Monday, April 6, 2015

Being, Becoming: Ed Standards in 2015, Oh My!

Coming through the Rye (M.A. Reilly, 2010)

I. Being Well Educated

When we ask, "What does it mean to be well educated in 2015?" there is an underlying belief that being is inherently valuable.  But is it?  Is your understanding of being well educated synonymous with being well informed about present events that are always emerging?  Is becoming knowledgeable a laudable disposition to engender at school?  Given the current push for all things Common Core, is there even time available for such knowing?  Is being well educated a matter of passing the state reading, writing and mathematics high stakes assessment your state and/or country procures and provides to schools to administer to children and teens?  After all the folks who gave us the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and its accompanying tests make a rather bold and one might be tempted to say, laughable, claim. They write:
The standards were created to ensure that all students graduate from high school with the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in college, career, and life, regardless of where they live.  (from official site, found here)
Really? Can success at college, career, and life be based on the acquisition of a determined set of skills and 'knowledge'?  Can the complexity of becoming be rendered simple and if so, can one actually still be becoming?  Is success ever predictable based on a single set of test results?

II. Becoming

Okay, such claims are easy to debunk.  So, let's shift our focus for a moment. What happens to your thinking if the word, being is deleted and instead becoming is substituted? Instead of being well educated, we wonder how we are becoming and what that means now and now and now...

Every moment unfolding is the learning. 

Does such a shift in time alter your focus or occasion your revaluation of what is privileged when we think about learning?  Becoming does not deny content, intent, or happenstance.  I think of this shift as an invitation to reevaluate the logic of naming what is to be known, of relying on predetermined bits of knowledge that come from a static list of educational standards proffered by a group of people.

Folks, it's the Committee of Ten all over again.

Is this what we want for our children?  Is this the stuff that leads to informed citizenry, that is representative of learning?  Is such a process really going to ensure our kids' life-long success as the CCSS writers insist?

Does the shift from being to becoming open intellectual, social, or spiritual spaces?  Does such a shift help you linger in possibilities, as opposed to being rooted in named and known certainties?

These are not small questions and they are ones we do not entertain when we offer commentary about what it means to know at school.  For all our bravado, we rarely talk about what must be talked about when we talk about learning at school.

The logic of education standards has no place in this century.  They belong to a time when information was scarce and procurement was the only expression of power.

III. Who's Edward Snowden?

What prompted this bit of inquiry was a retweet I viewed this morning by Will Richardson of  link to a video of John Oliver's 'insanely brilliant' interview with Edward Snowden that Gary Stager initially posted.  I was able to watch the video this afternoon and I hope you do too.  I then sent the link to my 16 year-old-son who I'm pleased to say knows a whole lot more about Edward Snowden and US surveillance via the Patriot Act than those depicted in Oliver's show.

What caught my eye initially after the mention of Snowden,  was the bracketed comment, "Not on the #ccss however." This language gave me pause as I heard the sassiness of it.

But it goes well beyond sassy.

Is it school-worthy for students to be able to contemplate what the US government has allowed itself to do with regard to domestic and foreign surveillance via the Patriot Act?  Is becoming an informed citizenry an apt educational outcome? Why would we ever want to limit such definitions of knowing ahead of time? Whose interest are being served by constructing school as places where children demonstrate that they too can name what has been named for them, most often by a slim elite group of others?

Here in the US, we are spending billions to implement and assess student learning based on a set of reading, writing and mathematics standards that still insist in 2015 on limiting naming what must be learned at each grade level across 13-years (K-12) by every child to what a few people who met in 2009 thought to be important.  Is such naming logical or does the very method of a group of privileged people naming--limit learning to what was perhaps profitable when information was scarce?

The logic of education standards as de facto expressions of what MUST be learned by all students across 13 years as measured by a single set of assessments is faulty and we should reject it and reject those elected officials who support such a paltry stance of learning.

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