Knowledge vs. Wisdom: A Common Core Conundrum

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Many people have expressed concern regarding David Coleman’s lack of experience in the classroom. Coleman himself has acknowledged his lack of qualifications for serving as the lead author and architect of the Common Core State Standards.

There is a big difference between being knowledgeable in a subject matter and having wisdom. Knowledge can be obtained through education, while wisdom is most often acquired through experience.

More troubling than David Coleman’s lack of classroom experience is his lack of work experience which greatly diminishes his wisdom regarding transferable and applicable job-ready literacy skills and his qualifications for writing career readiness standards.

The Common Core demands that teachers make 12 instructional “shifts” to properly align with the Standards including…

“Students build knowledge about the world (domains/ content areas) through TEXT rather than the teacher or activities.”

Pedagogical Shifts demanded by the Common Core State Standards

David Coleman had a powerful role as the lead author or architect of the Common Core and it is not surprising that the Standards would reflect and emphasize a text-dependent way of learning that is both familiar to Coleman, and most likely preferred by him.

Unfortunately, the Common Core’s emphasis on learning through reading rather than doing will cultivate workers who are more likely to be knowledgeable close readers rather than wise critical thinkers.

Wisdom aside, David Coleman clearly loves to dive deeply into text..

“David Coleman stood at a podium reciting poetry. After reading Dylan Thomas’s “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night,” a classic example of the villanelle form, Coleman wanted to know why green is the only color mentioned in the poem, why Thomas uses the grammatically incorrect go gentle instead of go gently, and how the poet’s expression of grief is different from Elizabeth Bishop’s in her own villanelle, “One Art.”

“Kids don’t wonder about these things,” Coleman told his audience, a collection of 300 public-school English teachers and administrators. “It is you as teachers who have this obligation” to ask students “to read like a detective and write like an investigative reporter.”

Dana Goldstein, “The Schoolmaster” The Atlantic, 10/19/12

There is a huge disconnect between the Common Core’s “promise” of improving students’ college and career literacy skills and its emphasis on cultivating specialized close reading skills.

While close reading may be easily measured by a standardized test these skills are not likely to be utilized in fast-paced work environments where solutions to novel problems are not found in the text.

Employers expect new hires to have proficient reading comprehension skills so they can work effectively with complex informational text, and not contrived close reading skills so they can spend days determining how the text “works”.

Close reading trains students to answer text-dependent questions using information and evidence derived exclusively from the text.

Multiple choice standardized tests that consider a likely or plausible response wrong because the student invoked prior knowledge rather than select the response that is text-based DO NOT measure higher order thinking skills.

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In contrast, employers rely on critical thinking and creative problem-solving workers who can operate in a rapidly changing environment where they must deal with open-ended questions while finding solutions to nonroutine problems using vague, conflicting, and incomplete data.

Close reading demands a deep and detailed analysis of text. Students are expected to independently analyze the use of evidence and how information and ideas “interact” in the text.

Students must explain how word choices shape meaning or tone. They analyze the craft and structure of the text and must determine how separate components (sentence, paragraph etc.) relate to each other and the whole.

Students are discouraged from thinking or feeling beyond the text. Their thoughts must remain closely connected to the text as they fastidiously deconstruct and dissect the reading in order to determine the explicit meaning of the text.

The Common Core ELA Standards presume that the information employees need to analyze and deconstruct is primarily text-based, so while the Common Core does include multimedia Standards, Appendix A explicitly discounts and devalues the importance of media literacy skills.

In reality, many workers are required to analyze data and information that is presented in multimedia and virtual formats including, charts, tables, graphs, audio, visual, webinar, video conference, Skype etc.

Close readers must repeatedly go back to a reading in order to correctly answer text-dependent questions, while many employees must go beyond and outside the reading to find answers to job-related questions.

In most work situations, employees are valued for their ability to think outside the text and determine the meaning and significance of the information as it relates to the department they work in or business they work for.

Many 21st century employees must also be able to anticipate and predict the economic, political, environmental, social, and emotional significance and consequence of the information that is revealed in the text.

Close reading students may be able to think deeply and critically within the text, but successful employees must think broadly and creatively to help formulate policies and strategies that will enable their employer to operate appropriately, effectively, legally, and profitably outside the text.

