The Common Core and the End of the World

In case you haven’t been paying attention, the arrival of the Common Core apparently means the end of the world as we know it. Below are some of recent apocalyptic warnings from people on the left and the right (with other earlier doomsday predictions interspersed).

My own thoughts are in the final paragraphs.

From Senator Rand Paul (R, KY):
“There are few things more dangerous to our liberty and prosperity than allowing federal bureaucrats and politicians to control our children.   Their newest plot is called Common Core – a dangerous new curriculum that will only make public education worse and waste more of our money. … If we want America to once again lead the world in education standards, we need to get rid of top-down federal schemes that put every child into the same box. The first step toward regaining parental control of education is stopping Common Core.”

(“The world will end in 1284” Pope Innocent III, writing in 1213)

From Anthony Cody, a left-leaning blogger and former teacher:
“The tests associated with Common Core are likely to renew the false indictment of our public schools. Proficiency rates are predicted to drop by at least 30%. There will be a significant expansion in the number and frequency of tests, and the technology needed to fully implement to Common Core will divert billions of scarce education dollars.”

(“An epic flood beginning on February 20, 1524 will drown the world’s population and end civilization” Johannes Stoffler, a German scholar)

From Stanley Kurtz in The National Review:
“A thinly veiled attempt to circumvent the legally and constitutionally enshrined principle of state-level control over education.”

(“Yea verily, the world will end in 1697” Cotton Mather, the Puritan preacher. When the earth continued into 1698, he predicted that it would end in 1716.  When the world survived again, Dr. Mather made a final doomsday prediction: it would end in 1736.  Wrong again.)

From Mr. Cody:
“And what about a democratic process? We are apparently about to be handed a set of standards that will dictate what is taught in millions of classrooms across this nation. How will these have been arrived at? Who, besides the Gates Foundation millionaire’s club and the standardized test companies and the publishing companies will have been engaged in this profoundly civic process?”

(“The seven tails of Halley’s Comet will impregnate the earth’s atmosphere, setting it and the entire world ablaze, destroying the planet” French astronomer Camille Flammarion, writing in 1910.)

From the “The Common Core: Education without Representation” website:
“(Linda Darling-Hammond’s) ideas are being absolutely shoved down the throats of state school boards and legislators nationally.  And she is dead set on Common Core being the means to these ends. … To translate:  Linda Darling-Hammond pushes for communism in the name of social justice, for a prison-like view of schooling in the name of extended opportunity, and for an increased federal role in education in the name of fairness.”

(“The world will come to an end in 1999” This grim fate was predicted by Nostradamus, language teacher Charles Berlitz, a number of religious cult figures, and Yale President (1795-1817) Timothy Dwight IV.  All were mistaken.)

From Diane Ravitch:
“The Common Core standards have been adopted in 46 states and the District of Columbia without any field test. They are being imposed on the children of this nation despite the fact that no one has any idea how they will affect students, teachers, or schools. We are a nation of guinea pigs, almost all trying an unknown new program at the same time.”

Finally, a doomsday prediction from Sheldon Harnick in 1958 (Older readers, please feel free to sing along)

They’re rioting in Africa
They’re starving in Spain
There’s hurricanes in Florida
And Texas needs rain.
The whole world is festering with unhappy souls
The French hate the Germans, the Germans hate the Poles
Italians hate Yugoslavs, South Africans hate the Dutch
And I don’t like anybody very much.
But we can be tranquil and thankful and proud
For man’s been endowed with a mushroom-shaped cloud
And we know for certain that some lucky day
Someone will set the spark off and we will all be blown away. {{1}}

Folks, the world as we know it is not coming to an end.  In fact, the Common Core–done right–could make schools a lot more interesting and rewarding for both students and teachers.

The Common Core has four distinct aspects: 1) The State Standards, 2) Curricula, 3) Teacher Retraining (called ‘Professional Development’), and 4) Assessments.  Hysteria from right and left, and misinformation of the sort propagated by Andrew Hacker and Claudia Dreifus {{2}} in the New York Times ‘Review’ on June 8th don’t help.  Calming down will.

The Standards themselves could get us out of the box we’re now in– a narrow curriculum–because they call for critical thinking, speaking persuasively, listening, teamwork and some other skills that make sense, in addition to math and English.  They raise the academic bar in most places (although Massachusetts believes its current standards are more demanding).  Although they were developed by governors and others in the states, the Common Core State Standards do have a Washington connection: the Obama Administration has used Race to the Top grants to get states to sign on. All but 5 states have, although some are now wavering.

States and districts are free to choose whatever Curricula they wish, because this is not a national curriculum created by ‘pointy-headed bureaucrats at the U.S. Department of Education.’  Instead, the curriculum part of the Common Core is likely to be a free-for-all, with publishers and hucksters alike stamping all their materials “Aligned with the Common Core.”  Buyer beware!  On the plus side, classroom teachers are developing units and sharing them when they proved to be effective. New York State and New York City are encouraging teachers to share, and I hope there will be a lot of that going on.

Many teachers will need retraining, because the Common Core requires new ways of teaching.  Because the Common Core assumes that students will have a lot more responsibility, many teachers will have to learn to give up control.  So far I haven’t heard of any states or districts ponying up the dollars that the retraining will cost, and that could be a problem.

The Assessments, however, are a bigger problem and may turn out to be the soft underbelly of the whole enterprise.  The Feds are paying two consortia to develop the tests, and the government contracts specify that the tests must produce data that can be used to evaluate teachers and principals!

Moreover, the test developers envision computer-based tests, where kids wearing headphones are sitting in front of desktop computers, clicking and writing short responses (which may be graded by machines).  They’re thinking this way, one consortium representative told me, because “We don’t trust teachers.”

Here’s what I believe: The Common Core will fail miserably unless we trust teachers. Computers cannot assess speaking and listening skills, nor teamwork, nor about half of the skill set the Common Core values.  That requires well-trained professionals.

So we have a choice: Rely upon computers to test that narrow band (of same-old, same-old stuff). If we do that, many teachers will teach to that test because they know they’re being evaluated on those scores, and that in turn means that nothing important will change. Say goodbye to the spirit and essence of Common Core.

Or we can learn to trust teachers, teachers who will be better trained because we will, of course, get smart and invest in Professional Development.

So the advent of the Common Core is not the end of the world, dire predictions to the contrary notwithstanding. It’s an incredible opportunity for teachers to reclaim their profession.


