Editorial Note: At the June 17, 2013 Regular Meeting of the Octorara Area School Board of Directors, Leon Lapp Jr. (Region 3) came out publicly against Common Core. The other board members have yet to go on record regarding their official opinion. If you want to know where board members stand on Common Core, you can contact them by phone or email. The school’s website provides contact information.
by Chuck Vail
Just in the past 12 hours how much have we already seen, heard, and read about Britain’s newest prince? How much more will be shoved down our throats in the next few days? How much of a rat’s ass do you care? Meanwhile, outside of the focus of this country’s increasingly silly and irrelevant so-called mainstream media, genuinely important matters and issues go virtually unreported.
A week ago, as a favor to the publisher of this blog, I reported on the proceedings of the July 15 general meeting of the board of directors of the Octorara Area School District. The bulk of my report described and briefly discussed a PowerPoint presentation by board member Elena Wilson about the ‘Common Core State Standards (CCSS) Initiative,’ an initiative which most school districts in Pennsylvania, indeed across the country, have already bought into.
Getting a grip on what CCSS is really all about is no easy task. Its proponents aver that it is simply an effort to standardize the educational curriculum of school districts across the country, to adopt ‘best practices’ from other countries whose students score better than ours in standardized tests, to ‘kick it up a notch’ in the rigorousness of this country’s teaching methods, all towards the goal of better preparing our young people for the brave new world of globalism in which they will spend their lives. Sounds fine, doesn’t it? But critics of CCSS say that it amounts to a federal takeover of public school education. They say that it takes away and strips away local control. They say that the CCSS standards provide inadequate provision for the way that different kids learn in different ways and at different speeds. They say that the CCSS standards will turn teachers into little more than automatons, forced to adhere to a curriculum and a teaching method which will rob them of the individualized, personalized student attention which, they say, teachers hold as a crucial part of their job.
I confess that when I filed my report on last week’s school board meeting, when I described the presentation about Common Core, I had only heard the term once or twice in passing. I really knew nothing about Common Core. So I was grateful for Ms. Wilson’s presentation. At least after her presentation I had some idea of what it was all about. But at the same time, even as she offered her presentation, I now confess I had some misgivings, some doubts. Even as Ms. Wilson offered her presentation a little voice kept whispering in my ear: ‘Hasn’t the federal government been meddling in public school education for more than 30 years, and over the course of that time have we seen any real, significant improvement in student achievement, despite the billions of dollars spent?’
But my purpose here is not to argue either side of the Common Core issue. My purpose is to simply state, sadly, that it is not an issue at all. My purpose is to say that I’ll bet dollars to donuts that not one adult in a thousand, including parents of public school students, has any idea that the curricula, the teaching methods, and the benchmarks and standards by which their children will be assessed and evaluated are about to undergo profound change. To a large extent the blame for this general ignorance of the matter belongs with the Department of Education and state governments everywhere; they have done their best to keep this under the radar. But I lay the lion’s share of the blame for this general ignorance of what is about to transpire squarely and solidly on the doorstep of this country’s poor excuse for a journalistic establishment. Those dolts have been asleep at the switch for so long that they could not now recognize a genuine issue, a real story, if it slapped them in the face.
To prove my point, earlier tonight I ‘Binged’ the term ‘Common Core.’ (I prefer Microsoft’s ‘Bing’ search engine to Google because Bing does not track me as much.) In my search I waded through 20 pages of excerpt hits, 200 or more hits in all. Of course I did not read them all, did not even click on most. I was searching for mainstream media coverage of Common Core. I was looking for links to the Big Three TV broadcast networks; to cable’s CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News; to links to this country’s most influential magazines and newspapers. I was looking to see how much media coverage of Common Core had been made available to the general public through the general media outlets most of us routinely source. Much to my dismay I discovered that coverage has been virtually non-existent. Imagine…the fundamental philosophies of this country’s public school establishment are about to be upended, and virtually none of our media elites can bother to take notice.
Below is a link-list of everything I turned-up in my search through more than 200 hits of the search term ‘Common Core,’ at least everything that met my search criteria. I paid no attention to websites whose URL addresses ended in .gov or .org. I wasn’t interested in what state governments, teachers unions, or interested private entities had to say about Common Core, assuming and adjudging those voices to be biased. I was only interested in seeing what the general media had reported on Common Core. As you can see from the list below, the pickings were slim.
If you’ve got all the time and curiosity in the world, by all means read all of the articles linked below. But if you read only one, make it the article at the top of the list.