David Coleman is convinced that knowledgeable students should be trained to read “like a detective” and the meaning of the words and ideas must be derived exclusively from the text, while employers rely on wise workers who read with perspective, and recognize that the meaning and significance of words and ideas is very often dependent on situations and circumstances that exist outside the text.

How ironic would it be if the fateful decision to make close reading a centerpiece of the data-driven and evidence-based Common Core ELA Standards was little more than a gratuitous and self-indulgent whim satisfying David Coleman’s passion for close reading?

So much for thoughts and feelings don’t matter in life…unless you are the chief architect of the Common Core.

 

“Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?

Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?”

~ T. S. Eliot.

 

 

PISA Envy

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Tests confirm…ed reformers are suffering from impaired judgement and diminished critical thinking skills due to an acute case of PISA envy.

Ed reformers should reconsider their admiration for education systems that prepare young people to live and work in closed societies that don’t value creativity, freedom of expression, and independent thinking.

In a free and open democratic society education should serve the needs and interests of students, rather than data miners, corporations, or the state.

Common Core may “promise” deeper learning and critical thinking but the sterilized and standardized curriculum of scripted modules, discipline of thought, and continuous test prep would be more appropriate for classrooms in nations that expect conformity and require obedience from their citizens and workers.

In their quest for higher PISA scores, other nations will cultivate compliance and competition in the classroom rather than creativity and collaboration so that students willingly attend after-hours tutoring, Saturday classes, and even hook themselves up to amino acid IV drips to boost energy levels during long study sessions.

iv-drips-2The significant differences between a vast and geographically diverse continental nation like the United States and smaller land-locked or island nations like Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Singapore etc. will most certainly account for a dramatic difference in the career paths available to students.

Career readiness in America should be about preparing students for the wide array of vocational opportunities our country has to offer including the arts, science, health care, manual trades, conservation, forestry, culinary, military, public service, hospitality, ranching, dairy farming, equestrian, criminal justice, human services, engineering etc.

Trying to model our school programs based on the rigid education systems in countries that do not have such a variety of career choices and vocational paths is foolish and not in the best interest of our students or our nation.

Education programs in smaller nations that are not as geographically and culturally diverse and with more restrictive governments will naturally focus on standardized curriculum and much narrower academic skill sets and job skills because students in these nations have more limited social, political, and vocational options.

As far as the ed reformers love affair with data, rather than comparing the Reading and Math PISA scores of say Singapore or China to the United States, why not compare their Human Rights Watch “scores” to the United States?…

“Chinese people had no say in the selection of their new leaders, highlighting that despite the country’s three decades of rapid modernization, the government remains an authoritarian one-party system that places arbitrary curbs on freedom of expression, association, religion, prohibits independent labor unions and human rights organizations, and maintains party control over all judicial institutions. The government also censors the press, internet, and publishing industry, and enforces highly repressive policies in ethnic minority areas in Tibet, Xinjiang, and Inner Mongolia.”

Human Rights Watch World Report 2013: China

“The Singapore government in 2012 continued to sharply restrict basic rights to free expression, peaceful assembly, and association. However, there were small signs of progress in other areas, including changes in mandatory death penalty laws, and limited improvements in protecting the rights of migrant workers and combating human trafficking.”

Human Rights Watch World Report 2013: Singapore

If ed reformers insist on comparing the academic performance of American students to young people in other nations, then they should be careful not to include those education systems that primarily serve the math, reading, and science needs of restrictive governments in nations with more limited career opportunities.

Preparing American students for the wide variety of career opportunities in our nation requires a customized and vigorous curriculum focused on student interests and designed to increase academic, emotional, social, and vocational skills rather than a standardized and common curriculum focused on a narrow set of Math and ELA Standards and intended to increase PISA scores.

People learn through experimentation and experience. They acquire knowledge and skills by taking risks and testing things, not taking tests.

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Passion and Purpose

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David Coleman has made it perfectly clear there is no “room” in the Common Core for such trivial matters as students’ thoughts, feelings, and personal reflections.

Coleman may claim his emotionless Common Core will improve the career readiness of students but there is ample evidence that what employees think and feel has a direct impact on worker engagement and job satisfaction.

