Education’s Changing/Unchanging Cycle By David R. Otey

It is crazy the way the same road of education is taken over and over again. To me, it looks like only one road is traveled on.  At a certain point someone goes back to where we used to be and repaints that part of the road a different color, adding some new bushes and benches, new clocks and happy music from a speaker. Then they shout ahead and say to the leaders, “Hey, turn them around. We’ve got this section ready for them again.”  No matter how you dress up state standards, change the lingo to create the “new and improved” paradigms, restructure and repackage the curriculums to sell the same content for higher prices, tack on a “new and improved” state testing system worth billions to the geniuses behind that, present some very serious looking smart people in front of a camera for the ‘public display’ of intelligence at work, it’s STILL the same routine, the same interference of non-educators making the rules for “real” teachers. The content is the same, too.

What I understand from the articles and videos I’ve studied so far about the origin, the con-artist push for connecting to states with financial aid packages to accept the program without public involvement, and the methods of practice involved with the Common Core Standards and the multi-million dollar business creating matching curriculums and matching state tests, there are two main factors that stand out.

One main factor is the utopian idea of a national set of educational standards. This forces every participating state to accept new curriculums, making them replace very good already being used great curriculum  Every kid studying exactly the same thing at the same time so they all come out of the cookie cutter assembly line with exactly the same smartness and abilities for academic wonder kids. Imagine the kid assembly line idea Pink Floyd used in their classic film, The Wall (1982)-for their  song, Another Brick in the Wall.  Now is the time, I guess, for the country to try and do with schools what has been successful for fast food franchises. Uniformity for the sake of conformity, for the sake of having a stronger hold to ensure the survival of a dying system of education that has not met the needs of society for the past 50 years at least.

Is there really that much difference between the states for teaching Reading, Writing , language and Math ?  I was educated in New York, Florida, Georgia and Maryland when I was growing up between 1960 and 1972 when I graduated. I remember all the numbers looking the same everywhere I went. The letters for the words looked the same, too. Even their sounds were the same, give or take a slight difference in dialect for pronunciation. I was taught the same lessons for periods and commas and exclamation points–all of that stuff. It was all exactly the same in every blessed school I attended.

How about this ”new math” idea coming around with Common Core, driving the parents and teachers–I’m one of each–crazy. Guess what. It is NOT new math. It is another style, another method, another way of looking at how to process numbers. It’s been around a long time, taught in higher level course work. I feel like it was purposely chosen to alienate the parents from being able to have any control over the education process and direction. The programs disable the effectiveness of parents in relating to their children for school work.  My school recently sent a letter to the parents stating we are doing all we can to also master the new forced changes and will try to help them as much as possible, for the parents to please remain patient and to call with any questions and the teachers will collaborate with the parents.

I work a full time job in special education in a grade school, and I shake my head at this ridiculousness. I also foresee a great increase in the population of the kids I teach. Just watch the “resource rooms” blossom in population within the next 5 years. The only plan to prevent that might lie in the fact that our state has been requiring that by the year 2015, if I’m not mistaken, every special ed. kid is to spend 80% of his/her day in a regular class room. Combined with that has been the push to make every class room contain 2 teachers teaching along side each other, sharing the responsibilities of both groups of kids in the same room. You already know how that works, don’t you. The same as it always has worked. The main lecture of the lesson is given to all at the same time. This time with 2 teachers instead of one. Then the class is split into 2 or more groups according to “their abilities” (academic level). Forget “confidentiality”,  which is a joke anyway, as far as communities go, because everyone knows who can and who cannot “get it” in the academics kid world. So, this new set up can hide the weakness this program will create, is already creating.

An instructor of mine at the University I attended said this, I paraphrase. ” Every 20 years the system changes. First they had all of the special ed. kids in the same room. When the parents screamed about the hardships their kids were going through the system split them up into different rooms according to their abilities. Now, you watch..”, he said in 1995 as I sat listening in class. “You watch what will happen. They will put them all back into the one room again.” As he spoke, he placed one after another of those plastic transparency sheets on the overhead projector so fast no one could write the information down. His point was to simply show us the research already accumulated about this practice by that time. He had at least 30 of those sheets. I never forgot what he said. The shift didn’t start as soon as he said it would. it actually started five years later. But I saw him in a grocery store one day, knowing he retired, and I told him, “You were right. It’s happening now.” He smiled and nodded.

Another factor is this push for government control of the nation’s education system. It is another chapter following the fiasco of No Child Left Behind. This plan looks more innocent but the same “program” is  within the Core like jelly in a donut. State rights are being conned out of the public sector without any avenue for the public to fight for the protection of their statehood. State governments sell out their people for big piles of money to supposedly help the state in other ways. Governmental destitution and desperation override creativity and communication, as this wave of control freaks plug in their sales pitches to grab a whole side of the Monopoly Game neighborhood for long enough to drain more of the taxpayers money and local school districts money through forced purchase of those curriculum texts and new state tests.

The love, care and skill of real teachers and their administrators for their students, their schools and their communities will make them learn and guide others through this swamp. They know how to work through bad days and bad plans without giving up. They know how to handle sudden changes. Support your teachers. Ask what you can do to help all around. Be patient and also think about visiting your capitol leaders to encourage them to maintain state rights for their education.

The end.

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