Monday, November 24, 2014

UPDATE - Left Meets Right Over Common Core – Sort Of - Norm in The Wave

I finally did a column on education in my school scope column. I had been avoiding the ed issues in my ed column because there are so many I never can decide what to write about in 800 words. But when Joanne Smith did a column opposing common core the juices started flowing. Now if only she would do a piece on charter scams...
UPDATE From Pete Farruggio (a former colleague and political activist from late 60s-early 70s).

 Your latest column recommends J Eppolito’s video for giving a “balanced view” of common core. I STRONGLY urge you to stay away from his video His opening was an accurate expose of the undemocratic maneuvering used by the plutocrats and their minions to foist the common core standards and their assessments upon public schools. But then his presentation degenerated into a right wing rant against progressive education. I wrote the following cautionary message (see below) -- 

Published Nov. 21, 2014 at
School Scope: Left Meets Right Over Common Core – Sort Of
By Norm Scott

I was gratified to read Joanne Smith’s critique of the Common Core in the November 14 “It’s Just My Opinion” column. As a fellow opponent of the CC I would like to flesh out some points in her analysis. Joanne presents the issue as a government takeover of public education, as summarized in this point: “Common Core is just another way for the government to not only insinuate itself into the lives of our children, but more importantly, put a wedge between the children and their parents. Common Core has effectually made learning about the teacher and school versus the child and the parent, making it impossible for the parent to help the child. How does the government simply change the way students in lower levels learn and still have an expectation that the parent can work with the child on assignments when they have no idea what’s going on?”

Yes, the federal government under the Clinton (Goals 2000), Bush (No Child Left Behind) and Obama (Race to the Top) administrations has taken on a major role in shaping local educational policy, with the CC and the major push for privately managed, publicly funded charter schools being the latest iterations. (We’ll deal with the charter issue in a future column.) Note that both Republicans and Democrats are involved up to their ears in pushing an agenda that basically results in undermining the public school system and opening up the massive amounts of money in education to corporate and entrepreneurial exploitation. Joanne points to the role Bill Gates has played in the push for the CC. Basically, the founder of Microsoft has used his billions to take over public education. And he has been joined by many more corporate entities that will be able to enrich themselves, especially those involved in curriculum materials and the testing theocracy. Recently, Governor Cuomo declared the public schools a “monopoly” that must be broken. In other words, break it up and open it up to private exploitation, most of which will be non-union. Thus the massive amount of money flowing into his campaign from interests supporting the CC and charters.

Joanne doesn’t touch on the negative impact on teachers, given that the outcomes of testing based on the CC must be used to evaluate teachers whose careers are put on the line based on a test score. How does that pressure affect their ability to teach effectively? As a 30-year elementary school teacher, I had the freedom to take the children in my classes where my experience and judgment as a teacher told me to take them. I’m not sure I would choose to teacher inside the prescribed box CC would be putting me in. Despite the pro-CC propaganda coming from the federal, state, city government and the UFT/AFT – yes, our local and national unions support the CC – though the other big national union, the NEA, has been more skeptical. There is a small but growing movement of “Teachers of Conscience” who view the CC/testing regime as child abuse and are asking for conscientious objector status in refusing to give certain tests.

Contrary to popular belief, it was not the right/tea party crowd that first raised warnings about the CC, but left leaning academics and teachers, such as Diane Ravitch and Susan Ohanian, along with parent activists like Leonie Haimson of Class Size Matters and parents opting their children out of tests, here in NYC a group I helped found and work with called Change the Stakes.

Only in the last year or two has the right wing of the Republican Party picked up the refrain that this was an Obama takeover of public education and of course anything Obama will do is taboo. Just wait and see what happens if Jeb Bush, a major CC supporter, runs for President. CC is a splitting mechanism in the Republican Party is it may turn out to be in the Democratic Party. In the recent election for governor, the Green Party candidates received 5% of the vote running on a strong pro-public education platform. (Brian Jones, a teacher and member of MORE which opposes the UFT leadership, was the candidate for Lt. Governor).
But the loudest noises have been coming from the tea party right. Left does meet right on the CC but they both don’t quite align, with the left emphasizing the corporate/privatizing aspect while the right focuses on government. Since I come from the left I view “government” as a wholly owned subsidiary of various corporate interests which compete with each other for influence, while we the public are left with the limited choices of candidates after they have been vetted.

If you are interested in learning more, see a balanced video presentation by a Nevada parent of four named John Eppolito.

If you are a parent considering opting your child out of some or all tests (you have the right) or a teacher test refusenik email me and I will put you in touch with a support group.

You can read Joanne Smith’s full piece at:

Read Norm’s other column, Memo from RTC in this issue and more on education at Norm’s blog

Pete's comments on the Eppolito video:


Eppolito’s criticisms are loaded with conservative and behaviorist prejudices against holistic and progressivist pedagogy. For example, he launches an attack by conservative Math professor James Milgram against California’s excellent late 1980s Math standards, which were abruptly terminated by a right wing coalition of religious fundamentalists and the “Mathematically Correct” group of mostly-Stanford professors who advocated a return to the traditional form of didactic (rote memorization of facts and algorithms) teaching. This coalition started the infamous “Math wars” by attacking the holistic standards, which promoted conceptual understanding, as the so-called New Math. Here’s an article that describes how Prof Milgram and right wing crank Wayne Bishop viciously tried to ruin the career of a holistic Math researcher

Eppolito uses such discredited fonix proponents as Louisa Moats to criticize the common core language arts standards for not adhering enough to the seriously flawed pro-phonics “research”

Eppolito seems to be a sincere guy, but his 5 years of teaching experience apparently did not enlighten him about what effective pedagogy looks like. His presentation is NOT what we need to show what’s wrong with the common core

Pete Farruggio, PhD

Associate Professor, Bilingual Education

University of Texas Pan American

1 comment:

  1. NEA leader Lily Garcia has embraced Common Core.


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