“Best places to work” companies don’t just have ping pong tables and free lunch, they have a “ soul” which makes work exciting and energizing.

They invest in great management and leadership. They train and develop people so they can grow. And they define their business in a way that brings meaning and purpose to the organization…

Now is the time to think holistically about your company’s work environment and consider what you can do to create passion, engagement, and commitment. It may be “the issue” we face in business over the next few years.”

Josh Bersin, “Why Companies Fail To Engage Today’s Workforce: The Overwhelmed Employee” Forbes, 3/15/14

Hard to understand how a passionless set of standards will improve the career readiness of students at a time when record numbers of employees are reporting feeling disengaged and dispassionate about their jobs…

Gallup’s data shows 30% of employees Engaged, 52% Disengaged, 18% Actively Disengaged.  “These latest findings indicate that 70% of American workers are ‘not engaged’ or ‘actively disengaged’ and are emotionally disconnected from their workplaces and less likely to be productive,” states the report.

“Gallup estimates that these actively disengaged employees cost the U.S. between $450 billion to $550 billion each year in lost productivity.  They are more likely to steal from their companies, negatively influence their coworkers, miss workdays, and drive customers away…

Though higher education generally leads to higher earnings, it by no means guarantees higher engagement.  Consider the data: College graduates in the survey were 28% Engaged, 55% Not Engaged, 17% Actively Disengaged.  High school graduates were 32% Engaged, 49% Not Engaged, 19% Actively Disengaged.”

Victor Lipman, “Surprising, Disturbing Facts From The Mother Of All Employee Engagement Surveys” Forbes 9/23/13

K-12 education programs that claim to prepare students for college and careers should be focused more on cultivating a wide array of social and emotional competencies that are transferable workforce skills rather than continually testing a narrow set of measurable Math and ELA skills.

Learning should be a self-directed journey of discovery. Students should be “free to learn” as they explore their interests and pursue their passions rather than simply following a curriculum map and standardized pathway to each Common Core learning standard.

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“Another turning point, a fork stuck in the road
Time grabs you by the wrist, directs you where to go
So make the best of this test and don’t ask why
It’s not a question but a lesson learned in time

It’s something unpredictable but in the end is right
I hope you had the time of your life”

Learning should be passion-driven rather than data-driven and focus on the needs of students rather than the needs of the tests. Classroom activities should provide numerous opportunities for students to connect with their dreams, feelings, interests, and other people rather than demand students read closely and stay connected to text.

Data-driven programs focus primarily on testing and measuring student knowledge while passion-driven programs provide numerous learning experiences that interest students and cultivate student wisdom.

The following excerpt from a 2010 valedictory speech reveals the consequences of standardized and test-centric education programs, unfortunately David Coleman is not interested in students thoughts and feelings…

“…While others sat in class and doodled to later become great artists, I sat in class to take notes and become a great test-taker. While others would come to class without their homework done because they were reading about an interest of theirs, I never missed an assignment. 

While others were creating music and writing lyrics, I decided to do extra credit, even though I never needed it. So, I wonder, why did I even want this position? Sure, I earned it, but what will come of it? When I leave educational institutionalism, will I be successful or forever lost?

I have no clue about what I want to do with my life; I have no interests because I saw every subject of study as work, and I excelled at every subject just for the purpose of excelling, not learning.

And quite frankly, now I’m scared…”

Erica Goldson, “Here I Stand” 6/25/10 Valedictory Speech

Many education reformers do not understand  that being “ready” for college and careers is not just about the subjects learned in school, but did you learn how to live?

In 2014 Jim Carrey gave the commencement speech at Maharishi University of Management that challenged students to overcome their fears and follow their hearts…

“Fear is going to be a player in your life, but you get to decide how much. You can spend your whole life imagining ghosts, worrying about your pathway to the future, but all there will ever be is what’s happening here, and the decisions we make in this moment, which are based in either love or fear.

So many of us choose our path out of fear disguised as practicality. What we really want seems impossibly out of reach and ridiculous to expect, so we never dare to ask the universe for it. I’m saying, I’m the proof that you can ask the universe for it — please!…

I learned many great lessons from my father, not the least of which was that you can fail at what you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love

You are ready and able to do beautiful things in this world and after you walk through those doors today, you will only ever have two choices: love or fear. Choose love, and don’t ever let fear turn you against your playful heart.”

