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Showing posts with label Curricula. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Curricula. Show all posts

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Dressing Up Standards, Dumbing Down Schools



From Big Government

By Terrence Moore


Beware of Greeks bearing gifts, Homer teaches us, something every school child used to know. Beware of politicians and expert educators bearing standards, the last seventy years or more of Progressive education should have taught us. But we are slow to learn.

We have been given almost a month to digest the hundreds of pages of the new National Governors Association’s Common Core State Standards that could well become national standards pressed in some way upon every child who attends a public school in America. So we had better read, write, and think fast. Pundits and educationists, even some stalwarts of education reform, are beginning to praise these new standards as being more comprehensive than any before, far better than what the diverse and unreliable states are providing. Schools will now be held accountable to “higher standards”; teachers will know what they are responsible for teaching; students will be swept up in “the vision of what it means to be a literate person in the twenty-first century,” which, we must surmise, is very different from what it meant to be literate in, say, the eighteenth century, when the likes of Thomas Jefferson read Latin and Greek for fun. It all sounds wonderful. At least it does until sensible people realize that these standards, which are only the best of the worst of the existing state standards, have absolutely nothing to do with sound education. It will be a mistake to get bogged down in a discussion of whether these standards are better than the various state standards since the whole enterprise is just a diversion hiding what truly ails public schools. The reason is obvious to anyone who has ever listened to some of these so-called experts drone on about standards without ever making a literary reference or drawing a lesson from history or even talking about a book.

Let us imagine an author at his craft, say, Herman Melville while writing Moby Dick, or Jane Austen working on Pride and Prejudice. Now assuredly what these literary artists hoped above all else was that a century or two from their own time students in high schools would be using their great works not better to understand love or honor or revenge or nobility or happiness, but to “analyze how multiple themes or central ideas in a text interact, build on, and, in some cases, conflict with one another”; as well as to “analyze the impact of the author’s choices regarding how to develop and relate elements of a story or drama (e.g., where a story is set, how the action is ordered, how the characters are introduced and developed).” We know that this sort of innocuous thing is what the authors had in mind because that is what our teachers told us in school. We remember the drill: the plot graphs—rising action, climax, falling action (or denouement)—the cast lists of main characters and outlines of “main ideas,” the possible literary techniques—foreshadowing, alliteration, onomatopoeia. What we do not remember is one dad-gum thing about these stories: what insight they gave us into the human condition, what they portray as heroism, villainy, love, or self-deception. We do not remember any of these life-ennobling themes because those matters never came up in our English (what are now called our “Language Arts”) classes.