Razing Standards

  • Common Core State Standards
  • 23 April, 2014

I've been working (visiting research professor at Queens University, Belfast), and vacationing in Ireland for the past few weeks. From the Emerald Isle I've been keeping tabs on the ongoing embarrassing political mischief aimed at keeping America firmly entrenched in the middle educational ranks ("We're 25th, we're 25th!").

  I certainly understand those who oppose the CCSS standards because of fears that they might cost some money to accomplish or that they might require us -- us the students, teachers, parents, political leaders -- to work harder, the way they have worked harder in all those countries that have sped past us on the education interstate during the past decade or two. I mean who wants to invest when you can spend, and who wants to work at making things better when you can sit on your duff and collect government paychecks. Let's face it, there are no prizes for being the hardest working governor. Keep standards low and your state will be sure to reach them... hell, you've probably reached them already.

  That's why Indiana is regaining jobs so fast after the 2008 downturn. Not. If your kids can't read or do math as well as the kids in China, Singapore, South Korea, Hong Kong, Finland, Massachusetts, etc. you can't expect employers to flock to your state to set up businesses. But who'd want businesses in places like Indiana?

  No, I don't have any problems understanding that kind of opposition because it is self-interested. Immediate self interest, no matter how callow, is always understandable.

  I have more trouble with the looney tunes who have decided that no matter how bad the educational status quo is that they are for it. Conservatives who have screamed for years about the need for privatization because government schools aren't getting the job done are now pontificating on the importance of maintaining our current low educational standards in government-supported schools (I mean, you either think government programs--like public education--are a boondoggle, or you don't). I almost suffer from whiplash when I hear political conservatives shouting about the need to maintain the status quo when it comes to public education.

  I'm just as amazed about the cartoon figures on the left as well. You know the ones I mean (the ones who are arguing that unemployment is a problem, but the 1 million unfilled jobs in America is not). They want equality for all sexual persuasions, races, ethnicities, languages, and legal statuses--until someone tries to do anything to shrink the educational differences among those groups. According to these geniuses, if you set high educational standards, you are doing it to emphasize existing differences. 

   The best thing I've read about CCSS since coming here is David Brooks' recent column in the NY Times. It is a must read. Mr. Brooks rightly blames kooks on both the left and right for these harmful political shenanigans. Here's the link: When the Circus Descends by David Brooks 

  Brooks' notion that the circus has come to town is a good one. In fact, I've carried a similar image for the past few months. Imagine a brightly-colored Volkswagen. A clown emerges who looks remarkably like Glenn Beck, and then various grease-painted governors and leaders of special interest groups follow in their turn.

  Of course, the question you find yourself asking is, "How many anti-CCSS clowns can you get into a Volkswagen?"

  But the real question should be, "Why? Why would so many clowns fight so hard to maintain the status quo of low educational standards?"  


See what others have to say about this topic.

Timothy Shanahan Mar 30, 2017 05:07 PM

I subscribe to your blog because I respect your literacy knowledge and appreciate your thoughts regarding our children and their reading progress or lack thereof. As a Literacy Coach, I often forward your thoughts on current issues to other teachers. However, I wish that "political perspectives" labeled "conservative" or "liberal" be omitted. Can we not discuss or present viewpoints without political reference? The issues that you discuss affect all of us in schools throughout the country. We need to reference what is BEST for kids. Again, I value your opinion, but not as much when your political leanings cloud the issu

Timothy Shanahan Mar 30, 2017 05:08 PM

I hear you Phoenix... and usually I would agree with you (I write very few political statements on this site). The reason for the exception this time? The way I look at it is the political types are forcing their political games into our classrooms (rather than me letting my political views seep into my educational statements). if these folks had an alternative for the CCSS standards and were fighting for those I'd get it. If they'd been upset about the past standards that were so low that 42% of kids passing them required college remediation, I'd get that too. But to oppose higher standards just because they see some political gain in it (even though that would keep kids from being prepared for college or career), that I don't get and I am against those political games on the left or right.

Timothy Shanahan Mar 30, 2017 05:11 PM

Phoenix posted his/her comment in May of 2014 and, as you can see, I argued back. Now with three years more perspective, I've come to agree with his/her sentiment. Regular readers of the blog may have noted that over the past 2-3 years. I have pulled back from political comment in this space (and have even deleted earlier blogs that were more political). I still think the entry Phoenix objected to is marginally okay, but whether I was right or wrong in my sentiment, I should have stayed to the content of the issue--what should teachers be teaching and the purposes of the CCSS.

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Razing Standards


One of the world’s premier literacy educators.

He studies reading and writing across all ages and abilities. Feel free to contact him.