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What we want is to see the child in pursuit of knowledge,

and not knowledge in pursuit of the child.

~ George Bernard Shaw

Follow Your Heart

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Excerpts from Jim Carrey’s 2014 Commencement Speech at M.U.

“Fear is going to be a player in life, but you get to decide how much. You can spend your whole life imagining ghosts, worrying about the pathway to the future, but all it will ever be is what’s happening here, and the decisions that we make in this moment, which are based in either love or fear. 

So many of us choose our path out of fear disguised as practicality. What we really want seems impossibly out of reach and ridiculous to expect, so we never dare to ask the Universe for it.

I can tell you from experience, the effect you have on others is the most valuable currency there is. My father could have been a great comedian, but he didn’t believe that that was possible for him, and so he made a conservative choice. 

Instead he got a safe job as an accountant, and when I was 12 years old, he was let go from that safe job, and our family had to do whatever we could to survive.

I learned many great lessons from my father, not the least of which, was that you can fail at what you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love.

That peace that we are after lies somewhere beyond personality. Your need for acceptance can make you invisible in this world. Don’t let anything stand in the way of the light that shines through this form. Risk being seen in all of your glory.

You are ready and able to do beautiful things in this world, and as you walk through those doors today, you will only have two choices: love or fear. Choose love, and don’t ever let fear turn you against your playful heart.”

Hard Skills Are Soft Skills Dependent

“If your emotional abilities aren’t in hand, if you don’t have self-awareness, if you are not able to manage your distressing emotions, if you can’t have empathy and have effective relationships, then no matter how smart you are, you are not going to get very far.”

~ Daniel Goleman 

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K-12 education programs should focus much more instructional time on helping students acquire and practice soft skills, if they expect them to master and apply hard skills in appropriate and effective ways.

The Common Core ELA standards demand that students provide evidence to support their claims yet the authors of the Standards seem to disregard decades of research and data regarding the importance of emotional intelligence.

In fact, David Coleman, the chief architect and lead author of the Common Core has made it very clear where he stands on this issue;

As you grow up in this world, you realize people really don’t give a sh#@ about what you feel or what you think.

The authors of the Common Core continue to maintain that the Standards, which emphasize a narrow set of testable hard skills, will properly prepare our students for the social and emotional challenges of college and careers, despite countless surveys and interviews regarding the critical importance of soft skills…

Do people underperform at your company because they lack these soft skills or do they disappoint because their technical skills aren’t up to snuff?

‘Soft skills are almost always to blame — that’s why we need to get better at measuring them.’

Do your best managers have the strongest technical skills in the company? Or do they excel on the soft side?

‘Soft skills set our best managers apart.’

Is it possible you have excluded some candidates with extraordinary soft skills because they didn’t meet your company’s benchmark for technical brilliance? These are the people who would have become your best managers.

My client refused to answer this question, but the look in his eye was a definite “Oops!…

Lou Adler, “Soft Skills Are Hard to Assess. And Even Harder to Succeed Without.” 3/8/14

In a new study in partnership with American Express (AXP), we found that over 60 percent of managers agree that soft skills are the most important when evaluating an employee’s performance, followed by 32 percent citing hard skills and only 7 percent social media skills. When breaking down which soft skills were most important, managers chose the ability to prioritize work, having a positive attitude, and teamwork skills as their top three requirements for management roles…

Soft skills can’t easily be learned, they need to be developed over time. The big challenge for millennial workers is that they have weaker soft skills than older generations, who expect face-time and teamwork from them. Millennials have spent too much time with their collective noses buried in their iPhones and Facebook pages…

Dan Schwabel, “The Soft Skills Managers Want” 9/4/13

One of my first conversations was with Clay Parker, president of the Chemical Management Division of BOC Edwards—a company that, among other things, makes machines and supplies chemicals for the manufacture of microelectronics devices. He’s an engineer by training and the head of a technical business, so when I asked him about the skills he looks for when he hires young people, I was taken aback by his answer.

“First and foremost, I look for someone who asks good questions,” Parker responded. “We can teach them the technical stuff, but we can’t teach them how to ask good questions—how to think.”

“What other skills are you looking for?” I asked, expecting that he’d jump quickly to content expertise.

