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Common Core State [sic] Standards

 

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    A Weapon of Mass Distraction
    by Susan Ohanian

    Stephen Krashen sent this letter to the Christian Science Monitor, Jan. 18, 2013


    I suspect that the common core standards' elitist reading lists (sample items in Are you as well-read as a 10th grader? Jan. 17) are designed to get educators and the public arguing about what should be on the reading lists, rather than focusing on the far more important question of whether we should have common core standards and tests at all.

    There is no evidence that standards and tests improve school achievement. The huge sums of money budgeted for standards and for tests to enforce the standards should be used to protect children from the effects of poverty, the real reason so many students struggle in school.

    Not surprisingly, they did not print this letter.

    In 2010, Achieve printed a list of the newspapers who editorially supported the Common Core. The Christian Science Monitor was on that list.

    The Arizona Republic
    The Baltimore Sun
    The Boston Globe
    The Christian Science Monitor
    The Daily News Tribune
    The Denver Post
    The Los Angeles Times
    The Ledger Enquirer
    The New Republic
    The New York Times
    The Oregonian
    The Sacramento Bee
    San Francisco Chronicle
    The Salt Lake Tribune
    The Star News Online
    The Washington Post


    Since then, like most media, the Christian Science Monitor has mostly ignored the Common Core. But this new quiz serves the purpose of offering distraction and obfuscation from the real dangers of the Common Core. As Steve points out, it's easy to get people arguing about individual titles--which ones are appropriate and which ones aren't--and then they never think about the real question: Who decides? Why is the public and its local representatives locked out of decision making? Why are literacy experts, experienced practitioners, and students ignored?

    The list starts out like this:


    The Odyssey by Homer

    Metamorphoses by Ovid

    "The Nose," by Nikolai Gogol

    "Candide," by Voltaire

    "Fathers and Sons," by Ivan Turgenev


    And on and on and on. There are 32 more titles, ranging from to "I Stand Here Ironing," by Tillie Olsen, to "Things Fall Apart," by Chinua Achebe, to "In the Time of the Butterflies," by Julia Álvarez to "Master Harold ... and the boys," by Athol Fugard to "Ozymandias," by Percy Bysshe Shelley to "Yet Do I Marvel," by Countee Cullen to "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West," by Dee Brown to "The Story of Art, 16th Edition," by E.H. Gombrich to "Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World," by Mark Kurlansky.

    And more. And more. Thirty-seven works with which to torture 10trh graders. Oh, yes, To Kill a Mockingbird and "Macbeth" are there, as sops to tradition.

    The reader gets these choices for each work:

    I've read it

    I've read part of it

    I've heard of it

    I've never heard of it


    When answering the quiz honestly I got some sort of You are a champion reader of the universe kudo. My website crashed and I lost the exact message. Nothing in the universe could get me to repeat the operation. In the interest of science, I did take the quiz again, but this time I admitted to having read only four or so the of the works and I received this message:

    Your results
    You might be well read, but not according to these standards

    It's certainly possible to be a well-read person without having cracked a single one of these books, and to be fair, these novels might not have placed on your tenth-grade reading list back in the day.

    How's that for prevarication? After all, the Christian Science Monitor, while favoring rigor and a Common Core reading list for all 10th graders--and kindergartners-- isn't in the business of telling its customers that they are as dumb as a. . . cod.

    They have assigned five categories to the answers readers provide for this quiz. For the sake of my readers' need to know, I performed the extreme sacrifice of taking the quiz for a third time. This time I checked off that I'd read about half of the books. And look at what label this produces.

    Your results
    You're pretty well read

    You're familiar with words like 'Bildungsroman,' 'synecdoche,' and 'anagnorisis,' but perhaps not with today's updated literary curriculum.


    I guess we can blame the synecdoche on a Shakespeare sonnet I checked off as "read" and bildungsroman because I indicated I'd read "Candide" and "To Kill a Mockingbird," but I wouldn't know an anagnorisis if it punched me in the nose. Don't explain. I really don't care.

    What I want to know is this: Is there something in the water at Yale, David Coleman's alma mater?

    This quiz was contributed by Josephine Massey, identified as the Christian Science Monitor Weekly intern. She is an undergraduate at Yale University, which may be why she doesn't see anything wrong with this quiz.

    And speaking of prestigious universities leading us to perdition, I got a phonecall today, asking if the Stanford Instructional Unit for ELL that I posted was a satire. Absolutely not. Those folk at Stanford are serious about collecting their Gates money, and they make satire impossible.

    Point of Information:The quiz Steve and I wrote for The Progressive, which we devised as a way to bring important information about school reform to the public, has provoked 453 Tweets, more than I've ever managed to get at Daily Censored. But this quiz at Christian Science Monitor, which serves only to distract and obfuscate, gets 615 tweets.

    In the universe of things, that's not much. And I certainly don't regard a Twitter count as my measure of worth in the universe, but it is telling. I've worked for 10 1/2 years on this website which started as a protest against NCLB. And now things have gotten a whole lot worse. All along, I've kept faith that information is the first step to resistance. At the start, I was a bit unique. Now I'm just one of the mass of individual bloggers. I think I'm fairly unique in that along with my rants I offer information. [Where else have you read Achieve's 2010 list of newspapers that support the Common Core?] Be that as it may, I can count on one hand those bloggers willing to rally for a massive common cause. . . even on Twitter.

    I persist, but it gets more and more discouraging. We've got lots of voices of dissent but are as far from revolution as we ever were. Talking is not the same thing as doing.

    Yes, I would feel better if 10,000 of you immediately tweeted the quiz Steve and I came up with. But it would take a lot more than that to start the revolution we desperately need.

    They are winning.

    — Susan Ohanian with letter by Stephen Krashen
    blog
    January 18, 2013


    Index of Common Core [sic] Standards

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