More voices waded into the Common Core conversation this weekend in the pages of the New York Times. In the provocatively titled, "Who's Minding the Schools?," Andrew Hacker, an emeritus professor of political science at Queens College, City University of New York and long-time New York Times writer-turned university adjunct prof Claudia Dreifus ask two questions:
"Will national, ramped-up standards produce more successful students? Or will they result in unintended consequences for our educational system?"
That seems like the classic "When did you stop beating
your spouse?" setup.
Virtually every action we take has unintended consequences. Clearly we should avoid those actions that are fraught with problems. But anytime the rules of the game change, there will be unintended consequences--both good and bad. And to answer whether our students will be "more successful," we have to have a notion about what "success" means: will they do better on tests? Make more money? Live the American dream?
I suspect the authors meant the latter: Will the new standards help our children thrive when they become adults? And provocatively, the (paper) version of the New York Times offered an interesting context for this question by simultaneously running a piece by computer scientist, Jaron Lanier entitled: "Fixing
the Digital Economy." Lanier's essay is rather grim. He believes that computer technology is widening the divide between the rich and the poor, in part because people don't understand what's valuable in the information age. They settle for virtual tschotskes--not real compensation--for the value that they have in the digital world because they don't understand how the other 1% is making money. He proposes a way to more appropriately charge for value.
I'm not sure Lanier's solution is the right answer--but I do agree that the future is at least as complicated as he portrays. So if our children are to survive--better, thrive--in this brave digital world, we have to help them become sophisticated, integrative thinkers, to be able to detect points of view, to know how to ask questions, and a whole raft of analytical skills.
Can the Common Core help? Surely it is better than simply memorizing facts.
Jumping to the online version of the New York Times story, there were a number of comments from teachers on the "Minding Schools" piece. I've picked a couple of excerpts below--but read through them. What runs through the comments is an acknowledgement that yes, the Common Core will demand more from students and especially, more from teachers.
But what worries them isn't what they will have to learn but instead the assessments that are to come--and how those will be administered.
More comments from teachers on the Common Core are here on the New York Times education blog.