[[1]]1. The Kingston Trio made that song very popular in the mid-1960’s.[[1]]

[[2]]2. For openers, “Who’s Minding the Schools?” manages to conflate the Common Core State Standards and curriculum. The Standards are NOT curriculum; what is taught and how it’s taught are left to states and districts, but the authors call it ‘a radical curriculum.’[[2]]

72 thoughts on “The Common Core and the End of the World

  1. John, Could you please describe exactly what you think teachers can do to “reclaim their profession” when they are not trusted? Many of those who don’t trust teachers also don’t believe that education is an actual profession and think virtually anyone with minimal training can teach. How can teachers earn trust when their successes, including with with middle and higher income students, are so often discounted? And how is the ball in their court?


    • There are many smarter people who need to address this question, but I think a basic step to reclaiming and elevating the profession involves teachers working to develop accountability systems that take student achievement into account, including scores on tests. Teachers now are seen by many as fighting a rear-guard action against any kind of accountability that includes test scores, and that’s a battle you cannot win.

      Demand better tests, of course

      If accountability is going to be school-based, then I would expect teachers would want that community of teachers, administrators and students to be intentional–everyone is there by choice. That has implications for seniority bumping rules, of course.

      One of my daughters was a teacher, and I watched her build trust among her parents by reaching out to them, one by one, early in the first semester, with some positive comment about their child. That was the parents’ first ‘meeting’ with the teacher, and much good flowed from that.

      Most parents are, I suspect, ready to be welcomed, but they won’t take the first step.

      Wouldn’t it be special if teachers collaborated on a “Building Trust” project, sharing ideas about strategies. Not a PR campaign but actual things that classroom teachers can do.


      • You seem to be assuming that it’s primarily parents who don’t trust teachers, when that’s not who you even quoted. It’s also not what Gallop polls have been showing over the years, despite all the negative hype about teachers and American education in the press. In Chicago, the reason why parents supported the teacher’s strike last fall was because teachers had made a concerted effort to reach out to parents. I think it’s mostly politicians and corporate “reformers” who do not trust teachers.

        Also, it looks like you are now back to supporting high-stakes testing. If not, please clarify.


      • Tests are here to stay, and standardized test results are going to be part of every accountability system going forward. We can argue about the percentage that tests count when judging teachers, but count they will. Everyone should fight for better tests.

        I would place limits on ‘test prep’ if I were in charge, because I agree with Don Hirsch: if we want kids to do well on reading tests, they should read, read, read.

        The results of good tests should (partially) determine whether students advance, and they should (partially) determine which teachers keep their jobs. They should be high stakes for all concerned, but not the sole determinant or even half of it. I happen to think the New York City number (20%) makes sense.


      • “They should be high stakes for all concerned”

        John, I liked you a lot more when it began to look like, for you, “frost and rawness were preparing the tension that’s required for new awaring.” Not so much now. (And I am not a public school teacher, so I don’t have any skin in this unnecessary and cruel game.)


      • “Tests are here to stay, and standardized test results are going to be part of every accountability system going forward.”

        That is what used to be said about IQ tests. It might be time to review William Bagley.


  2. I think you are discounting the concerns of a lot of child development experts, many of whom have spent decades in classrooms teaching young children, including myself, who know that the standards are not developmentally appropriate for young children, especially in Kindergarten.

    This ELA standard for Kindergarten, “Read emergent-reader texts with purpose and understanding” does, in fact, require that a pushed down academic curriculum be implemented. When the typical range of development for 5 year olds in Kindergarten each fall spans from 3 to 7 years, it is unconscionable to require that all Kindergartners be reading in their first year of formal schooling.

    As a professional who taught Kindergarten and Preschool for decades and battled against developmentally inappropriate practices for as many years, I can assure you this means that many Preschools feel justified in providing a pushed down academic curriculum now, to get Preschoolers ready for Kindergarten. That means a lot of drill for skill instead of the kinds of play-based and project-based learning experiences that are a better match to their developmental needs.

    You might want to read more about our concerns at Defending thne Early Years:


    • I share your concern about pushing down the curriculum, but ‘drill for skill’ does not follow logically. Lots of young children learn to read by being read to, by participating in games, by being nurtured. IF we don’t invest in pre-school, we will be in trouble, but perhaps that’s another way that teachers–at EVERY level–should be acting to reclaim the profession: by demanding social investment in very young children. After all, it is in the interest of those who teach all the other grades to have children begin their formal schooling as well prepared as possible.
      (Side point: children are ‘ready to learn’ all the time, but some are not ‘ready for school.’)


      • Most Preschoolers are in private child care settings, including for-profits, which often have multiple funding streams (subsidized child care, universal Pre-K, Head Start, special ed,, parent fees, etc.) Many of the for-profit centers have long seen providing an academic curriculum as a marketing strategy and, yes, that is all about drill for skill .I worked in such centers myself years ago and I’ve also trained literally thousands of teachers over the years who work in our nations’s largest for-profit chains –and that has typically meant asking them to implement strategies that are contrary to their center’s adopted curriculum (which relies heavily on drilling kids with flashcards, etc.)

        In addition to the pressure to get kids ready for an academic Kindergarten, the Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge (ELC) is complicating matters, as states are now required to develop quality rating and improvement systems for both child care centers and family child care (day care in homes). They will be rated and their scores will be published. So, the “logic” comes from these incentives.


      • And lots of kindergarten age DO NOT learn to read “by being read to, by participating in games, by being nurtured” and this is not due to a lack of talented teaching. The ability to read has a progression that is not a cookie-cutter stamp.

        I remember a wise third grade teacher smiling over how one of her readers blossomed incredibly in third grade. She laughed of how she was given credit for the child’s achievement, but she stated “it was just the child’s time – I really did nothing different than I did for all the other children.” After teaching reading for 23 years she understood the ridiculousness of trying to force children into predetermined expectations that do not take into account the fact that they are not widgets, rather they are little humans developing at a pace that does not take into account the directives of a common core.

        Yes, some students develop early under the right circumstances and some do not and that should be okay (aka Finland.) Sadly for children’s, teachers’ and parents stress levels, it is not okay in the USA.


  3. My fundamental point in gently mocking the doomsayers is that negativity won’t get us anywhere. Yes, it’s tough out there for teachers, but cursing the darkness won’t make things brighter.


    • “Gently mocking…”

      Really, John? Making fun of people’s genuine concerns and comparing them to “end of the world” nay-sayers is you being gentle?

      How about Rick Hess? Would you characterize him that way, too, when wrote this:

      “when I ask how exactly the Common Core is going to change teaching and learning, I’m mostly told that it’s going to finally shine a harsh light on the quality of suburban schools, shocking those families and voters into action…. First, politicians will actually embrace the Common Core assessments and then will use them to set cut scores that suggest huge numbers of suburban schools are failing.”

