Thursday, April 10, 2014

Mercedes Schneider Dissects Sol Stern's Lack of Knowledge on Common Core

Stern, I have to tell you– you are so out of the loop... Mercedes Schneider
Sol Stern has been a sparring partner for many years - since the days when he went after teacher seniority as the worst thing to happen to public education. Sol is a delightful adversary. But we have had some blow-ups over the years-- at one point he called me dishonest and said he had way more respect for Randi's honesty than mine. They must be growing shrooms on the upper west side.

Sol was kind enough to get me invited to many Manhattan Institute luncheons where I got to hobnob with charter scum - until I asked too  many questions of Chris Cerf -- the only one in the room to challenge his ridiculous assertions. In those days Diane Ravitch was also at some of those MI events. (One time she came by and whispered in my ear, "go get 'em.")

Sol, rightfully, went wild when Joel Klein imposed Diana Lam on us with her insane curriculum that banished phonics. Sol sees red when confronted with progressive education -- I am by nature a progressive educator but also a realist and a big fan of teaching phonics -- when needed by certain children. I termed Sol as part of "the phonics police." Sol is a fan of Core Curriculum and E.D. Hirsch is Moses. (Which is why Sol was a fan of Kathy Cashin who implemented core curriculum -- but so was Diane Ravitch for some of the same reasons.)

The bitter break between Sol and Diane has at times turned personal. Mercedes in her blog on Sol termed it an  "ugly post criticizing education historian Diane Ravitch."

At one point Sol and Diane Ravitch were allies -- in fact in those days I was part of the attack crew on Ravitch over her advocacy of what turned out to be ed deform. I remember when Diane was given the John Dewey Award by the UFT there were national outcries from the true reformers like the late and great Jerry Bracey and Susan Ohanian - some asked me if we were setting up a picket line at the Hilton. Jerry seemed ready to fly in from Oregon.

When Diane turned on the deformers and became the chief spokesperson for real reform, much rending of garments took place. I hope Sol has a good tailor.

I read Mercedes superb post taking Sol's defense of the Common Core last week and wanted to blog about it - but today Diane has beaten me to it. Oh, the joy!

Schneider Schools Sol Stern on the Common Core

by dianeravitch
Many years go, when I was a Fellow at the conservative Manhattan Institute, I got o know Sol Stern, who has been at that think tank for many years. Sol has an interesting history. Back in the radical 1960s, he was an editor at the leftwing Ramparts. At some point, he had a political-ideological conversion experience, and he became a zealous conservative. He is a journalist, not an educator. He writes about what interests him. Ten years ago, he wrote a book advocating school choice, called Breaking Free. In 2011, he wrote a book about Israeli-Palestinian relations, called "A Century of Palestinian Rejectionism and Jew-Hatred." one thing about Sol Stern: He has strong opinions.
At the moment, his strong opinions are focused on fervent advocacy for the Common Core. Stern thinks that the Common Core implements the ideas of E.D. Hirsch, Jr. Hirsch believes that kids should learn lots of background knowledge, which will not only make them smarter but enable them to read and understand increasingly difficult text. I agree that background knowledge matters, so long as it is developmentally appropriate, that is, comprehensible to the child. And I don't see Comon Core as the fulfillment of E.D. Hirsch's vision. After all, David Coleman--widely acknowledged as the "architect" of he Common Core--advocates "close reading," in which a student deciphers text without reference to any background knowledge. One example would be a student reading the "Gettysburg Address" without reference to or knowledge of the Civil War or Lincoln or the battle it commemorates. I think Hirsch would insist that context and background knowledge are crucial for comprehension. I am not sure that Stern understands the Commn Core standards but he has now made it his business to defend them and to attack those who doubt their excellence.
Stern got into a heated debate with Peter Wood, the president of the National Association of Scholars, who does not believe--as Stern and Arne Duncan insist--that development of CCSS was "state-led." They have other differences, but it is amusing to see Stern, one of our most conservative education commentators, defend Duncan and CCSS.
Now comes Mercedes Schneider to dissect Sol Stern's take on the Common Core. It's fair to say that she knows a lot more about the Core than Sol Stern. Stern doesn't really understand that the CCSS does not embody Hirsch's Core Knowledge. And it must surely pain him to realize that one of he best-selling books about the Common Core was written by Lucy Calkins of Teachers College, one of Stern's arch enemies (he hates Balanced Literacy, loves phonics).
Bottom line: CCSS has created strange alliances.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments are welcome. Irrelevant and abusive comments will be deleted, as will all commercial links. Comment moderation is on, so if your comment does not appear it is because I have not been at my computer (I do not do cell phone moderating).