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The Common Core War on Mr. Gradgrind
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Here’s a paragraph from a long, not very interesting article in the NYT about a 9-year-old Haitian boy’s struggles with not flunking out of of New York schools:

The Common Core, the most significant change to American public education in a generation, was hailed by the Obama administration as a way of lifting achievement at low-performing schools. After decades of rote learning, children would become nimble thinkers equipped for the modern age, capable of unraveling improper fractions and drawing connections between Lincoln and Pericles.

“After decades of rote learning …”

Which decades? The 1810s to 1840s? Is Mr. Gradgrind still the most influential educational philosopher of our day?

This reflects a general pattern: liberals have a hard time remembering that they’ve been in charge of a lot of things, such as education and race, for decades, even generations now.

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  1. So kids who can’t master rote memorization are going to thrive in a system that requires a “nimble” intellect? Sounds like the smarter kids are just going to pull farther ahead.
    Then again, maybe this is just a ruse to tilt the system away from disciplined but unimaginative Asians, if one accepts that stereotype. You’ve probably already pointed that out.
    I don’t hold out a lot of hope for them. Whatever happens, NAMs will probably fall farther behind, unless the idea is to simply gut standards.

  2. I work in educational design, and I can confirm there has been nothing substantially new in education theory since the late 19th century, when dread progressivists such as Dewey and Kilpatrick stalked the land. So the NYT might just as well react angrily against Gradgrind, since it’s working the same schtick that’s been ‘current’ for the past century and then some. Education as a field is so reactionary it’s impossible to parody — or even criticize, in an odd way. In no field are the straw men — named ‘rote learning’, ‘drill and kill’, ‘the sage on the stage’, and so on — more easily assembled and ritually burned.

    This is one area in which I sympathize fully with Education Realist: people love to gripe about teachers, but if you went to work and gained hard-won experience in your job, and then every 3-5 years you were expected to ‘implement’ yet another rehash of the ‘project method’ or ‘discovery learning’ or any of a long list of Progressivist Savior Theories, and by so doing you were expected to raise all students to some mythical Sino-Scandinavian uber-standard, you’d get discouraged and cranky too.

  3. World war breastfeeding…uhhh.

    In the new America (America 2.0) , college graduates will have the right to breastfeed their children at their graduation ceremonies.

  4. The upcoming ‘No Haitian Left Behind’ legislation will fix this problem. For convenience, you may refer to it as NHLB.

  5. This made me laugh out loud. Thanks, Steve.

  6. In the new America (America 2.0) , college graduates will have the right to breastfeed their children at their graduation ceremonies.

    The “boob Nazis” have been with us for at least two decades. I’ve personally experienced their storm troopers admonishing mothers in shopping malls who were bottle feeding babies. My wife encountered their commissars at the hospital throughout the 1990s after the birth of every one of our children. I know a mother who has been chastised in public for bottle feeding her adopted baby.

    On the flip side, I saw a mother whip it out and breastfeed a baby at a basketball game. It was hilarious to watch a bunch of guys struggle to pretend they didn’t notice.

  7. Common Whore

  8. Why are Indian kids so good at the spelling-bee?

    Because of the change in the curry-culum.

  9. Steve, the issue is an essential element of all Utopian faiths. They are forever at war with the past. If you are convinced heaven is just around the next bend, you must immediately break free from the here and now and that means severing all ties to the past. All that leaning forward imagery from the Left a few years back looked a lot like slaves pulling at their chains, didn’t it?

    The Rousseauist war on the past ends up being a reordering of the past to fit current narratives. Most of them probably think, for example, that Hitler was really after gays and that the South used gays on their lavender plantations in the 19th century. You’ll note they talk about pre-ObamaCare as free market health care, as if that was the first health care law ever past.

  10. Nothing worse than for students to actually know some facts. No what we need is for ignoramuses to give their uniformed opinion about things and call it critical thinking. Let’s do some Algebra and watch the kids try to use their fingers to count instead of memorizing multiplication, or division.

  11. Just as Hollywood is constantly in rebellion against uptight, straight-laced puritan America. An America that is so uptight, straight-laced, and puritan that it has “adult stores” along rural highways throughout the land, Miley Cyrus twerking on national television, regular sex/BJ/anal-rape jokes in sit-coms and talk-show monologues, and ubiquitous 24/7 internet porn.

  12. liberals have a hard time remembering that they’ve been in charge of a lot of things

    Paging President Obama, paging President Obama. Please use a white courtesy phone and call the Oval Office.

  13. My high school memories are haunted by memories of excited, 25 year old teachers stipulating that they weren’t like those other dreadful teachers we had and that they’d be using the nebulous criterion of “participation” to determine 20% of our final grades by, as far as I could tell, total fiat.

    Of course, I never had a public school teacher who acted otherwise. They all seemed to give that same speech during the first week in apparent ignorance of the fact that literally every single one of their colleagues was also giving enormous weight to participation and homework completion. This went on for the entirety of my pre-university career and the strength of this particular mental virus is such that I’m sure new teachers still see themselves as confronting the nineteenth century educational leviathan of testing, scoring, drilling and judging.

  14. “This reflects a general pattern: liberals have a hard time remembering that they’ve been in charge of a lot of things, such as education and race, for decades, even generations now.”

    LOL! So true!

  15. It reminds me of this guy: Clive Wearing. An old video on YouTube.

    He can only remember the last few seconds, he constantly says he’s just awoken, yet he doesnt remember he said that same thing a few moments before.

  16. There is a very informative article on Common Core at the WA Post. essentially, it was put together by Bill and Melinda Gates.

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