      The real point of the Common Core is not to improve teaching and learning, but to get suburban parents on board with “reform,” so that charters and venture capitalists can make headways into their real estate, too.

      I had really hoped my initial feelings about you being too entrenched in the “reform” movement to be able to recognize the true agenda were wrong. However, with this post, you have proven me right.

      Are you ever going to realize that “reform” today is all about the almighty dollar, or is that just inconsequential to you?


  4. John,

    I became a teacher 20 years ago. I’d spent 18 years in construction risk insurance, always made a good living, but could not let go of my dream to teach. I resigned my post with an insurance brokerage, returned to school, got certified, and here I am. Here I am. I’ll begin teaching summer session next week for the 20th year in a row.

    Here’s my point: the professional rate for extra-duty pay (tutoring, summer school, etc.) has not changed in these 20 years. Teacher compensation has undergone a fiscal depreciation analogous to the systematic and relentless deterioration of respect given the profession.

    The point I’ve often heard made is that “research shows” teachers — like most other social servants — are not motivated by money. For those who subscribe to this point of view, increases in teacher compensation will never produce the desired R.O.I.

    I would offer two rebuttals. First, it has been my personal experience working with some wonderful people that teacher efficiency, effectiveness and morale are commonly impaired by the eroding effects of working second jobs, paying bills, and the like. But further, I would point out that if it is true that competitive compensation does not motivate the teachers we have, it might well motivate the teachers we need.

    As for me and my house, we will continue to serve the students…



    • “if it is true that competitive compensation does not motivate the teachers we have, it might well motivate the teachers we need.”

      So now the problem is that teachers don’t want to compete for more money and we need to bring in those that will? Seems to me that’s exactly what charters have been doing and they have a serious problem with teacher turn-over.

      Education is a service-oriented profession, not an industry that manufactures widgets, so the carrot and stick approach is not going to work with career teachers. If you absolutely must have a business model in education, try Deming instead:


  5. No argument from me. I think we should raise the entry bar (make it harder to become a teacher) and also pay teachers more and make it easier to be a teacher. “Harder to become, easier to be” is the bumper sticker, and one part of ‘easier to be’ is a decent wage.


  6. From the Times Review: “For our part, we’re tired of seeing teachers cast as scapegoats, of all the carping over unions and tenure. It is time teachers are as revered in society as doctors or scientists, and allowed to work professionally without being bound by reams of rules.”

    It is totally beyond me why people can’t see the problem in this and in John’s analysis. Teachers are NOT trained like doctors or scientists – I have yet to have a teacher tell me that s/he was well prepared for teaching in ed school or that they are effectively supported in their districts. They are thrown in the deep end and told to sink or swim. Most don’t even know that there are highly effective pedagogies they haven’t been told about so they don’t understand what they are missing.

    If we taught teachers right, the Common Core would be a floor (or a launching pad), not an unreachable goal incorrectly used as a curriculum. John, I’ve urged you to do a story on this for years but to no end. Perhaps as the Common Core debacle unfolds you’ll reconsider.


    • “I have yet to have a teacher tell me that s/he was well prepared for teaching in ed school ”

      Well, your sample did not include me. I received a very valuable education at both my undergraduate and my graduate Ed Schools.

      I studied for years, conducted many observations in the field, was involved in a wide variety of clinical experiences, completed two different practicums that were each a year long, and I was taught a lot of effective strategies. I’ve spoken with many teachers who feel the same way, too, so I get really ticked off whenever people who know nothing about our backgrounds claim that formally trained teachers are unprepared and effectively discount our professionalism.

      Did my BA mean that I was an expert? Of course not; there are no fast tracks to expertise. Expert-novice comparison research has demonstrated that it takes about ten years of experience, with a concerted effort towards self-improvement, to become an expert in virtually all fields. Due to my years of formal training and field experiences though, I was competent.


      • I’m really glad to hear that, JustCareAlot, and I’ll add you and, say, ten others to the positive side of the ledger. On the other side are hundreds who have said ed school comes up short, including (for what it’s worth) Arne Duncan, Arthur Levine and the accrediting group for education schools, which has called for a complete revamping of ed school curricula and practice. Perhaps you haven’t heard of the “two years of tears,” but dozens of teachers have told me about being thrown into classrooms unprepared, which seems to be the biggest factor in teachers leaving the profession. It also sets failure as the organizing principle of the field, which has led to myriad problems that are interpreted incorrectly by policy “experts” who then end up with regulatory “solutions” to the mess, making it worse. And here we are.

        If teachers are, in fact, well trained, how do you explain the crisis in American education, other then blaming the patient? How do you explain how docile teachers are as they get blamed for the crisis? I have seen what happens when teachers are given the right tools and it looks nothing like the average school today. Teachers develop highly creative but rigorous and personalized units where students do most of the communicating, and textbooks are shoved aside for through lines derived from literature by passionate experts. Teachers become empowered, students who don’t know where their next meal is coming from (other than a free lunch) hit the tests out of the park despite no test prep or extra hours, and school culture dramatically changes as teachers can finally innovate.

        The notion that American teachers are effectively prepared to teach 21st century kids to succeed in a 21st century world is one of the many misconceptions driving our crisis. We must support teachers with the tools they need, not declare them full professionals and put the emphasis elsewhere.


      • Clearly, you know nothing about the Chicago teachers, who are anything but “docile”. But, then again, they have been subjected to 18 years of corporate sponsored “reforms” implementing the business model in education, under mayoral control with mayor appointed non-educator CEOs as superintendents, such as Duncan, and an unelected school board. Those teachers know a lot more than other American teachers about what has been happening in education, since it is not explained in the popular media that “reforms” are really about increasing the coffers of billionaire backers (who also own the media), as David Sirota noted in a video that was posted previously on this page.

        It’s no surprise that the newly reconstituted Teacher Education accreditation organization, CAEP, is championed by Duncan and Levine, since it includes so many representatives of corporate education “reform” on its Commision, including Teach for America, which thinks 5 weeks of teacher training is just fine. (Those are the only teachers I’ve regularly heard about crying over their thorough lack of classroom preparation.)

        The CAEP Commission statement reads like every other corporate “reform” speech given over the past decade. Infiltrating Teacher Ed accreditation is a clever way to destroy Teacher Education, since one of the goals of corporate sponsored education “reform” seems to be to replace Ed Schools with their own teacher training programs, such as Relay and Match –which train teachers to use ONE pedagogy, that of the drill sergeant, as seen in KIPP and other “no excuses” charters.

