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Common Core Targeted -- Propaganda From Badass Teachers

Led by the National Governor’s Association and Council of Chief State School Officers, the initiative to create national benchmarks in reading and math emerged from the “standards and accountability” movement of the 1990s. 
But since they were released in 2010, Common Core has faced mounting opposition — and it’s coming from the left as well as the right. -- Salon Web Source

I use to hate Bill Gates. Nothing personal really, as I didn't know him personally -- it was just on general principle.  I was a programmer, a systems administrator and I loved Linux. So, I hated MicroSoft and by association, Bill Gates.

I've changed my mind.

Bill and and his wife donated $50 million to the efforts against Ebola yesterday. Yes, I realize that amount isn't that much to him, but it might be enough for the research we need done.

GOP has been calling for action from the President, while continuing to do everything they can to obstruct him. Even in the face of a flesh eating plague they continue with their culture of obstruction -- they need to be fired. All of them. Democrat and Republican alike. So we can expect no funds, no help an dno resources to fight this plague from GOP Congress, and in fact, despite the fact that our Military men are now at risk, they will do all they can to hinder operations.

Bill Gates walks in and like a parent snatching the ear lobes of whining children, clears a path toward meaningful action.

Bill Gates and his wife have also donated (est)$200+ million to the development and installment of Common Core. Don't get this twisted. I can't find anything that says he owns any part of Common Core. Despite what I read in News-like editorials across the web.
Bill Gates was de facto organizer, providing the money and structure for states to work together on common standards in a way that avoided the usual collision between states’ rights and national interests that had undercut every previous effort, dating from the Eisenhower administration. -- Washington Post 
Let's clear up this once and for all. Alright? Bill Gates and his wife have chosen education to be one of their projects. They have been all over the world helping bring education to areas, cites and countries. They are into several areas, like water for example, which is not much of  a problem here, but tends to be a problem in  Nairobi, Kenya. They don't own any part of Nairobi either. But they did work their personal asses off and there is now a better water system there, with hope for a future where water won't be a daily issue.

Bill Gates and His wife do not own any part of Common Core, nor do they have any rights, claim in the standards or interest in Common Core other than to see it up and working for the children of our nation. Their amazing effort cleared the way for this to happen like no other government body could have accomplished. -- and I write that as a grassroots Linux lover .

Now.. about these "Badass Teachers" who ambushed me this morning ...

The Best Evidence Against Common Core By: Steven Singer

On the Badass Teachers website, this Title is touted as exemplary.

Why Steven Singer is a person of note, I can't seem to ascertain. There are many false points and missed or misunderstood points, which he brings up as accusatory and defining as to the effectiveness of Common Core. To take one I would like to address the absolute cluelessness of his take on David Coleman's Fifth Point about writing given in a speech David made which has sent flurries of wild reactions across the Internet.  The "Don't give a shit about what you feel or think..." speech.

As a professional writer who has worked with upcoming writers over the years, I feel that while I don't have the educational background to address this, I do have the experience to engage the misunderstanding. From the article Singer writes:
The co-author of the Common Core famously said, “People don’t really give a shit about what you feel or think.”And then, tacked on there to add the horror implicit (I guess) of the Davos man, Singer adds, "This attitude is reflected in the standards Coleman helped write and Bill Gates coerced state and federal governments to force on our public schools." -- Can you feel the shock? Egads.
What is astonishing is that an educator fails to agree with David Coleman's statement. At least Singer didn't take it out of context and mis-quote it like so many alarmist have done. I expect that  kind of tactic from alarmists and mis-informers, and I would give pass to propagandist who fail to understand the point -- but an educator? Let's look at the statement and the point in full context:
The fifth point is about writing. Do people know the two most popular forms of writing in the American high school today? Texting someone said; I don't think that's for credit though yet. But I would say that as someone said it is personal writing. It is either the exposition of a personal opinion or it is the presentation of a personal matter. The only problem, forgive me for saying this so bluntly, the only problem with those two forms of writing is as you grow up in this world you realize people really don't give a shit about what you feel or what you think.
What they instead care about is can you make an argument with evidence, is there something verifiable behind what you're saying or what you think or feel that you can demonstrate to me. It is rare in a working environment that someone says, "Johnson, I need a market analysis by Friday but before that I need a compelling account of your childhood." That is rare. It is equally rare in college by the way. So a group of Minnesota professors got together and they very, very wonderfully created a program called "Ready or Not," where they accepted essay submissions from around the state from high school seniors to see whether they're college ready or not. Ninety-seven percent of what was provided to them was narrative and 97% of that was deemed not college ready. The core standards thus mark a shift. They do support training in narrative throughout K-12 but what they make primary as you grow is the ability to write an argument based on evidence and convey complex information. This is an essential shift. 
And it is about time someone said this to the American public as well. Our kids are in serious jeopardy of being unable to communicate their purpose and intention in a meaningful way. I experience this lack every day.  It is a main complaint from College Level instructors. Students come out of high school with zero skills in this area. 

