Monday, February 6, 2012

The Common Core And Conformity

The blog at has an interview with Sugata Mitra, an advocate of self-directed learning.  Mitra installed a computer in a hole in a wall in a New Dehli slum and let children operate it unsupervised.  He contends,
"Experiments show that children in unsupervised groups are capable of answering questions many years ahead of the material they’re learning in school."
I'm not sure how I feel about the idea of no adult direction in a classroom, but I do agree with Mitra's analysis about how and why our current system works like it does.
The existing Victorian system of education was created to mass-produce identical human beings, mainly to serve an aristocracy, and, in modern times, an industrial elite. Governments find it difficult to move away from this model, because it has worked. provides a succinct reminder and visual proof that schools succeed in their mass production efforts.

Writing in the Answer SheetMarion Brady, a teacher and curriculum designer contends that the Common Core standards will continue to produce conformity.  She calls the standards "a confusing, random, overwhelming, intellectually unmanageable assortment of facts, specialized vocabularies, disconnected conceptual frameworks, and abstractions — the whole too far removed from life as the young live it for them to care about it."
Later, she predicts,
When the CEOs and the politicians they’ve bought finish the simplistic “reform” they’ve started, when the claim that an order-of-magnitude improvement in learner intellectual performance has been dismissed as hyperbole, when all 50 states have been pressured to adopt the regressive Common Core Standards locking the knowledge-fragmenting 1893 curriculum in permanent place, when standardized subject-matter tests that can’t measure the qualities and quality of thought have been nationalized, when the “standards and testing police” are fully deployed and looking over every teacher’s shoulder, it’ll all be over. America and the nations that follow its lead in education will face a dynamic world equipped with a static curriculum.
I don't know which is worse: being unnecessary or helping mass produce conformists.


Darren Burris said...

Standards do not create classrooms, experiences, specific curriculums. Standards are more akin to an alphabet from which a classroom/school can choose to assemble and supply a curriculum that is stale, machine-like, and uninspiring user's guide to a VCR. However, standards-as-alphabet can serve to ground an educational experience that is creative and inspiring like great (non)fiction.
Giving standards too much power takes away from what students and teachers do each day as well as places them in a position they were never intended to fulfill.

P.S. It seems that you believe the opposite of the poster, right. A more appropriate subtitle: "When people are NOT free to do as they please, they usually imitate each other."

LK said...

I followed your link; you seem like a fan of Common Core. I'm not sure that schools will allow the creativity that you claim the Core allows. I'm positive that state departments of education and the RTTT proposals will make it nearly impossible for that to happen.

In regards to the poster, I was thinking that states got toether and could have done whatever they want, but they all chose to conform. I certainly can see how you got the interpretation that you did.