the new and better evidence that emerges?  Who will get to decide what constitutes better evidence? Who will do the revising?”

I have only scratched the surface of this important book here.  I hope you will buy copies for your friends, your school board, your legislator, your governor, and especially for your favorite English teacher.  This book is a powerful tool in the fight to  reclaim legitimate K-12 and college education in this country.

Link to book:   The Story Killers: a Common Sense Case Against Common Core

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