When I read this passage of Coleman's speech, I heard the message -- the rule -- Show Don't Tell. Apparently Singer didn't hear that message. If he had, he wouldn't have kept in his posting the passage (the hideously long passage) about  discussing  “Raymond’s Run” by Toni Cade Bambera. if he understood what David was talking about, he would have cut that instantly. 

That whole diatribe is, I guess, a build up to the punch line of "At this point – had he been there – David Coleman would put a halt to our discussion."

Well thank God David, in spirit at least, was on hand with his draconian jack boots and editing red-pen. Jeez. All of that, the whole section is TELL It is an obvious attempt to produce an emotional response -- which is fine.. in fact absolutely essential to writing -- which falls flat on the readers ears, because it does not connect to the reader in any way. We are merely witnesses to this scene. There is no connection for us, no investment in the people. It's as emotionally affecting as a bent trash can. "Look" he is telling us. "See this perfect teacher/student moment of urban America? Listen to the children learn, and grow and mature their innocent minds with wholesome literature study." Yawn. 

Singer could not have made David Coleman's Fifth point any clearer. Singer, in that passage fails to give me any reason to CARE about the kids -- relying on "well, they're kids. Of course you care about them."  Of course I do, mentally. In real life, on the whole, yes, I care about kids. But not these kids. I don't know these kids. They are not even kids. They are abstracts to me. Shadows. Vague interests who do not touch me in any way.
Serina took the floor next and had to actually calm herself down before speaking. She told us about her brother, who is gay, and how it makes her cry when people make fun of him. In fact, there may have been a tear or two she calmly rubbed out of her eye with her palm.
Singer knows this girl. He has background, context and an emotional investment of being her teacher (which is a serious emotional bond -- no doubt about that at all). I don't. Serina, who I have no mental image for at all, took the floor. Then I'm TOLD she had to calm herself down -- when I had no clue she was upset. The Singer TELLS us that Serina TELLS us about her brother (who I don't know and won't care about as soon as I am done reading this passage, because I don't even get a name. People with Names are Real, those without names, aren't even shadows). I love this part too... "In fact there may have been a tear ..." Nothing like insuring the reader is going to be as nonplussed as possible. May have been? If the writer isn't sure that an emotional moment is happening, how the hell am I suppose to know? 

Critically I understand the scene. Gay = oppressed minority, girl = emotional connection to the text she has read. Got it. I don't CARE as in I do not posses a smidgen of emotional connection to anyone in this scene.

Another clue that this is exactly what David Coleman is referring to, is that we can cut-out that entire scene, and the posting becomes stronger and more effective. We learn nothing about the issue from the scene, it adds no usable information. The scene pushes us back into the Spectator Zone (much like the Friend Zone only we don't even get the obligatory hugs) With out that scene, we go from :
In short, it’s the kind of thing teachers used to do all the time before No Child Left Behind, Common Core and Race to the Top replaced it with something more rigorous – test prep.
Drawing from his deep zero years of training in the field of education, Coleman said:
I won't go so far as to say that these are "well written" but... they are emotionally connecting. Singer is on the attack. Our kids are the subject. Our world is the scene. I am connected because these are action packed, direct and relevant to the message. At the one end we have an emotion packed accusation of past loss and injury, and then we hit the reader again with a sarcastic mauling of the one who would injure our children further. A little editing, a bit more experience with emotional messaging and connection, and hell.. you could have the reader yelling "Fuck you, Coleman! Not my kid!"

