"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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Thursday, March 10, 2011

When Up is Down, Down is Up, and Laws Don't Mean a Thing...

I chuckled when I read Neal McCluskey's latest piece "Not in This Dimension". He questions The Fordham Institute's logic on how national curriculum really doesn't encroach on state and local authority:

Contrary to popular belief (especially in some Tea Party circles), a national curriculum, done properly, does not threaten local control. As we learn in this story, plenty of folks, including Randi Weingarten and our own Checker Finn, have signed on to a “common curriculum,” which its proponents say will constitute only about half of a school’s “academic time.”

McCluskey rightly notes that by definition forcing local districts to use national standards must threaten local control. Indeed, it must not only threaten it, it must actually defeat it. And this is in no way changed by the curriculum having to account for "only about half" of a school's time: Hours formerly controlled locally are now controlled nationally, which is inescapably a major incursion on local control.

I chuckled when McCluskey describes the twisted logic put forth by Fordham as:

Maybe in some dimension white is black, black is white, and ants are really walruses. But in this dimension, as far as I know, the laws of reality and logic must still apply -- even to national curriculum standards.

His description of the definition of when national control "really" isn't national control shows the absurdity of Fordham's statement. Not only do the laws of reality and logic NOT apply in the world of Fordham thought, it doesn't apply when Federal law specifically states the Federal Government cannot set national curriculum. This 1979 document, Department of Education Organization Act, Public Law 96-98, Section 103(b) states:

No provision of a program administered by the Secretary or by any other officer of the Department shall be construed to authorize the Secretary or any such officer to exercise any direction, supervision, or control over the curriculum, program of instruction, administration, or personnel of any educational institution, school or school system, over any accrediting agency or association, or over the selection of library resources, textbooks, or other instructional materials by any educational institution or school system, except to the extent authorized by law.

Has the law been overturned regarding curriculum control? Did we miss that overturning of that particular law? When Race to the Top and common core standards were touted by the administration, the National Governor's Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, states were assured the standards were state led initiatives and assessments and would not lead to a national curriculum. Curriculum was never to be a Federal responsibility. From the myths and facts subset on the CCSSI website:

Myth: These Standards amount to a national curriculum for our schools.

Fact: The Standards are not a curriculum. They are a clear set of shared goals and expectations for what knowledge and skills will help our students succeed. Local teachers, principals, superintendents and others will decide how the standards are to be met. Teachers will continue to devise lesson plans and tailor instruction to the individual needs of the students in their classrooms. (pg 4)

Based on the comments from Fordham advocating national curriculum and the blatant disregard of existing federal law, the laws of reality and logic no longer apply. Perhaps the CCSSI website needs to be amended. Or then again, maybe not. We have truly entered an alternate universe: white is black, black is white, and ants are really walruses.

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