        The “crisis” in education is manufactured shock doctrine dating back to A Nation at Risk under Reagan. NAEP scores have been steadily rising and when scores on PISA and TIMMS are disaggregated by income. American students from higher income groups are competitive with top nations. The problem is that children in poverty do not do as well as middle and upper income students, and this achievement gap is found in ALL countries: But, instead of the richest nation on earth addressing our shameful nearly 25% child poverty rate, we expect teachers alone to eradicate poverty, despite all of the out-of-school factors impacting poor children that are beyond teacher control.

        So you ate up the corporate “reform” “failing schools” narrative and drank the magic bullet Kool Aid and you think you have found one school that helps students in poverty find success which can be brought to scale? The hunt has been on for that for years and every other so-called magic bullet has fizzled under close scrutiny, so good luck with that.


      • JustCareAlot, outstanding response. The entire CCSS is predicated on not trusting teachers and turning public education over to edupeneurs.


      • Add me to the list too! Simmons of Boston did a great job teaching me how to teach! But, I was an older students (in my 40s) who took my learning very seriously. Not sure all my other classmates did….


      • All new employees in any profession feel like they were undertrained in college. That’s because college isn’t and shouldn’t be about “training” for a job. College should be about developing the expertise you will need to do well in the profession you choose. Think of all the business majors who have no idea how to create a company or even how to input data into the mechanized payroll system. Or the number of aviation engineers who cannot fly a 757 airliner.

        Education’s biggest problem is taking new graduates and dropping them into classrooms with new apprenticeship period, with no high-quality professional development, with no back-up support system. Half of our new teachers don’t quit because they were ill-prepared, they quit because their work lives went unsupported.


    • And your sample did not include me either. I was incredibly well prepared through the Pro-Teach program at the University of Florida in the late 80s. We had FOUR, FOUR part time placements, and in our Master’s year, one full time half year internship. In addition, we did action research to test methods and had to present these and defend our process. I was able to work wih five very different teachers along with the intensely rigorous classes in pedagogy, foundations, and methods. And in my first year I wasn’t thrown to sink or swim because back then in Florida, before Hurricane Jeb, we had a great program called The Beginning Teacher Program. We were paired with a mentor teacher who we met with weekly, sometimes daily, for support and guidance along with four observations. It was a great way to start. See, educators really do know how to support each other but the powers that be, politicians, businessmen, and any other jerk who thinks they can tell us little women how to run a classroom, came along and started arm chair quarterbacking and destroying all the good that was happening. Now I am a parent and see, no one has asked ME what I want for my children, and this ridiculous high stakes pressure cooker that my children endure while the good stuff gets thrown out or cut, is not what I want. And I refuse to believe or ALLOW that testing isn’t going away. It never started in the tony privates all these idiots ( Gates, Rhee, Bush, Obama, Emmanuel, Christie, Broads) send their kids to so why should I accept this for mine? THe Common Core is completely and utterly developmentally inappropriate, takes away teacher autonomy, and doesn’t include any input from the “stakeholders” (just love that term), you know, the parents or TEACHERS. I am not worried about career and college, I am worried about well rounded, enriched, and socially engaged people. My kids are not responsible for anyone’s pay nor are they fodder for the corporate elite. Making fun of us just illustrates how scared the people are of us parents. WE have the power to stop this garbage and Mr. Merrow, there is nothing scarier than Moms who are watching their children be abused.


  7. “The Standards themselves could get us out of the box we’re now …”

    Now, that’s magical thinking deserving of a juxtaposition with the Rapture!

    On the other hand, “The End Is Near!”

    Or, as you put it, “Tests are here to stay, and standardized test results are going to be part of every accountability system going forward.”

    No! That is negativity. Giving up is the guarantee for a final defeat.

    Reformers overreached. Now is the time for a counter-attack. I was once agnostic on Common Core, but now I see it as an opportunity. Its defeat will be a key to the turning point in “reformers” war on teachers.

    John, if teachers want respect, we need to fight for it. That’s the way politics is supposed to work. Next year, as Common Core, which was supposed to be the opposite of bubble-in rote malpractice will make its debut as value-added evals arrive, and as mass closures are implemented, and as the federal money runs out.

    Spin it like you want, they can’t have both, value-added and Common Core. In their hubris, they can’t back off from either. They’re losing the Right, the civil rights community, and their momentum.

    Common Core advocates, like the bubble-in crowd advocates, could listen to Cody, Ravitch, and education professionals and adjust. If they did, they could conduct a strategic withdrawal and avoid an end to their world of top-down mandates. As you imply, they have too much disrespect for us to do that. So, in the next couple of years, we need to throw everything we have at them – lawsuits, strikes, boycotts, opt-outs and, even, alliances with the Tea Party if that is what it takes.

    Its a free country. Corporate reformers had the right to pick a fight with anyone they wanted. They chose to attack us.

    “Cursing the darkness won’t make things brighter,” but launching a counter-offensive will.


  8. Thanks for the good laugh. Sweden has more than 100 Sharia Law zones and continues to experience riots today from the massive third world immigration of barbarians who want to conquerer Europe. The seeds of Communism that common core is, will create millions of global socialist democrats, who just like their Swedish counterparts will be unable to think, unable to name their historical roots, their historical values and will bring on the same society we see in Europe. European schools have already been using the sister curriculum from UNESCO, World core. I have a nice photo of a man who began this trend in Germany, some thirty years on, we have a photo of his grandson bloody from a barbarian fist, what an ungrateful person, his father was given amnesty by the grandfather. Insulting those with legitimate concerns about common core show your arrogance, elitist ignorance and above all your hatred of Western Civilization as a whole. Too bad, I bet you thought you were really fooling people.


    • Liz is so right!!! Communism and the barbaric Muslim hordes are scaling the walls right now and will be sweeping away our civilization by Tuesday!! And it’s all the fault of the UN, Common Core and, most of all, LIBERAL DEMOCRATS!!! Let’s take back our country and stop the global warming hoax and require everyone to have a gun at all times. And force everyone to watch the source of all truth – Fox News. That’ll do it!

      Something tells me we really do have to reform our education system…


    • The CCSS are not about socialism. They are about privatizing schools and turning them into worker delivery systems for trans national corporations, and turning teachers into Test Preparation Agents for the State.


  9. Me thinks Liz believes in a vast conspiracy. This discussion is about thoughtful people trying to find ways to inject life, accountability, and rigour into our moribund public schools. Claims that W. Civ. is crumbling is the “end of the world” point John started this discussion within.