But.. no. We get the sickly, sticky, not-sure-I-should-be-watching girl who might or might not be crying or just hungry and lacking blood sugar. Now, without looking. What was her name?

No, see? You didn't really care either. There was nothing to tie you to the scene or to her. Nothing. She was simply news. We don't like to think we are cold that way, but the bottom line is 40 people dead in China is news. We feel the tug, we feel the event is tragic, but it is not actually a tragedy in our personal lives. It is a tragic event. Baby Jessica, only eighteen moths old, has fallen down into a well, and is crying for help... the whole nation goes absolutely insane with grief and urgency.

See the difference? Ninety-eight percent of high school students, and everyone posting against David Coleman's Fifth point do not see why those two are different. Singer certainly doesn't get it. The "Badass Teachers" apparently don't get it either. It is powerful, and absolutely  an essential shift. 

Bottom line. For more than Twelve Years our schools have taught in a manner that has not affected the progress of student reading levels at all. We have been flatlined. And that line is bellow Grade Level. Nothing they have come up with has had any effect. Our kids are going into college with a meaningless piece of paper we have humorously called a High School Diploma, to be sent straight into remedial classes. There our kids learn that they have been failed, and now need cram in order to reach a level where English 101 can be understood. Every one of their college courses suffers because they can not write a paper which connects to the reader, and makes a point.That is where every state, using many techniques -- and even driven by the lash of "WE WILL CLOSE YOUR SCHOOL" if you don't get this working... has brought us to. Singer and many good teachers like him, included.

So, Singer can yip and wail, but they have no answers. Sorry to put it like that, but this is far too important to be distracted by pseudo logic and inept nay-saying. The Common Core was created with methods that address the problems. If you read the description of what Finland is doing (the country with the best scholastic performance in the world... in case you weren't aware of that) Common Core has been influenced greatly by their Core. Most of the points nay-sayers bring up against Common Core I have found listed in Finland's core, which, again, is working better than other system in the world. (After starting as one of the worst)

In 2007 Rhodes Scholar David Coleman and fellow Rhodes Scholar Jason Zimba together with educational analyst Sue Pimentel (who views Fiction as Necessary to any education) co-founded Student Achievement Partners (SAP), a non-profit organization which researches and develops "achievement based" assessment standards. Funded in part by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Achievement Partners played a leading role in developing the Common Core State Standards in math and literacy, which focus on “in-depth learning, knowledge across different disciplines, and strong math skills.”  Also involved in that development were the   National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers.  When Coleman left Student Achievement Partners in October 2012 to head the College Board, Zimba and Susan Pimentel continued to lead Student Achievement Partners, which is now devoted to facilitating the implementation of the Common Core Standards.


  1. Sheesh... Another "novelist" dabbling in the topic of education. Not much defense of Common Core, but plenty of attacks of an educator/activist. Does Mr. Heffley really care about education, or is this just another ghost writing assignment for a client just to pay the bills? Guess the novels are not selling that well...

  2. I am sorry to say that you are wrong about both the propriety and the extent of involvement in the Common Core by Bill Gates and others. No educator or parent or child or politician would object to a gift freely given; this one comes bundled in strings attached, in an effort to ignore hundreds of years of theory and research in education and remake the schools in the image of something that none of these "benefactors" would consider inflicting upon their own children. This is classist, racist, dehumanizing and deprofessdionalizing, a funded mandate from someone with no right or reason or qualification to inflict such demands. A lot of research does not necessarily equal valid interpretation, and this is the case here.

