Monday, January 20, 2014

Common Core

Is Common Core Anti-Education and Anti-Democratic
By Voice of the Revolution

The Common Core testing and assessment regime being pushed on school districts across the country is anti-education and anti-democratic, both in its content and its implementation. New York State, where it is being pushed most rapidly, has seen broad opposition from parents, teachers and students. The testing regime, currently being imposed on 3-8 graders but also in some cases on K-2 graders, has been rightly branded as child abuse. The tests are long, arbitrary and do not in any way assist in evaluating students or teachers. On the contrary they are designed to humiliate students and involve teachers in doing harm. Increasingly there is resistance to the Core and organized efforts to refuse the tests.
The teaching modules being given to teachers are highly detailed, scripted materials that are stifling and actually block teaching and learning. They can be five hundred pages long. A single 5-page story can be given 18 days of teaching, with the first day having 13 pages of script for the teacher. The reading materials are commonly detached from any context with attention focused strictly on the reading alone — which itself might only include a portion of a book, without its conclusion.
It is reported, for example, that there will be a module on Lincoln’s Gettysburg address that includes nothing about the Civil War, what the battle at Gettysburg represented, why Lincoln was speaking there, and so forth. Such an approach does not serve the needs of the students and is not educational. It is a means to force teachers and students both to do what they are told and submit to the humiliation of what they know to be anti-educational activities.
It is clear that teachers and education professors are not the ones developing these materials. On the contrary, private monopoly interests, divorced from the actual work of teaching and learning, are designing and organizing to impose the Common Core.

In addition, the implementation of the Core by government officials shows how thoroughly undemocratic the regime is. In New York, for example, Education Commissioner King initially scheduled public town hall meetings where parents, teachers and students were to have an opportunity to question officials and give views on the Core and its testing and evaluation regime. When faced with broad opposition and anger from the public, King then canceled the meetings. Then he re-scheduled them, but with restrictions on the number of questions asked and the number who could attend.
The audiences have consistently been overwhelmingly against the Common Core, with one speaker after the other presenting serious arguments and concerns, all of which are ignored. Further King and the media have branded the public as “rude” and “rowdy,” for their refusal to quietly accept the dictate of the state. The violence of government officials refusing to in anyway acknowledge the concerns of the public is to be denied, while all are supposed to just accept whatever King says.
Most recently, in Jamestown, New York, parents, teachers and students again came by the hundreds to voice their concerns. But only 30 of those arriving were allowed to speak and ten others were chosen in advance. Strict rules were imposed. Each speaker had only two minutes, after which they would be forced to stop or the microphone would be cut off. There was to be no clapping or cheering and no booing of King. Everyone was warned not to be “rude,” while King was given free reign to openly lie and repeatedly dismiss serious concerns.
Despite these restrictions, the audience again made clear its firm stand against the Common Core and its testing regime. Several people turned their back to King and instead addressed the audience, saying it was teachers, parents and students who were the authority on educational matters and must be the ones to decide. And instead of clapping people stood up in affirmation of the repeated and thoughtful opposition expressed by one speaker after the other.
Now, in coming to Buffalo December 12, King’s anti-democratic regime is dictating an even more restrictions. It is to be an invitation-only meeting, where only three representatives from each area school district will be allowed to attend. Parents and teachers are again rejecting this anti-democratic and anti-public stand by King. They are organizing their own meeting outside of where King will be speaking. And they are organizing it as a public space to be informed, exchange views and strengthen the common thinking not only against the Common Core but for public education that serves the public interests — that serves the needs of the youth for broad knowledge and the ability to investigate and think in a manner that contributes to the advance of their collective and society as a whole. It will be a public meeting, by and for the public, on the vital issue of defending the right to education — something King cannot restrict or block!
What do NSA and Common Core Have in Common?

On the surface, the Common Core program, which deals with education, and the NSA, part of the Pentagon’s war machine, would not appear to be similar. However, a closer examination reveals common qualities. Among these are the removal of vital public matters from the public domain, utilizing more and more secrecy; data mining on a massive scale serving private monopoly interests; and eliminating the role of public governance, including elected legislatures at all levels, from a decision making role. Both have in place machinery that is arbitrary, anti-public and serving to humiliate and control people on a broad scale.

War and peace are vital social matters, for the peoples here and abroad. Decisions concerning them belong in the public domain. Similarly, public education and public schools are vital social matters belonging to the public and also connected to the future of society.
Yet decisions concerning both are increasingly concentrated in the hands of the executive, like the president or governors and secretaries of defense and education. Discussion about the information and considerations going into decisions are systematically being removed from the public domain, and more and more being kept secret. The public is being rendered as a force unable to govern and decide any significant matter.
No one is to know why the spying and metadata is needed, how they in any way contribute to peace and security. On the contrary, the government repeats that it must keep such matters secret. It is a situation where no one feels more secure and most feel humiliated and abused.
When it comes to the Common Core testing regime, a main feature is that the Common Core is privately owned and the tests themselves are closely guarded secrets. Teachers are forced to sign a waiver saying they will not discuss the tests and doing so can be grounds for firing. Why the secrecy if these tests are supposed to improve education? Public debate would serve to contend with the problems with the tests and testing regime, yet it is being blocked. The only role for the public is to accept the Core — and the broad humiliation and abuse it involves.
While the massive metadata collection by the NSA is well known, what is less known is that a similar level of data collection and data mining is taking place in the public schools. Microsoft and other monopolies are using public education as a means to grab more and more of the public treasury, and the government is making sure they succeed. A private data collection monopoly called inBloom is working directly with the states to secure massive amounts of private data of students and teachers. This is being done without the consent of parents or teachers. And the data is not to serve education but rather the private interests of the monopolies involved, like Microsoft. InBloom will be selling the information to other private monopolies as well as using it to bully schools into buying testing and related software “necessary” to implement the Common Core. New York is one of the main states already handing over such information.
Private monopolies get to see, discuss and sell private, personal student and teacher information, without any consent from parents or education workers, while teachers and students are told they cannot even discuss (or see, in the case of parents) the tests.
It is not the tests or test policies alone that are the problem. It is not the NSA spying and metadata collection alone that are the problem. Both reflect the growing arbitrary anti-public power imposing them. Both reflect governing arrangements where the role of elected governance, and the public more generally, is being eliminated and arbitrary anti-public executive rule is put in place. This arbitrary power is serving the private narrow interests of the most powerful monopolies. And because it is arbitrary, it uses violence, threats and humiliation as a means to control the public. The NSA spying says the U.S. will do what it wants, when it wants, to whoever it wants. The Common Core regime and InBloom spying say public schools are no longer for purposes of educating the youth, but rather for purposes of regulating youth and labor for the narrow benefit of the super rich.
What the NSA and Common Core have in common is that they are about imposing a high-tech form of slavery at home and U.S. empire abroad. They bring to the fore that it is not only the spying and testing that need to be confronted, it is the arbitrary, anti-public executive power that also must be confronted. For the public schools to serve the public good, they must be accountable to and governed by the public. Similarly, for peace and security to prevail, it is the people themselves who must govern and decide. It is by defending public right and expanding the role of the public in governance — including organizing public meetings by and for the public on these vital social matters, that further steps can be taken to empower the people to govern and decide.

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