    • I don’t happen to share Liz’s views, but saying our public schools are “moribund” is the very same “sky is falling” expectancy as those proffered in John’s post. That’s also the manufactured crisis which brought on the shock doctrine to begin with. We have long had a very serious problem with poverty that politicians and venture philanthropists blame on teachers, when out-of-school factors are beyond their control. Meanwhile, poverty continues to flourish unaddressed.


      • Chi-Town Res,

        Our public schools ARE moribund. Stop blaming poverty and do something. It is unconscionable to abandon millions of students to schools that don’t work.

        I can show you a school where scores went from 41% proficient to 86% as the demographics went from 70% poor to 90% and 50% non-white to 64%. No test prep, extra hours, selection of teachers or students or extra tutoring. Just retraining the teachers in a rich pedagogy that works. Common Core is not a problem for these teachers. In fact, very little is. And the schools down the street ARE “moribund.” For now, that is – the district is moving to adopt the model in all schools.

        Defending the status quo is indefensible.


      • Hugh– Please link us to more information about the types of training and the newly revised curricula that grew out of that training at the school you mentioned. It sounds like Learning Matters should be giving coverage to this school’s brand of school reform as it sounds like a much better model than the approaches that the Paul Vallas and Michele Rhee crowd are pitching.

        I think teachers in all schools need to collaborate more and be open to doing what is possible to make their students’ experiences in public schools more engaging and transformative. I would agree with the generalization that curricula in most schools–public and private–is mediocre. But don’t you think your claim that “our public schools ARE moribund” is just the kind of doomsday overstated proclamation that Merrow is suggesting is part of the problem in our discourse on the state of education in the US? (Though as I point out in my other comments it seems he has sliding standards for what qualifies as “apocalyptic” rhetoric.) NAEP scores have been improving for 20+ years so by the reformer’s metric of choice the “crisis” narrative seems exaggerated. That said, there are millions of students who DO deserve better than what they are getting in their public schools.

        Also, can we not advocate for action and policies to mitigate the shamefully high percentage of public school students who come from families that meet the federal definition of living in poverty and work to improve curriculum and instruction? Your comment suggests that the only “something” that could and should be done is school reform rather than a combination of the two.

        Thanks for your time and I hope to read more about the school you mentioned in your previous comments.


      • When you come from cities that have been undergoing “reform” for decades, it’s “reform” that is the status quo. In my city, 18 years of “reform” includes the inequitable funding of schools, starving those with the neediest low income students, so they can be shut down and turned into charters. So if anything is moribund, it’s those purposely neglected schools being served up to edupreneurs in order to fulfill the neo-liberal privatization agenda. That is not justified in any case, but especially when research indicates that 83% of charters are the same or worse than traditional public schools.

        Ignoring Poverty Doesn’t Work:


      • The status quo of the last 15 years of test prep, teacher bashing, and school closings? Yeah, we are completely against the status quo.


      • Standardized tests are not a valid or reliable measure of learning. Rising test scores are not a valid or reliable indicator of an increase in learning.


  10. Ah but your commentary defies logic simply because you negate human nature. Common Core is only as good as its implementation and who is behind this “implementing”… And most teachers ARE WELL AWARE OF HOW IT IS BEING IMPLEMENTED in a top-down fashion by those in power but without education know-how. Let teaching be left to teachers and to what they see fit for their classrooms. Teachers should always avail themselves of different theories and methodologies and need to be given the freedom and professionalism to do what they see fit and to keep abreast of research in the education field. It is like any other profession.


    • Yes, there is no actual hope in any reform in which teachers are only dictated to, not listened to and have no day-to-day latitude in doing their jobs.


  11. No one has mentioned the problems with how children are to take the tests: on computers – with their personal data going into the iBloom cloud that is a private, for-profit corporation. My child’s data should not be “out there” for a corporation to do with as it pleases (and it will “sell” or “utilize” this data-mining bonanza, you betcha).

    Many, many schools do not have enough computers available (or working properly or updated or with wifi/internet capacity) so these computerized tests can be given by 2014….and who, exactly will be paying for the IT, the hardware, the software, the constant upgrading needed to keep these things current? Schools are being forced to comply or face loss of revenue. It’s blackmail, not progress. Reform is just the new buzzword for allowing private corporations to steal public funds (testing/publishing industry) and property (charters).

    Forget Common Core – bring back Common Sense.


    • “Reform is just the new buzzword for allowing private corporations to steal public funds (testing/publishing industry) and property (charters).”

      Add to that list technology companies. I have no doubt but that Obama or any other neoliberal or neocon will keep the public coffers padded with plenty of cash for the corporations that got them elected. And to the degree that John mocks those who recognize issues with Common Core (the tone was disappointing, to say the least), I laugh at the notion that our culture will come to trust its teachers as John suggests. Profits have soared under the propaganda that teachers are all lazy, incompetent malingerers. Those same profiteers who have driven this discussion are now going to tell the world to trust teachers? I don’t think so.


      • All excellent points, Jan!

        Just want to point out that neo-liberals are not “new liberals.” The term has nothing to do with a belief in liberal social policies. It refers to capitalists who believe in free markets, privatization, deregulation etc. In this era, neo-liberalism grew initially in the Republican party under Milton Friedman, See Friedman’s: Public Schools: Make Them Private:

        However, Clinton was a neo-liberal and currently the Democratic party is just about as neo-liberal as the GOP. That would help to explain why, today, politicians from both sides of the aisle are virtually on the same page in regard to public education and supporting the money grab of public funds for private enterprises.


      • It’s not neoliberal or anything to do with political beliefs – it’s about corporations lusting for power. They’ve already got more money than the bottom 99%, but they want full control of all through manipulation of government to suit their plans:
        check out this link specifically about privatizing schools:,_Higher_Ed_Policy,_and_Teachers

        As we’ve seen here in LA – if you have enough money, you can buy people to front as “volunteers” to take over schools (astro-turf Parent Revolution) for charters and benefit big business by fooling English as a second language parents into thinking they’re signing an attendance sheet when it’s really a petition to convert the school. The process stinks.

        One of my favorite authors, Paolo Bacigalupi writes about a bleak future where a small handful of corporations rule. If we don’t start having real discussions about actual facts regarding who/why/how a handful of powerful people are making decisions for all of us, then we will have an interesting future indeed (as in the purported Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times”.


  12. John, I’ve written on here before and I notice you really don’t have any idea between an achievement test and a standardized test. I don’t think you have the Common Sense to find out.