  3. Does this author have a point or is he just indulging in Joycean stream-of-consciousness word salad? Seems to me if he wants to set an example, he should write like he's telling us how we should teach our students to write.

  4. As a "Novelist" your approach to writing is not how children learn to write. As teachers, we actually do give a shit about what they think- and that connection is essential to having engaged learners. Spend some time in a NY classroom where CC is in full creativity - killing scripted force and you will see what Coleman has done with his cluelessness. Or better yet, don't. The kids and teachers don't need another meddler apologist for garbage. As for Gates- "when you're rich they think you really know."

  5. "Most of the points nay-sayers bring up against Common Core I have found listed in Finland's core, which, again, is working better than other system in the world. (After starting as one of the worst)"

    The article that you reference as "Finland's core" says nothing of this sort! What it does say is
    "A recent analysis of the Finnish system summarized its core principles as follows:

    Resources for those who need them most.
    High standards and supports for special needs.
    Qualified teachers.
    Evaluation of education.
    Balancing decentralization and centralization. (Laukkanen, 2008, p. 319)

    The process of change has been almost the reverse of policies in the United States. Over the past 40 years, Finland has shifted from a highly centralized system emphasizing external testing to a more localized system in which highly trained teachers design curriculum around the very lean national standards."

    This is completely the opposite of our imposed Common Core and the standardized testing not to mention the Teacher bashing that is taking place in the US.

    This certainly leads one to question whether you really know what effect the Common Core has on Education in the US!

  6. I am sorry you are confused. I hope you can find the truth about the common core. There are many BATs who have done extensive research about common core, the heavy involvement of Bill Gates (you don't have to OWN something to have incredible influence over it), and the destruction of public education. Many very rich people are trying to tell the public that they can save education, even as they rape and pillage the public school system to line their own pockets. Those very wealthy people are deeply involved in ALEC and they are salivating at the income stream from public education's privatization movement. They ignore the effects of poverty on a child's education while at the same time making money hand over fist creating charter school factories. Maybe you should stick to fiction. We have the truth on our side. ^^O^^

  7. I urge you to take good look at this to see exactly how much Bill Gates has invested in the Common Core. To say that he does not 'own' it, is merely a matter of semantics.

  8. The author writes, "Our kids are in serious jeopardy of being unable to communicate their purpose and intention in a meaningful way." We should be able to all agree on this. The question is what needs to be done. As an attorney who has had to engage in a lot of technical writing, I understand the value of making an evidence-based argument; however, as Anton Chekhov said, "The task of a writer is not to solve the problem but to state the problem correctly.” In order to state a problem correctly, a writer has to have a clear understanding of his/her own lens. Common Core makes the mistake of seeing these skills as independent of each other when they are in fact inseparable.

    1. You pose a good point. In fact I have often said myself that answers are a dime a dozen, finding the right question, however, is golden. I've always considered this "skill set" to be at the college level -- but decided to check and see if the Core did touch this area -- not expexting to find anything.

      I was pleasantly surprised that the core touches on it many times coming at the skill at different angles. I do recognize however, that interpretation from the Teacher at this level, could diminish returns by misunderstanding the goal -- and of course I could be reading into these with my own desires, too much meaning. However, I found enough to feel that a graduate will at lease not be ambushed in college by the concept.

      Ask questions to check understanding of information presented, stay on topic, and link their comments to the remarks of others.

      Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects based on focused questions, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.

      Analyze a case in which two or more texts provide conflicting information on the same topic and identify where the texts disagree on matters of fact or interpretation.

      Evaluate a speaker’s point of view, reasoning, and use of evidence and rhetoric, identifying any fallacious reasoning or exaggerated or distorted evidence.

      Recognize variations from standard English in their own and others’ writing and speaking, and identify and use strategies to improve expression in conventional language

      Identify aspects of a text that reveal an author’s point of view or purpose (e.g., loaded language, inclusion or avoidance of particular facts).

      Describe people, places, things, and events with relevant details, expressing ideas and feelings clearly.

      Thank you for your well thought out and insightful comment


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