Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Common Core Is Costing Us Our Best Teachers

Because of Common Core, more teachers are throwing in the towel

The United States education system is home to many thousands of teachers. Some are good, some are less good, and some stand head and shoulders above the rest, setting an example in educational excellence that others can only hope to achieve.

Stacie Starr is just such a teacher - or at least she was. After a 16-year career capped with winning the 2014 Top Teacher Search, Starr has announced that she is getting out of the teaching game, citing Common Core standards and increased testing requirements as her reason.

“I can’t do it anymore, not in this ‘drill ‘em and kill ‘em’ atmosphere,” Starr said. “I don’t think anyone understands that in this environment if your child cannot quickly grasp material, study like a robot and pass all of these tests, they will not survive.”

Starr taught at Elyria High School in Lorain County, Ohio, one of the states that advanced legislation to combat Common Core standards - and their accompanying testing requirements, last year. More recently, a bill passed unanimously in the House that would limit schools’ ability to share test scores with outside parties, but stops short of repealing Common Core or removing testing requirements.

The state’s governor, John Kasich, will be a significant obstacle in removing Common Core from the classrooms, as he has defended the standards and denied that they are federally directed. The governor’s argument is splitting hairs over a technicality, since federal funding is denied to states that don’t adopt Common Core standards, or standards that are “substantially identical.” The claim that the standards are state-controlled is misleading at best.

Starr continued to explain her frustration with testing requirement: “Each and every day, I have to look in my students’ eyes and tell them I can’t help them because the state has decided they have to prove what they know.”

The loss of good teachers is just one of the consequence of sacrificing local control of education. From unsolvable math problems to questionable political content, Common Core is making education worse all over the country.

Fortunately, states are stepping up to try to end the damaging standards, and a number of federal bills have emerged to break the ties between federal funding and standard requirements. This is a fight we can win, as long as we keep speaking out and demanding more education freedom for our children.


School Choice for Lower-Income Children

Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) and Congressman Luke Messer (R-IN) have introduced legislation allowing federal grants for low-income parents to choose public or private education for their children.

Through their bill, low-income children will have the ability to escape rough schools. Kevin Chavous, former Washington D.C. city councilman, recently described our failing public schools:

"During my time on the D.C. council, I faced firsthand the results of our failing to educate all children. Educational choice has become a lifeline for far too many residents here in the District of Columbia who should be getting what they are entitled to with their neighborhood public school but frankly do not."

Strenuously and viscously, our public school, teacher unions oppose the Enhancing Educational Opportunities for All Act, which would impact the lives of less-affulent children from kindergarten through the 12th grade.

Fortunately, approximately 70% of Americans support school choice and have recently voted for candidates also supporting school choice creating a major, political dilemma for Democrats and President Obama. Do they support America's lower-income children or do they appease the powerful public, teacher unions, which donate enormous bundles of campaign cash to Democrats.

Beyond politics, education in America is an imperative, moral issue. As Kevin Chavous, currently executive of the American Federation for Children, states, "school choice is the civil rights issue of the 21st century."

The Enhancing Educational Opportunities for All Act must be enacted posthaste. Then, school districts, states and our federal government can enact school choice for every child. It is extremely good for our children and good for America.


UK: The ironic effects of campus censorship

Recently, at the university where I study, I was accused of the Three Great Sins of our politically correct age – homophobia, racism and sexism. Why? Merely because I had violated the modern campus’s new unwritten law: don’t touch any language that might be deemed offensive to a particular group – ever. Not even if you represent the groups that the language could be deemed as offensive to. And not even if no one else is upset, let alone ‘harmed’, by what you say.

God help you if you use coarse language merely to make a broader point – in my case, referencing racial, sexist and homophobic slurs as part of a reasoned argument about free speech. On campuses today, students can’t even make a sarcastic, even satirical, remark about particular groups – perhaps, even, to mock prejudice. In universities today, irony and insincerity are not to be tolerated, either, if they’re produced using officially inappropriate words.

This illiberal trend is deeply harmful to students in two ways. Firstly because it undermines universities as places for learning and the confrontation of ideas. If students are not encouraged to engage in the free and open battle of ideas, they will not be equipped to assess different ideologies and to make up their own minds about them. The result is that students hold opinions merely as slogans – what John Stuart Mill called ‘dead dogma’ – with no understanding of why they hold that opinion in the first place.

Secondly, the inability to appreciate irony and subtlety in language renders students less able to use language as a tool – to persuade, to explore ideas, or simply to have a laugh.

The few genuine bigots on campus who use hateful language explicitly and sincerely will not stop venting their ugly views just because we tell them to watch their language. They will simply find a new, more poisonous way to do so. And, in the meantime, the rest of us will suffer for defending precisely those values that are traditionally associated with the university: the aesthetic, the multifaceted, the ironic. It’s high time we fought back against the campus language police and embraced our capability to be creative, free and unpredictable.


No comments: