Driven By Research-? By David Reid Otey

A recent article about people angered over Common Core Standards included a statement from CCS supporters that the CCS system is “Driven By Research”.  I teach special education in a grade school as my day job. It’s been a joy for eighteen years and still is, more so today than when I started. Not because of any specific standards but because of why I do this job: the love of learning and of helping children grasp, understand, practice and master skills they will use later to help preserve the existence and progress and success of the communities they live in.

In my work I stay aware of the pros and cons of every new system that comes a long as a result of someone figuring out a way to get government grant money for ego-building projects disguised as national improvement utopian plans. CCS is the newest happy meal in the mix. I have listened to  peers praise and damn the CCS. The phrase ”research driven” has been used so much that it makes me laugh now. One lesson I finally understood after decades of learning and sorting through pros and cons of any issue is this: Research is as subjective as anything else in life. All research is driven by whichever club, committee, family, organization, street corner gang, political party or neighborhood watch group has an interest in researching anything. Here is the clincher. WHY they are researching in the first place: to affect an improvement that benefits and advances the position of control, fame or finances of their group.  Experts exist on both sides of every issue. It becomes a match not of wits so much as of who advertises the most, yells the loudest and convinces the best with expertise in all styles of social-political propaganda (which, in itself, is good or bad–depending upon which side of the propaganda you stand.)

A  teaching friend told me recently she was frustrated by the stresses CCS is placing on our students. She said it very unfair to shove this system into a place where it doesn’t belong. I smiled as I said, ” I agree. But we know something those great researchers overlooked or never worked with kids in the first place to understand. Kids Rule. They always have and they always will. They rule by giving the results that prove what motivates them and what they consider to be important techniques to keep them interested. It’s a business. The kids are customers, like it or not. They can shut something down pretty fast. If they understood their powers better, they would be shutting a lot of things down regarding curriculum choices in their schools.”   I have seen curriculums change, watching old text books of past “research driven high quality perfection” being thrown in the dumpster.

In the meantime, as the cloud of controversy slowly moves its mass across the crowds of protesters and praisers, the clock keeps ticking. I have never yet seen the three hands on my class room clock stop because of issues, only because of dead batteries. The kids show up and we get started with “ok, today we look at this and how….”.  Numerous reading and math programs have sailed through the halls of every school, each one being labeled as the ”King James” version for all to use for the conformity systematic learning, as if all minds were wired the same, as if all families agreed on the same standards for raising children, as if all families shared the same importance of education in their homes.

Bottom line is this. We teachers will do what we have to do, are told to do. But when we see THAT LOOK, that warning sign in the faces of our students, equally represented by the shifting grades they receive from assignments, WE will shift, too, as we teach them, as we feel what they are telling us with their moans, with their aggressive or nervous energies. We are the real experts. We know how to intervene with subtle weavings of ”common sense standards” between the scripted sentences of the teacher manual. We know how to reach the minds we have interacted with consistently in close quarters for a long, long time. Think of it this way: combine the film where the children’s eyes would glow as they stared at anyone to hypnotize them into a self-destructive act WITH the opening speech of The Outer Limits-“we control your tv set” (mind), and you have the reality that makes ALL “good” teachers instantly engage with ”sanity preservation standards” to run a smooth, happy, successfully learning class. And THAT, by the way, comes from ”driven research”. 🙂    Have a great day.  The End.

 

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