The B-town Errant received a communication from the trenches this morning regarding the recent posts about Common Corporate State Standards.

Our correspondent generously agreed to allow us to reproduce the email.  I have altered some of the personal content in the text to further the anonymity of this respondent.

I have not indented it as “quoted material” so that it might be easier to read.  It begins after the asterisks.

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I have been anticipating your article on CCSS as soon as I saw you posted it before the weekend.  Seeing as I do not have Internet at home (and reading such articles on my iPhone is painful), I have now fulfilled that obligation this morning.
THANK YOU for posting this….
I am the Humanities Dean here at  X parochial school.  I’ve learned that my REAL role as dean is to SELL the CCSS program/Atlas Mapping Program http://www.rubicon.com/AtlasCurriculumMapping_Capabilities.php?page=Multilingual to my fellow faculty members.

1. Clearly there is resistance amongst the ranks here.  No one likes change, and certainly no one likes change when it ultimately translates to “busy work.”  The “mapping” we are asked to accomplish is what MOST of the GOOD teachers do here anyway.  For the less-effective teachers, I don’t think there was any hope for them in the first place.  However, we are now persuaded by administration and our accreditation group (AdvancED) to complete an entire school-wide curriculum within 2-4 years of our start date.

2. Justification you ask?  Our administration gives us this reasoning – based on the reasoning of Rubicon/Atlas employees:  Our goal is to articulate a complete curriculum so that at ANY place in time, any stakeholder (parent, teacher, student) may access this HUGE amount of information on the web and KNOW exactly where any particular class, teacher, student SHOULD BE in any given Unit and/or Lesson.  As you mentioned in your post, “Occupy Common Core Standards”, it will create SAMENESS amongst all classes taught.  Be damned if you are observed by an administrator on March 10, 2014 and you fail to be exactly in the same spot as the teacher down the hall or a day ahead or behind where you predicted you might.  Remember verbals are EASY (sarcasm alert), and children understand them immediately and therefore you can only ALLOW as much time as you originally planned to accommodate such learning.  Ridiculous!

3. Now to the CCSS.  In August, the Department Chairs had a FULL-DAY workshop with an employee of Rubicon/Atlas Company in order to train us on the software.  As we meandered through page after page of “stuff” we finally arrived at the CCSS pull-down/drop-down menu for the CCSS which must be completed for EVERY lesson, every unit, every assignment, every quiz, every test (an absurd amount of  “paper” work).  After perusing the list I raised my hand in anger.  This is what I said: “These standards are so general that each one is potentially applicable for EVERY assignment.”  What followed was a bureaucratic answer that to this day has still not been clarified.  So, I asked him again ten minutes later… same answer.  So, I pulled him over to my desk and gave him specific examples based on my specific units/lessons.  Same answer.  In summary – this is what he said: “Certainly ALL standards will be met as you read, let’s say The Great Gatsby”, but what these standards are promoting is the daily lesson in which you might only talk about “point of view” for that day.”  My response: “I will NOT need a 90 minute class period to talk about “point of view”, we will talk about “point of view” periodically throughout the novel as I see fit and as Nick Carraway’s character (our narrator) develops and grows increasingly angered by the Buchanans, et al.”  His response: “yeah but, in your lesson you will only introduce “point of view” once, then you will create assessments so that you may grade them on their understanding of “point of view.”  My response: “Doesn’t that seem a bit ridiculous, seeing as every class will understand this information differently AND on top of that, I don’t think I will be making any assessment on “point of view”.  Anyway, you can see where the conversation went round and round.

4. Simply put.  I’m caught (really caught) for the first time in my career.  Never have I been so adamantly against something as I am right now… and here I’ve been elected by a first year principal to PUSH this on my fellow colleagues.  I know I can’t sit idly by without saying something, I know I’m going to crack.  All I want to do is forward your blog to everyone on staff……. but I also like to eat, and have a roof over my head.  [end of email]

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It might be clear to some of you that this is a very egregious assault on teachers.  This is NOT about teaching students; rather it is a managerial control lever meant to insert opportunities for employee change.  Reduction in force will soon follow and then we will see the implementation of further “management by machine” in our schools.

Reading The Great Gatsby is not about amassing data or information to retrieve; reading is about the human way of interpreting the world.  Reading deepens our understanding of what it is to be human AS humans.  This is both emotional and intellectual.  Testing and technology might offer us a “data set” knowledge of plot and character and point of view.  But it cannot feel what Jay Gatz feels when he attaches his dreams to an imaginary symbolized by that green light silently calling to him from the end of the dock.  It cannot feel the beauty of Fitzgerald’s prose and the way the words arranged just so below settle into our minds and cast a kind of melancholy spell over us.  Read those words once, in their proper context, and you will never forget them.

And as I sat there, brooding on the old unknown world, I thought of Gatsby’s wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock. He had come a long way to this blue lawn and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night.

Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter — tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther…. And one fine morning —

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

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Douglas Storm is a host and producer for Interchange on Bloomington, Indiana's community radio station WFHB. "Why then do you try to 'enlarge' your mind? Subtilize it..."

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