“I want people who can engage in good discussion—who can look me in the eye and have a give and take. All of our work is done in teams. You have to know how to work well with others. But you also have to know how to engage customers—to find out what their needs are. If you can’t engage others, then you won’t learn what you need to know…

Tony Wagner, “Rigor Redefined” ASCD Educational Leadership October, 2008

A survey by the Workforce Solutions Group at St. Louis Community College finds that more than 60% of employers say applicants lack “communication and interpersonal skills” — a jump of about 10 percentage points in just two years. A wide margin of managers also say today’s applicants can’t think critically and creatively, solve problems or write well.

As much as academics go on about the lack of math and science skills, bosses are more concerned with organizational and interpersonal proficiency. The National Association of Colleges and Employers surveyed more than 200 employers about their top 10 priorities in new hires. Overwhelmingly, they want candidates who are team players, problem solvers and can plan, organize and prioritize their work. Technical and computer-related know-how placed much further down the list…

Martha C. White, “The Real Reason New College Grads Can’t Get Hired “ 11/10/13

Common Core emphasis on a narrow and shallow set of measurable and testable hard skills rather than cultivating transferable and work-based soft skills means our students will be as well prepared for the real “tests” of college and careers as a contractor with a “fully loaded” tool belt who lacks the confidence, courage, and experience to climb a ladder.

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College and Career Readiness: A Data Dilemma

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The Common Core will not be able to deliver on the “promise” of college readiness for all students if the data used to inform classroom instruction and measure student achievement, is not valid or reliable.

It is dishonest and dispiriting to tell any student, regardless of ability or disability, that he or she is not “ready” for college based on a GPA, standardized test score, or some other data point.

Developmentally delayed and disabled students who are resourceful, creative, persistent, self-reliant, compassionate, curious, confident, open-minded, courageous, resilient, honest, healthy risk-takers and reliable will be successful in post-secondary studies and careers.

Students who are cognitively privileged but are selfish, lazy, hesitant, dishonest, unreliable, dispassionate, rigid, compelled, doubtful, indifferent, unimaginative, and narrow minded will not be successful in higher ed and work environments.

When it comes to success in college and careers, the ability to independently master complex informational text is far less important than students having learned how to maximize their talents and master themselves.

It is foolish to devote weeks of rigorous sit and learn class time prepping and testing students to supposedly prepare them for college and careers at the expense of vigorous non routine and content rich learning activities that cultivate student agency which is essential for the appropriate and effective application of hard skills.

The Common Core “diet” of close reading and standardized testing has students spending much more time staying connected to text, than learning how to connect with diverse people and ideas.

Not surprisingly, a recent Gallup-Purdue study suggests that we should reconsider and revise the metrics and data we use to assess and predict career readiness.

“When it comes to being engaged at work and experiencing high well-being after graduation, a new Gallup-Purdue University study of college graduates shows that the type of institution they attended matters less than what they experienced there…

Instead, the study found that support and experiences in college had more of a relationship to long-term outcomes for these college graduates. For example, if graduates recalled having a professor who cared about them as a person, made them excited about learning, and encouraged them to pursue their dreams, their odds of being engaged at work more than doubled, as did their odds of thriving in all aspects of their well-being.

And if graduates had an internship or job in college where they were able to apply what they were learning in the classroom, were actively involved in extracurricular activities and organizations, and worked on projects that took a semester or more to complete, their odds of being engaged at work doubled as well…”

Gallup-Purdue Study, “Life in College Matters for Life After College” 5/6/14

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“The current excessive emphasis on getting short-term economic value out of college will have students attending to their safety net at the precise time when they should be thinking about swinging on the trapeze…

They would be, as Mark Twain put it, allowing schooling to get in the way of one’s education. They would be hanging out on the safety net while never reaching for the trapeze.The college experience encompasses a rich collection of endeavors inside and outside the classroom that shape and prepare young people for success later in life.

Without extracurricular interaction, they’re unlikely to develop the ‘soft skills’ so many employers seek, the nimbleness that comes from managing time across activities, and the essential ‘distractions’ that become as enriching as their studies (and may even become part of a career down the road)…

Steve Jobs didn’t know that a calligraphy course he took on a whim would pay off years later when he launched that first Apple computer. And that’s the point. There’s no way to know. So students should err on the side of opening up, rather than limiting, their possibilities.

