Sunday, January 20, 2013

Standards deviation

Updated 1/20/2014

This post was written before I understood, as Diane Ravitch has written,
As Secretary Duncan’s chief of staff wrote at the time, the Common Core was intended to create a national market for book publishers, technology companies, testing corporations, and other vendors.
I still think the article mocked here is pretty funny, though.

Via Thundering Herd.
Via Thers: Mary Grabar of Townhall is extremely concerned about how today's kids seem unaware of the Communist menace. You might think it's only to be expected that the Communist menace would be harder to focus on than it was 60 years ago, on account of its not existing any more, but to Mary and her friends it's really real and happening right inside our own American educational system, which is undergoing a forced collectivization where home-school parents, nuns, and charter school patrons are the Ukrainian kulaks of the 21st century!
with the Obama administration’s unconstitutional program of nationalizing education, students will not likely be able to experience the insights and pleasures of novels, like Orwell’s.... The standards, now in place for math and English, emphasize “work and career readiness”--that is for workers who see themselves as global citizens unacquainted with their national and cultural heritage. This became apparent as I read the recent article, “Teachers Get Help with Common Core Lessons Through (sic) CPALMS,” at the NPR site. This was also because one of the CPALMS lessons for English/Language Arts was on Animal Farm.
Really? That bastard Arne Duncan won't let children read novels? Readers of this page know I have my problems with him, but I never imagined he'd go that far!

Which he didn't. That's just a comma error (when the nuns were teaching Mary about the horrors of forced collectivization I'm afraid they neglected the punctuation a little bit); she doesn't mean "novels, like Orwell's", but "novels like Orwell's [Animal Farm]", whose insights and pleasures are in her view limited to teaching you about why Communism is bad, which the CPALMS lesson on Animal Farm in her view refuses to do. Novels will be on the syllabus, but she's not going to find them insightful or pleasant.

She concluded this after traveling from "Teachers Get Help With Common Core Lessons Through CPALMS" (no, I have no idea why she sic'd that preposition—nuns again, I guess—or for that matter why she refused to link to it, as if she were afraid NPR might get your computer dirty) to the CPALMS website (Collaborate Plan Learn Motivate Share), where there is a public preview for the program with a sample lesson plan for a ninth- or tenth-grade English class that happens to deal with Animal Farm, and it doesn't even mention Communism at all, except in passing:
While one small mention is made in a sheet on the “elements of a fable” that Animal Farm is [my turn to be sic] “satirized Stalinist Communism, in particular, and totalitarianism, in general” it is clear that the novel is to be taught in a historic vacuum. The pointed criticisms of communism are generalized to an indictment of a vague sense of too much “power.”
Sadly, no. The fact is that the lesson plan in question isn't on Animal Farm in the strict sense; it's a creative writing lesson following up on the reading of Animal Farm in which students are asked to write a fable of their own—which gives the lie to Grabar's assertion that the national standards are going to wipe out creativity and force students to do only "evidence-based writing", and shows her analysis of the thing to be barking up an altogether imaginary tree: the lesson plans for the reading of Animal Farm aren't at the site, so there isn't any evidence of what they might have left out.

And the funny thing is that, nun jokes aside, her English classes really let her down. She believes that Aesop's fables are only for pre-schoolers, and that the only insight or pleasure you can get from Animal Farm is to learn that Stalinism is bad (like you didn't know already?); and her sense of grammar and punctuation is awfully weak. And as far as "evidence-based writing" goes she could really use some work in it, no? I don't know under what state standards she made it through high school, but she makes the idea of a national standard look pretty good.
Hey, Mary, see if you can find the errors. This lesson teaches you that you can be poorly educated and still make a contribution. Feel better? Via Motifake.

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