    • Lellingw, There are many achievement tests used in education that have been standardized as norm-referenced and criterion-referenced tests. So, while I have no intention of defending John, who I am very disappointed in, I would not be surprised if he doesn’t get your point because I don’t get it.

      If you mean teacher-made tests to measure student achievement, then you need to make that distinction. I support the use of teacher-made tests and qualitative measures such as portfolio assessment, but then again, I am strongly against the use of high-stakes standardized tests, because I clearly recall the decades when education did fine without high-stakes being imposed by politicians, think tanks, corporate sponsors etc., while John is clearly married to high-stakes testing for life.


  13. John, can you pinpoint what it is exactly that you find to be “apocalyptic” about the arguments Cody and Ravitch make in the quotes you use to frame your piece?

    Maybe it’s because I’m “left-leaning” but I fail to see how Cody’s claim that ““The tests associated with Common Core are likely to renew the false indictment of our public schools. Proficiency rates are predicted to drop by at least 30%. There will be a significant expansion in the number and frequency of tests, and the technology needed to fully implement to Common Core will divert billions of scarce education dollars” is hyperbolic or mockable (even gently).

    Mixing it (and Ravitch’s claims that the Common Core standards are untested and thus it is unknown whether they will be effective) in with Rand Paul’s suggestion that the Common Core is “dangerous to our liberty and prosperity” or Pope Innocent’s claim about the world ending in 1284–as if all these claims are equally kooky and overblown seems odd.

    I’d also be interested to read your reaction to “Other Spaces” reply to your support for NYC’s use of standardized test scores for teacher evaluation given that 40% can = 100 % if a teacher’s students do poorly on standardized tests.


    • As far as I am concerned, if you haven’t had children in the public schools for the past 12 years or have kids in them presenty, you are ill equipped to talk about what has been going on and what is presently happening. In fact, I have a big fat sit down and shut up sign attached to my forehead. Watching Fox news, or listening to any of these reformers doesn’t count either because they all just make up their own facts and reality. Talk to kids, parents, and teachers.The REAL stakeholders. We know the reality. Teachers are increasingly intimidated, demeaned, and devalued by ALL of these reforms, and their environment is my kids’ environment. It is not a positive place to be but really, that is the goal of the reformers…push out the experienced teachers, cause kids to fail these ridiculous tests, PROVE schools are failing, shut them down and turn it all over to for profit charters. THere is NO justifying or supporting the COmmon Core. None.


      • Absolutely. And someone else who is not listened to are the kids. If we gave the vote to 14-year-olds (perhaps initially for school board elections — those were some of the first elections women were permitted to vote in a century ago), we might get better education. An intelligent high school kid is much better qualified to decide this, as are teachers and parents, than someone like me without day-to-day school experience.


  14. Common core like every effort at reforming the schools will depend on implementation, beyond which is the vague and undefined purpose for educating. If it were for the support of learning and intellectual autonomy and involved human development rather than vocational instruction I would support such a movement. But when coupled to didactic indoctrination and the denial of critical thought and inquiry I see only the further decline of American education and the promotion of a fascist state. We (human beings) live simply to work, life itself is the purpose. Industrialism and its purposes are consuming us.


  15. John,
    It is a bit disappointing to see you mocking criticisms rather than addressing the substance of them.

    And it seems germane that you, yourself, were an early advocate of national standards, very much along the lines of the Common Core. Only back then, in 2007, you were not talking about teachers reclaiming the profession. You were writing about the need to “close loopholes” and “stop the excuses.” Times have changed, but the Common Core is an unlikely vehicle for teacher empowerment:


    • I agree with Anthony Cody. Ridicule works great if you’re creating a pointed satire that actually has a point. (See “A Modest Proposal.”) What you’re offering here is an elaborate begging of the question. Do the assumptions on which the “standards” are based make sense or not? Was the process by which they were promulgated sound or not? You avoid the issues at hand by falling back on some old canards and inventing some new ones. Something I haven’t heard before: Teachers should demand better tests. Yes, they could complain about the vapidity of the sample 10th grade ELA items based on an excerpt from Ovid and a Denise Levertov poem that mentions Daedalus and Icarus. But what good would that do? The poor writers of those items are sure to confuse and annoy students no matter what items they come up in the future. And the answers to those vague and superficiial and confusing items will be graded by temps! Or worse, by digital algorithms. How about the idea that the standards will finally force teachers to invite kids to think, express themselves, and learn to build an argument, and so on? Do you seriously think that teachers in well funded public schools across the country haven’t been working on that for decades? If so, where have you been? Do you agree with David Coleman when he says that writing instruction in the US is 80 to 90% focused on personal narrative and that literature study ignores the actual content of the assigned texts? (Based on my 33 years in the English teaching profession and subsequent years of study, that’s preposterous, though Time Magazine made such claims when the annointed Coleman in 2011.) Do you believe, like Coleman, that a text, literary or otherwise, has “four corners?” (No reputable reading researchers or literary scholars do.) Do you think that boys need to start being college and career ready at age four or five, when they can’t tie their shoes yet or manage to use a belt to hold up their pants? Do you believe in academic rigor for young children? Do the teachers who question the wisdom of the ill wrought Common Core grab bag really oppose accountability for their teaching? Unless you seriously address these matters and others that have been brought up by “Common Core” skeptics, your attempt at “gentle mockery” misses the mark. By a lot.


  16. As a parent who has had to deal with Jeb Bush reforms for ten years, your mocking tone is distressing. Those who care about kids would be spending their time advocating for art, music, and recess in K-1. You just have your own agenda.


  17. This is an ill-informed attempt at snark (I guess). The entire piece lacks credibility as it conflates too many unrelated positions, but this post does illustrate that just because you CAN compare doesn’t make the comparisons valid.

    Many educators and scholars have credible and evidence-based concerns about Common Core; in fact, the evidence is overwhelming that we have no needs for new or “better” standards and/or tests. The entire 30-year experiment with standards-/test-based accountability has done only harm.

    A better post would address that some wailing about CC is petty and uninformed, but that other concerns are important and thus should be informing policy.

    A little evidence:

    NEPC review of Common Core:


  18. “In case you haven’t been paying attention, the arrival of the Common Core apparently means the end of the world as we know it.”

    I am a middle school reading teacher working with very low functioning students with minimal family educational support despite my efforts. I am also a mother of 3 young children that I raise in a home where reading is obviously a priority and I couldn’t be prouder of my children’s love for reading.