By taking a turn on that trapeze every chance they get, their college years will be filled with trials and errors and diverse, engaging experiences. Will it be risky? Sure. But it will also be thrilling and, oh, so rewarding, too.

Some might even call it valuable.”

Carpe College! Blog – “Consuming College: Trapeze or not Trapeze?”, Mike Metzler 

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“There’s way more to college than book learnin’. There are sporting events, concerts, intramural activities, art shows, theater, political demonstrations, philanthropic endeavors, guest speakers, and every possible club activity under the sun, from a cappella singing to rock climbing to Quidditch (Yes, there are even intercollegiate Quidditch competitions nowadays).”

~ Mike Metzler, “Carpe College!”

Reading fiction improves college and career readiness

From your parents you learn love and laughter and how to put one foot before the other. But when books are opened you discover that you have wings.

~ Helen Hayes 

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Common Core enthusiasts CLAIM that K-12 students need to read much more nonfiction and informational text if they are to be ready for college and careers.

These reformers must not have read the following informational texts that cite research and DATA suggesting a healthy “diet” of fiction provides plenty of “nourishment” and perhaps, better prepares our students for the cognitive, social, and emotional challenges of college and careers.

While comprehension of informational text is an essential skill for employees, it is the lack of soft skills and emotional intelligence that employers more often cite as, “The Real Reason New College Graduates Can’t Get Hired”.

“The imperative to try to understand others’ points of view — to be empathetic — is essential in any collaborative enterprise…

To bring the subject home, think about how many different people you interact with during the course of a given day — coworkers, clients, passing strangers, store clerks. Then think about how much effort you devoted to thinking about their emotional state or the emotional quality of your interaction.

It’s when we read fiction that we have the time and opportunity to think deeply about the feelings of others, really imagining the shape and flavor of alternate worlds of experience…”

~ Anne Kreamer, “The Business Case for Reading Novels” 1/11/12

“I’ve noticed for many years that executives I coach who only read non-fiction tend to be somewhat more two-dimensional in their perceptions of others and of situations; they seem to have fewer options to call upon when making decisions or solving problems…

The research Anne cites resolves my chicken-and-egg quandary: it seems that reading fiction improves your sensitivity to and appreciation of complex human situations; it provides a richer ‘toolkit’ of understanding from which to pull when making decisions and building relationships.

And as our business lives get more complex, faster-paced, less hierarchical and more dependent upon our ability to build support with those around us – that kind of toolkit becomes ever more critical to our success...”

~ Erika Andersen, “If You Want to Succeed in Business, Read More Novels” 5/31/12

“I was in China in 2007, at the first party-approved science fiction and fantasy convention in Chinese history. And at one point I took a top official aside and asked him Why? SF had been disapproved of for a long time. What had changed?

It’s simple, he told me. The Chinese were brilliant at making things if other people brought them the plans. But they did not innovate and they did not invent. They did not imagine. So they sent a delegation to the US, to Apple, to Microsoft, to Google, and they asked the people there who were inventing the future about themselves. And they found that all of them had read science fiction when they were boys or girls.

Fiction can show you a different world. It can take you somewhere you’ve never been. Once you’ve visited other worlds, like those who ate fairy fruit, you can never be entirely content with the world that you grew up in. Discontent is a good thing: discontented people can modify and improve their worlds, leave them better, leave them different…”

Neil Gaiman“Why our future depends on libraries, reading and daydreaming” 10/15/13

Can’t help but wonder if ed reformers penchant for doublethink, unsubstantiated claims, standardized education, and nonfiction, along with David Coleman’s infamous statement, “As you grow up in this world you realize people really don’t give a s%@# about what you feel or what you think.” are all inspired by fictional text?

Talk about your irony…in futuristic fictional literature, reading a book is portrayed as dangerous to society because it promotes creativity, dissent, feelings, individuality, and independent thought.

Fast forward to 2015 and the Common Core State Standards are used to closely monitor and regulate reading in the classroom in order to discipline student thoughts, (stay connected to text), limit choice, and discourage personal feelings and reflections.


