This has been a very interesting year. I started this blog as a way to work through the viciousness I was seeing played out daily leading up to the 2012 Presidential election and which showed no sign of letting up even after the dust had cleared. Just really bad, awful, disturbing stuff. I was getting angry. You would not like me when I’m angry. I was fresh out of flannel shirts, so I needed a safe place to put that anger. A place devoid of green-skinned fury.
There is still a lot of hatefulness out there in politics, cathartic blogging notwithstanding. Personally, I’m just looking to make it through the next three-and a-half years and praying that both sides will choose to behave like adults the next time around. Sadly, there is absolutely no sign this will occur any time soon. The only things that bring us together are natural disasters, but even those have a short-lived dampening effect (and we’ve had more than our fair share of natural – and unnatural – disasters in the past year to try and get it right). The gloves are being unpacked from storage sooner and sooner; sometimes even before the last victim is buried, and well before the families have moved out of the initial stages of grieving. In fact, you have politicians hugging victims with one arm and punching with the other. Sigh.
In the midst of all this, I started homeschooling my now 9-year-old daughter. The reasons hardly seem very important now because it is difficult to be bitter when you are having such a great time. So why am I writing?
Because the Common Core and public education, in general, have become additional political walls that divide us. Also, the main opponent sects of the Common Core are, in all other respects, “enemies”. They are Wile E. Coyote and the Sheepdog after punching out for the night. You know they will be back duking it out in the morning, but for now, they are buds. That intrigues me.
I first heard about the Common Core last year when I started contemplating homeschooling. I was researching a variety of potential teaching resources. I went online and checked out our state standards (Michigan). They were not called the Common Core then, but GLE or something-or-other. Anyway, Michigan’s standards were coded with a bunch of hard-to-follow numbers and letters in tedious spreadsheet format. So, I looked at other states. I came across those for New York state. I read them (for 3rd and 4th grade) and I perused the sample questions and I thought, “Sounds good.” If I used those as a guide, I felt pretty confident that I would not miss anything important. Everything on the list seemed worth knowing. Silly me.
When you are homeschooling, there is the danger of drowning in curriculum choices. There are a lot of really good materials from textbooks, to workbooks, to videos, to iPad games. And that is just touching the surface. At some point, however, you must stop seeking and proceed to doing. Still, in the beginning, you keep glancing over your shoulder all the while thinking, “THAT one looks really awesome, too!” But you force yourself to face the way your feet are moving. FORWARD. Every now and then, however, if you are like me, you will revisit the Common Core to make sure you are hitting all the high points. But for the most part, you don’t think much about it. Because, again, if you are like me, you are too busy soaking up every last drop of the sheer joy of watching your child blossom in a world that is not filled with political undertones and overtones.
Meanwhile, as you are frolicking on your new-found educational playground, there is something developing like a thunderhead on the horizon. Something that could threaten to spoil your homeschooling party. How do you know this? Because some of those homeschooling sites you are following on line are trashing the Common Core. The low rumbling turns ominously into an F5 tornado. Striving to be heard over the deafening wind, you ask them what it has to do with them. After all, they aren’t in the public school system. They tell you – in that discernible condescending way that suggests you are “too trusting” – that the government (i.e., Obama – they will not call him President Obama because to them he is a devil) intends to use the Common Core to take away your right to homeschool – just wait. You scoff. Some people will believe anything and will work overtime to get other people to be just as worked up as they are because, sadly, most Americans would rather let someone else do their thinking. The internet has not made us smarter, by the way. It has just highlighted our intellectual laziness.
Anyway, this whole discussion brought the Common Core to the front of my education pile once again. As I said, I hadn’t thought much about it for eight months. Upon second blush, however, I discovered that there were a whole bunch of other folks outside the homeschooling community who were against it. Hmmm.
You have one group of folks hating it because they hate “Obama”. Those well-meaning citizens must really be extremely busy because they don’t have the two minutes it would take to research that President Obama had nothing to do with developing the Common Core. He just had the audacity to like it after the fact. Their main reason for disliking it is simply that anything President Obama endorses is evil and worth opposing as a matter of principle.
But what about the teachers? THAT was something I had not really expected. Not because I thought most teachers would be doing the WhooHoo dance because they had to learn/try something potentially new, but because many of the Common Core’s proponents were friendly to teachers or had been in the past. What was going on?
A lot of teachers seemed genuinely concerned that the Common Core was poised to kill the desire to learn. But the real pushback was related to the Core Aligned testing. To the best of my knowledge, if you take (actually, fight is a better word, as no one is just handing this tax money out) federal Race to the Top incentive dollars, you are apparently required to test; and that testing is used to benchmark both students AND teachers. Now THAT was something for the teachers to be concerned about.
Another underlying theme among those critical of the Common Core was the belief that supporters (the pejorative is “reformer”) are intent on completely dismantling public education in favor of for-profit, corporate-led charter schools. In other words, they believe that the Common Core was designed and pushed by a bunch of people and groups who know that there is no way to successfully implement the Common Core in reality. And part of their insidious plan is to then test the teachers, who they already know have been set up to fail, so they can fire them thus bringing down the hallowed walls of public education one brick at a time.
It is a murky mess out there. A lot of fear. A lot of anger. A lot of cynicism. And an extra helping of bitterness. Can you feel the seams giving way on your flannel shirt yet?
Next time: Before Homeschooling and the Common Core; How My Family Started the Move Toward Being Outside the System