    I take the effects of the common core on these children very seriously even though my students struggle and even my own children who are strong academically. Not doomsday for sure, however, I am very concerned of the impacts on my students and my own children and it’s not okay. All these children should have an enriched curriculum and not be exposed to a pressure cooker environment where they are reading a ridiculous volume of boring passages or spending excessive time in test prep.

    The students that I service are several years below grade level. They will not make gains on the state assessments…they just won’t, however, they will improve and feel better about that improvement because of the many months of effective instruction through quality literature they can connect to and discovery that they don’t hate reading because they applied methods that worked for them. I love that and get excited about their improvement and their change in perception.

    In school, I have had kids come to me crying because they are feeling inadequate about not being able to perform to levels that the common core wants them. I’ve proctored exams this year and have had students tell me, “I didn’t learn this.” A system needs to be created where children compete against themselves and measured would be that growth. Parents needs to be required to be involved in that process as well and that involvement be measured. As a reading specialist I measure student growth over the year but that is not what I am evaluated on and it is unfortunate. I’m frustrated by that and believe individual student gains should be celebrated, especially for special education students.

    I don’t think the majority of people with criticisms of the CCSS is being overly dramatic. Schools are changing for the worse because of limited funds that are causing staff to be cut, increase in class size, unfair evaluation systems that are time consuming and limited professional development being offered among many other factors. Those concerned are worried about the children because we have an educational responsibility to meet their needs. I know I am and the people I work with are. The motivations that reformers have is obvious to people that are informed about what is really going on. Energy, time, money and more money is being channeled in ways that are not addressing the real problems that schools have to cope with daily.

    No doubt teaching is a calling that can’t be ignored if it was not I would have left the profession years ago. My worries and concerns are not dramatic but completely justified as a teacher and a parent.

    Thanks for reading!


  19. using distortion to dismiss facts is not credible journalism. Claiming that Common Core is a Marxist government plot (hailed by some…) is an inaccurate distortion and does not belong in the same camp of resistance to the common core that focuses credibly on the facts, and that acknowledges that the common core is a wholly owned subsidiary of corporate-financed and managed organizations whose agenda (which is publicly available and easy to read…) to 1) use children and school for profit, 2) create a manageable and synchronized database of test scores (needed to accomplish item #1), and to place curriculum, testing, etc etc into the hands of private corporations. That’s just facts. Its also fact that most of these corporations hail from a conservative, right wing, or neoliberal ideology. Now…how anyone FEELS about that is a matter of opinion…but there are a lot of us who feel that there is still not ENOUGH outrage…..for those of us losing our jobs, watching our children get chewed up and spit out, our neighborhoods and schools dismantled, it DOES feel like the end of the world…..all because of the role the common core plays in destroying public education… all any good reporter needs to do is LOOK at what’s happening in Chicago, Phillie or NY to know this is real –maybe your lack of real concern Merrow is that YOUR job is not on the line, YOUR schools are not being closed, YOUR kids are not being tormented with hours of meaningless tests or being shuffled into an inadequate charter school–maybe this doesn’t hit home enough for you to feel the appropriate amount of outrage….maybe your post should have concluded with “Let them eat cake” Marie Antoinette circa 1765


  20. Merrow makes one correct assessment. The CCSS won’t work of teachers aren’t trusted. But I suggest that the entire CCSS is built on the idea that teachers can’t be trusted. The entire “crisis” in public education was manufactured after “A Nation at Risk” was published. It began as a conclusion (public schools suck), and the rest was filled in with whatever tripe would make the Reagan Administration exclaim with glee. It was horrible research that received an Emperor’s welcome, but the Emperor wore no clothes. The Sandia Report refuted “A Nation at Risk” but was buried by the Reagan Administration with coercion and threats. The entire accountability movement is built on bovine excrement (please refer to the works of Gerald Bracey for references and confirmation).


  21. Funny how what used to be quality teaching and learning, which was replaced by the mis-guided mandates of NCLB, is recycled as innovative and life altering. Funny how even borrowing from the past becomes convoluted and misrepresented as implied by the failure to “get it right” for early childhood education standards.

    Funny how a man as bright as you, Mr. Merrow, can fail to see that Common Core is being used as weaponry and funny that you poke fun at those, such as Cody, that realize it and bring it to the attention of others.

    There is no getting around it. The ill-intent and miscue on early childhood ed are unfortunate and will go down in history as a low point in public education. And that, Mr. Merrow, is no laughing matter.


  22. Funny how what used to be quality teaching and learning, which was replaced by the mis-guided mandates of NCLB, is recycled as innovative and life altering. Funny how even borrowing from the past becomes convoluted and misrepresented as implied by the failure to “get it right” for early childhood education standards.

    Funny how a man as bright as you, Mr. Merrow, can fail to see that Common Core is being used as weaponry and funny that you poke fun at those, such as Cody, that realize it and bring it to the attention of others.

    There is no getting around it. The ill-intent and miscue on early childhood ed are unfortunate and will go down in history as a low point in public education. An that, Mr. Merrow, is no laughing matter.


    • I don’t disagree with much of the editorial, including the following:

      “Was adopting Common Core a mistake? A lot depends on how well it’s carried out. In theory, the new standards, which cover only math and English for the moment, look promising. They’re intended to foster more analytical thinking and polished writing — important preparation for higher education — and to minimize rote memorization. At the same time, there are valid concerns about mandates to reduce the amount of fiction read in English classes and about material that won’t be taught because of the focus on learning fewer subjects in more depth.”
      We have been filming in some classrooms that are trying to change teaching. It will be on the NewsHour in a few weeks. You will be interested to see what we say, I believe


      • Hello, John–

        I think I speak for at least some of your readers, here, when I say that I appreciate the fact that you do take the time to respond to some of your critics in this space.

        I posted a comment late last week that got buried in a sea of other comments but I would still be interested in reading your response. Can you pinpoint what it is exactly that you find to be “apocalyptic” about the arguments Cody and Ravitch make in the quotes you use to frame your piece?

        Thanks for your time and I look forward to seeing the upcoming reports on the Newshour.


      • The part of the LA editorial that I agree with most is this:

        “States are better off adopting new educational policies because they’ve been shown to work better for students rather than because they come with a financial prize attached.”

        Some people want to see the Common Core rolled out regardless and I think that includes you, John. I do not support high-stakes testing, let alone VAM based on test scores of new curriculum about which teachers know very little. And, no, I am not a teacher who is personally affected by high-stakes testing.

        I have no intention of watching your segment on NewsHour, because I suspect it will be propaganda, since I believe you have let yourself be used as a tool for the corporate “reform” privatization agenda. (I’m sure you’re back in with folks like Chester Finn and E.D. HIrsch now, and maybe even Rhee and Duncan are liking you again, since you’ve let go of the pursuit for truth and justice.)