“We must all be alike. Not everyone born free and equal, as the constitution says, but everyone made equal . . . A book is a loaded gun in the house next door. Burn it. Take the shot from the weapon. Breach man’s mind.”

~ Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury

“In the end the Party would announce that two and two made five, and you would have to believe it. It was inevitable that they should make that claim sooner or later: the logic of their position demanded it. Not merely the validity of experience, but the very existence of external reality was tacitly denied by their philosophy.”

WAR IS PEACE
FREEDOM IS SLAVERY
IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH

~ 1984, George Orwell

“We really have to protect people from wrong choices.”

~The Giver, Lois Lowry

fiction

Every Picture Tells A Story

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The Common Core “promises” to prepare our students for the 21st century but fails to deliver on this promise when the standards claim that students will learn more from close reading text rather than skyping or tweeting with a historian, researcher, writer, explorer, artist, poet, musician, etc.

In particular, if students cannot read complex expository text to gain information, they will likely turn to text-free or text-light sources, such as video, podcasts, and tweets.

These sources, while not without value, cannot capture the nuance, subtlety, depth, or breadth of ideas developed through complex text.

As Adams (2009) puts it, “There may one day be modes and methods of information delivery that are as efficient and powerful as text, but for now there is no contest.”

CCSS Appendix A ( p4 ) Research Supporting Key Elements of the Standards

Demanding that students stay “connected’ to a reading and think critically about informational text will not cultivate transferable and work-based creative thinking skills, just as spending hours solving Common Core math word problems will not cultivate real life problem solving skills.

In reality, career success in the 21st century is more about establishing close business relationships and connecting with clients rather than close reading skills and connecting with informational text.

The Common Core claim that text is a more “powerful” medium to convey information and express ideas than a painting, sculpture…

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or

or

…is absurd and reveals a lack of understanding and appreciation for, Multiple Intelligences, differentiated instruction, and the multimedia demands and expectations of 21st century jobs.

Even though Common Core enthusiasts claim the Standards don’t tell teachers how to teach, the Standards dictate that teachers “Shift” their instruction so…

Students build knowledge about the world (domains/ content areas) through TEXT rather than the teacher or activities.

Pedagogical Shifts demanded by the Common Core State Standards

The “Shifts” also include declarations such as…

Students must get smart in Science and Social Studies through reading…Get smarter through text …What is written is much more complex than what we say

Common Core State Standards: Shifts for Students and Parents

If Common Core enthusiasts were truly interested in preparing students for the 21st century workforce, the Common Core Standards would be more closely aligned with the 6 Drivers of Change and 10 Skills for the Future Workforce that have been identified by The Institute for the Future

Driver of Change #4 New Media Ecology: New communication tools require new media literacies beyond text…New multimedia technologies are bringing about a transformation in the way we communicate.

Skill #3 Novel and Adaptive Thinkingproficiency at thinking and coming up with solutions and responses beyond that which is rote or rule-based.

Skill #6 New Media Literacy: ability to critically assess and develop content that uses new media forms, and to leverage these media for persuasive communication.

Skill #10 Virtual Collaboration: ability to work productively, drive engagement, and demonstrate presence as a member of a virtual team. Connective technologies make it easier than ever to work, share ideas and be productive despite physical separation. But the virtual work environment also demands a new set of competencies.

Institute for the Future:  Future Work Skills 2020

Thanks to David Coleman, students across the United States are working to increase their global competitiveness by learning how to “dive in” and stay connected to text, while their counterparts around the world are acquiring transferable workforce skills and powerful new literacies that will enable them to collaborate and virtually connect with people.

The Common Core bias and emphasis on text-based and text-centric learning ignores the multimedia realities of a 21st century classroom/workplace and will leave our students ill-prepared to meaningfully and effectively participate in a company teleconference, video conference, or webinar. 

When I think back on the crap I learned in high school

It’s a wonder I can think at all…

I got a Nikon camera

I love to take a photograph

So mama don’t take my Kodachrome away…

What Does It Mean To Be Well Educated?

My mother said I must always be intolerant of ignorance but understanding of illiteracy. That some people, unable to go to school, were more educated and more intelligent than college professors. 

~ Maya Angelou

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Education should provide countless opportunities for students to discover their talents and pursue their passions, instead of being an obligation and competition to be “ready” for college and careers.

