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Friday, August 8, 2014

Good Riddance to Bad Standards: The AFT Common-Core Debate

Thanks to Ed Notes Online, I was able to play and replay parts of the Common-Core resolution debate on the floor of the AFT Convention in Los Angeles last month.  

In particular, I had wanted to view the clip of Mulgrew talking about punching people in the face and pushing them into the dirt if they threaten to take tests and standards away from teachers.  It seemed impossible to believe.

Given this violent passion over testing and commitment to enforcing some beloved set of standards, Mulgrew should surely follow his heart, voluntarily step down from all this UFT President stuff of pulling NYSUT and AFT strings, and go back to the classroom.  It must be positively calling to him.  Let him reclaim his beloved tests and standards, ground himself in realities, and simultaneously find out whether he is effective, highly effective, developing, or, ineffective through a battery of observations and test-based measures in a loyalty oath-less world.  

Mulgrew further says the AFT doesn't back down from a fight.  But what if it's fighting the wrong fight?  What if the idea of one-size-fits-all standards is just plain old wrong?  Shouldn't we even ask ourselves that question?  The AFT hasn't been fighting in my mind, as much as collaborating, and being paid handsomely with grants to do so.  

To assert, as NYSUT president, Magee, that a Core-less world is one without standards is pure nonsense.  It's a straw-man argument.  I hate to say it, but a phrase a kid picked up from some TV show echoes in my brain, "Is that all you got?" 

In that short AFT video clip, in my opinion, no one speaks more passionately, and simultaneously with sense, than Pia Payne-Shannon of Minneapolis.  But then you might expect that.  She is a real teacher and the children who suffer through the Core are her kids.  

Before I even heard Payne-Shannon speak, Leroy Barr left me in total disbelief.  He spoke of his twelve-year-old son, raised by standards.  He walks out the door with his head held high, a "firm grip" and confidence.  These are not Common Core standards.  The Common Core counters all of these things.  By aiming grade levels above students' heads, it  holds a "firm" grip of strangulation just under students' once-held-high heads.  Self-confidence is asphyxiated.  Does Barr have any idea how many students may walk out their parent's door, head towards school and then make a u-turn?  The Core will pull down some of the best students and leave lower-functioning  students stranded in heaps by the roadside. 

How long has it been since Barr has taught?  He thinks the Core will allow a student from NY to move to California and never miss a step in the curriculum.  What land does he inhabit?  Is it populated by some of those martians to whom Mulgrew made reference?  You can't even send a student down the hall in a school building today and have a student pick up on the same page.  And, if you could, I'd have to wonder what kind of ugly dictatorship we're living under that dismisses the diversity of classrooms and has us all  marching in lockstep.   The copyrighted Core cannot help but punch us, push us into the dirt and privatize us.  Its no surprise that is staunchest defendants are furthest from the classroom.  

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