"I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power." - Thomas Jefferson 1820

"There is a growing technology of testing that permits us now to do in nanoseconds things that we shouldn't be doing at all." - Dr. Gerald Bracey author of Rotten Apples in Education

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Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Death of Exceptionalism in our Culture and Education. We are Now to Strive for the "Common".

I keep my eyes open for the word "common" today in education articles as the Common Core standards are hotly debated in education circles. Proponents believe states should be studying the same subjects with the same assessments and as the plan is unfolding, with a common curriculum. Proponents believe this will equalize opportunities for students nationwide to learn and be tested on the same assessments which will result in a level "playing field" for students.

Opponents of the standards believe they will not make American students more globally competitive, nor will they increase test scores. Some opponents argue states have given up their state sovereignty and signed onto unfunded debt for an unproven system. These opponents have argued if standards are too low in a community, the state and local levels have the constitutional authority to adjust these standards. Conversely, some states are arguing their standards were higher than the new mandated standards set by the consortia.

The word "common" was also used recently by David Brooks in describing a culture in which immigrants could assimilate into and Hotair picked up the interview:

“Here’s the case: You know we have a common culture,” Brooks said. “If we’re going to assimilate people, if we’re going to be one nation – it helps to have a common culture. There’s some things that do join us. And government has some role in help creating those things, in funding the things that join us.”

Hotair takes exception to Brooks' argument:

Here’s the rebuttal case: the government’s role isn’t to create a “common culture.”

I would further that comment and add it's not the government's role to create a "common education" either.

Remember this administration's goal for education? From Arne Duncan:

The 2020 goal is the North Star guiding all our efforts to improve education. Roughly 60% of Americans will have to earn college degrees and certificates by 2020 to regain our international lead, compared with about 40% today. And the truth is that America can only have the best-educated, most competitive workforce if parents, students, educators and entire communities begin to rethink and remake the educational status quo.
**(One issue with Mr. Duncan's statement: parents, students and communities were not invited to "rethink" and "remake" the educational status quo. This task was left to the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), the National Governor's Association and the Department of Education).

The Common Core standards will allegedly be the first piece in the puzzle of remaking the educational status quo. We will make all states teach the same subjects with the same standards with the same assessments and that will make our education experience common. Will it make it exceptional? I don't believe that's the goal of common core standards. Look at this document from Achieve, a partner in the crafting of the Common Core standards and how it addresses the issue of states being allowed to set additional standards for their state up to 15% (how's that for giving away sovereignty in education):

...a central driver in the creation of the CCSS was to develop standards that were
common across states lines – and clear and focused – the opposite of the “mile wide, inch deep” standards so prevalent in many current state standards. A literal interpretation by states of the 15% guideline (that is 15% added at every grade level and in each subject) would undermine the very reason the states developed the Common Core State Standards in the first place.

What's the definition of exceptional? Exceptional: Better than average: SUPERIOR. What's the definition of common? There are many definitions but one particularly caught my attention: Common: falling below ordinary standards: SECOND-RATE.

Just like David Brooks thinking the government should provide a common culture, there is the belief from the DOE that we should also have a common education (reference the above mentioned Achieve document). Think of that: a common culture and a common education. We truly are becoming a non exceptional country. We now have to depend on entities as NPR and the Department of Education to set our standards? My goodness. How did the immigrants 100 years ago and the states ever survive without Federal governmental funded entities nudging them in their lives?

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