Schooling should be about students learning to love, being loved, and cultivating a love of learning, rather than students learning primarily for assessment.

It is far more important that students are free to learn in school and well educated, than subjecting them to continuous testing to determine if they have been educated well.

We always find time for what we truly love, one way or another.

Suppose further that love, being an inclusive spirit, refused to choose between Shakespeare and Toni Morrison (or Tony Bennett, for that matter), and we located our bliss in the unstable relationship between the two, rattling from book to book, looking for connections and grandly unconcerned about whether we’ve read “enough,” as long as we read what we read with love…

The whole world’s a classroom, and to really make it one, the first thing is to believe it is.

We need to take seriously the proposition that reflection and knowledge born out of contact with the real world, an education carpentered out of the best combination we can make of school, salon, reading, online exploration, walking the streets, hiking in the woods, museums, poetry classes at the Y, and friendship, may be the best education of all—not a makeshift substitute that must apologize for itself in the shadow of academe…

You get the idea. The American tradition, in learning as well as jazz and activism, is improvisatory.There are as many ways to become an educated American as there are Americans.

To fall short of your highest goals—mastering that imaginary “complete” reading list, say—is OK as long as you stuck to the struggle. And the joy.

~ Jon Spayde, “Learning in the Key of Life”, Utne Reader, 1998

When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life. 

~ John Lennon

Today many schools are eliminating vigorous extracurricular experiences that help students discover the ways they are “smart”, so they can devote more time to preparing students for rigorous standardized tests so the state can measure and compare how “smart” they are.
Ed reformers clearly fail to understand that for many people, success in life was less about how much they had learned in school, and more about whether they had learned how to live…

“Hope that you spend your days, but they all add up
And when that sun goes down, hope you raise your cup
Oh, I wish that I could witness all your joy and all your pain

Hope when the moment comes, you’ll say…

I, I did it all
I, I did it all
I owned every second that this world could give
I saw so many places, the things that I did
With every broken bone, I swear I lived…”

The difference between school and life? In school, you’re taught a lesson and then given a test. In life, you’re given a test that teaches you a lesson.

~ Tom Bodett

Leaders in Tech Industry; Computers and Schools Don’t Mix

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“The chief technology officer of eBay sends his children to a nine-classroom school here. So do employees of Silicon Valley giants like Google, Apple, Yahoo and Hewlett-Packard.

But the school’s chief teaching tools are anything but high-tech: pens and paper, knitting needles and, occasionally, mud. Not a computer to be found. No screens at all. They are not allowed in the classroom, and the school even frowns on their use at home.

Schools nationwide have rushed to supply their classrooms with computers, and many policy makers say it is foolish to do otherwise. But the contrarian point of view can be found at the epicenter of the tech economy, where some parents and educators have a message: computers and schools don’t mix.

This is the Waldorf School of the Peninsula, one of around 160 Waldorf schools in the country that subscribe to a teaching philosophy focused on physical activity and learning through creative, hands-on tasks. Those who endorse this approach say computers inhibit creative thinking, movement, human interaction and attention spans.

The Waldorf method is nearly a century old, but its foothold here among the digerati puts into sharp relief an intensifying debate about the role of computers in education.

“I fundamentally reject the notion you need technology aids in grammar school,” said Alan Eagle, 50, whose daughter, Andie, is one of the 196 children at the Waldorf elementary school; his son William, 13, is at the nearby middle school. “The idea that an app on an iPad can better teach my kids to read or do arithmetic, that’s ridiculous.”

Mr. Eagle knows a bit about technology. He holds a computer science degree from Dartmouth and works in executive communications at Google, where he has written speeches for the chairman, Eric E. Schmidt. He uses an iPad and a smartphone. But he says his daughter, a fifth grader, “doesn’t know how to use Google,” and his son is just learning. (Starting in eighth grade, the school endorses the limited use of gadgets.)

Three-quarters of the students here have parents with a strong high-tech connection. Mr. Eagle, like other parents, sees no contradiction. Technology, he says, has its time and place: “If I worked at Miramax and made good, artsy, rated R movies, I wouldn’t want my kids to see them until they were 17.”

~By MATT RICHTEL, A Silicon Valley School That Doesn’t Compute” NY Times, October 2011