  23. It’s like Occam’s Razor. Always follow the money and the contracts. The purpose of the Common Core is to generate billions for the in-the-box curriculum industry and the fraudulent testing machine. Reformers like Gates and Bloomberg would never tolerate such scripted nonsense with matching bubbles for their own children.

    I was hopeful that John would become a famous investigative reporter and use his skills with the power of public information to debunk the reformers’ destructive mission by exposing their web of influence/profits.

    I’ve lost confidence in reporters.


    • This is really much bigger than just generating profits from testing, curriculum, technology etc. The primary neo-liberal agenda is to privatize public education. See Milton Friedman’s, “Public Schools: Make Them Private” from 1995:

      Friedman’s privatization plan was implemented in Chile decades ago and it did not have the positive outcome he predicted. In fact, it had the opposite effect, resulting in a highly stratified society. So for the past two years, Chilean students have been protesting and demanding free state schools.

      CCSS is being used as a way to spread privatization to the suburbs. As noted in a post above, Rick Hess, who supports corporate “reform,” said, “First, politicians will actually embrace the Common Core assessments and then will use them to set cut scores that suggest huge numbers of suburban schools are failing.”

      I agree about reporters. Those like John who are aware of what is happening and do nothing to report it to the public nor try to prevent it are just as culpable as the politicians and billionaires who promote it.


  24. Common Core Curriculum is great for children if you are a SOCIALIST. Socialized schools like our now Socialized Healthcare System. Nothing but a power grab by the likes of people like Bill Ayers and Van Jones. I’ll let them know what they can do with their data mining indoctrinating curriculum as I shove it up their collective asses.


    • Sigh, this sort of response makes me cringe at the right-wing opponents of common core even though yes I want to make common cause with them. Cripes!


  25. How the Common Core Standards Lie

    The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) have been widely presented as a once-in-a-generation initiative to upgrade basic skills in literacy and math in public education. Already adopted by forty-five states and the District of Columbia, CCSS initiative is the most recent nationwide phase in school reform that, so far, has failed to demonstrate the path to progress in American public education. Last year, for example, reading scores on the SAT reached a four-decade low, down one point from the previous year and 34 points since 1972. These recent results reaffirm a major report by the National Endowment for the Arts dating from 2007, warning that “there is a general decline in reading among teenage and adult Americans.” It may take years to ascertain the success of the implementation of CCSS; but now is the time to question their promised efficacy to bring about much-needed change in the level of literacy education in public schools.

    A close and critical reading of CCSS for English language arts shows how they lie on an inadequate notion of literacy, and reading in particular, that will most likely mislead teachers and students alike. According to this notion, texts are containers of knowledge and students are workers who are expected to unpack them as thoroughly as possible. As CCSS lead authors David Coleman and Susan Pimentel explain, the Standards “sharpen the focus on the close connection between comprehension of text and acquisition of knowledge” and “make plain that…drawing knowledge from the text itself is the point of reading; reading well means gaining the maximum insight or knowledge possible from each source.” What the Standards and their authors fail to take into consideration is that texts are social devices for purposeful organizations of information, rather than mere containers of it. The point of reading is not knowledge acquisition, but rather participation in a social interaction that is mediated by literacy in order to achieve a purpose that the text is designed to serve. Reading, undoubtedly, involves gaining information, but the reader searches for and acquires information as a means to recognizing, appreciating, and achieving the purpose a text is meant to serve.

    Students who are not aware of the purpose that the text serves and how it is designed to serve it cannot be intrinsically motivated readers. Blind to the value of the text, they lose sight of the point of gaining knowledge of it. Their emotional and intellectual engagement lessens, their attention to textual details is compromised, and their ability to monitor their comprehension declines. Lacking an intrinsic interest in the text, some students conform to the teacher’s expectations as their principal reason for reading. Motivated primarily by the desire to respond correctly to the teacher’s questions and assignments, they fail to grasp or even notice why the text is worthy of their attention. Other students find the reading assignment so pointless that they are not even motivated to please their teacher. In either case, the more complex the text is, the more confusing the information they retrieve appears to be. Implementing CCSS is likely to demonstrate once again considerable gaps between expectation and achievement in reading comprehension.

    Texts serve a wide variety of purposes. Consider, for example, the difference between a cooking recipe, a parking ticket, and a scientific article. CCSS overlook the great functional diversity of texts in our culture and offers, accordingly, a generic definition of reading as knowledge acquisition. However, the problem of literacy education is specific rather than generic. There is a rapidly growing population of young and older Americans who are enthusiastic and competent users of digital social media literacy, for example, despite, and apparently irrespective of the national records of chronic mediocrity in reading school literature. The average American is a competent Twitter and yet does not know sufficiently well how to recognize, appreciate, and achieve the special purpose school literature is designed to serve. The main reason for this relative ignorance is that standards of literacy education have traditionally been too generic to address this specific knowledge explicitly and methodically. Unfortunately, CCSS reinforce this mistaken and misleading pedagogical custom.

    Education has always been predicated on learning from the experience of others. The ultimate and most distinctive purpose of literacy education is cultivating the intellectual abilities of young people by introducing them to the intellectual achievements of past generations. The point of reading at school is learning from example rather than answering questions that are prefabricated in compliance with standards of education administrators. Like the tools of physical education, the poem and the scientific article offer exemplary exercises that are embedded in the virtual world they help readers to recreate. Their language is organized to display, on the one hand, dissonant experiences, contrasting opinions, or conflicting assumptions and beliefs; and, on the other, the resources to reconcile conceptual tensions by articulating more coherent, nuanced, and encompassing modes of thought and ideas.
    Far from being a mere container of information, the educational text is the real instructor in the classroom. It is our best available means to learn how to question what is often taken for granted, revise and expand habits of thought and beliefs, organize and analyze ideas in ways that offer new perspectives on phenomena, articulate reasons for or against views of public concern, or develop theories and narratives that shed new light on human life and its habitats. The role of the classroom teacher is to help her or his students realize the educational value of the text in accordance with their personal abilities and life experiences.

    Reading at school is and ought to be the student’s personal investment in our shared intellectual assets. When a text is recognized by a community of adult readers as an intellectual asset, a younger generation of students can capitalizes on it by learning to use it to realize their innate intellectual abilities and the value of their cultural heritage. Public education must be regulated, but the endeavor to standardize it should not take priority over the intergenerational transmission of learning.


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