This video has been circulating around facebook for several days and I ignored it for awhile, but finally got around to watching it to see what I thought about it rather than making ill-informed comments about what I thought the student was saying in it. So, here is the video.
A few points:
First, the United States Congress can NOT vote on anything about setting standards of education in the nation because it would be unconstitutional for them to do so. The US Constitution reserves public education as a power of the states, not the federal government. Thus, for the entire history of the United States, individual states have set their own curriculums, standards, teacher qualifications, etc. However, the federal government has passed laws that tie federal funding for schools and school systems and states to following a particular idea of what education should be, such as No Child Left Behind and most recently, Race to the Top. These have not been the only federal funding laws passed by the US Congress, but the two most recent.
I am not necessarily opposed to the idea of a national curriculum (though no part of the federal government has this authority, unless the Constitution is changed…hence the voluntary nature of Common Core or any other set of standards, objectives, etc. meant to be “national”). As we have increasingly become a much more mobile and transient society, both in our country, and across the world, it is important that students in a particular grade are learning the same material or objectives across places, at the very least, in the country. While I understand the importance of knowing a state’s history and how that state’s government works, we could do that across the same grade for all of our students (for example, in 6th grade). Thus, no matter where a student is in 6th grade, they would learn the history of that state and how its state government works (elections, offices, etc.). And I can not respond to this student’s claims of the history of the Common Core and how it was developed, etc. as I am not informed enough to make any sort of rebuttal.
The part of this video that I do agree with and can speak to from personal experience is the remainder of what he has to say. I totally agree that teachers need to be able to simply teach. I have so much going on this year, outside of my actual teaching, that my teaching is losing out. I feel like I am such an ineffective teacher this year, because there is so much else on my plate that I don’t have the time to devote to really teaching. Almost all of the teachers in my school have a significantly increased amount of stress this year. We are constantly in meetings, and when we are not meeting, we are preparing for the meeting by collecting data, creating graphs and charts to show the data and to show that we are showing “student growth,” presenting at a meeting, being questioned about our data, our objectives, etc. And add to that the 20 or so of us being evaluated this year that also have to spend time uploading artifacts to our new online evaluation system, plan announced observations, be ready at any given moment for unannounced observations, have pre and post conferences about our observations, etc. We can NOT reduce our students to numbers and figures on charts and graphs. Should we be able to say that a student has learned information and concepts, etc. from being in our class? Absolutely. Should that be reduced to a set of statistics? Absolutely not! By doing this, we are doing a disservice to our students and our teachers.
This year, with my current 7th graders, I have noticed a significant lack of creativity and problem solving skills in my students (what the Common Core is supposed to help with). They can’t place themselves into an historical period and complete a project as if they lived at the time of the civilization. They can’t (or don’t want to???) use ideas they have seen in images, videos, etc. and create a castle or manor they would have lived in/on, based on a given job such as serf, knight, etc. “Can’t I just print a picture off the internet?” “Can’t I just build it with a lego kit?” I wouldn’t be opposed to the lego idea, if it wasn’t a “kit” where the kid just had to follow the directions with the kit rather than figure it out themselves.
Back to the issue of reducing students to numbers and data…we are not creating robots, as the student in the video says. We have to create innovative thinkers, creative problem solvers, people capable of having an opinion and defending it, but being aware that others may have a different view, and being respectful of those ideas and views. As a teacher, I hope to inspire my students to be life-long learners, not of history necessarily, but just to continue learning throughout their lives. I hope to inspire my students to enjoy history (though I realize this often comes later in life) and to see that what has happened in the past influences us now, in both positive and negative ways. I hope to show them that while there are some important dates, names, and places we should know, it is also important to understand the causes of historical events, the historical figures that we learn about were simply men and women, with their positive and negative characteristics, that did something (or a lot of things) remarkable, made certain decisions that influenced their own lives and ours, and that we, too, can be part of the list of people that others learn in the future. But, I am going to have a really hard time doing this if we keep this new evaluation system in place because the majority of my time is going to be focused on collecting data, graphing data, presenting data, etc., rather than on really teaching my students to do and be these things.
My two cents…