"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Sunday, April 29, 2012

David Coleman's Global Revenge and the Common Core

 As you grow up in this world you realize people really don’t give a shit about what you feel or what you think. --David Coleman at NY State Department of Education presentation, April 2011

In order to give the above quote the context it deserves, here is the clip from Mr. Coleman's speech.  Please notice that in offering the transcript for public download, the State of New York has embraced the censorship that is required to preserve the dignity of this mad English major turned national standards zealot, and in so doing, "shit" has become "sheet." 

Who is David Coleman?  Well, he is an English Lit major from Yale who has done some tutoring in a New Haven school while he was an undergraduate, which is his sole pedagogical credential.  He went on to Oxford to read in Plato and Aristotle and then joined McKinsey and Company, the most well-placed corporate economists and other non-educator educational advisors with the inside track to other non-educators in high ranking education policy positions, such as Joel Klein and Mike Bloomberg.  English majors aren't what they used to be.  Wow.

Then things got interesting and very, very lucrative for Mr. Coleman:
Together with a team of educators, David then founded the Grow Network, an organization committed to making assessment results truly useful for teachers, parents, and students. The Grow Network delivered breakthrough quality reports for parents and teachers as well as individualized learning guides for students. Based on the success of Grow, McGraw-Hill acquired the organization in 2005. 

David left McGraw-Hill in 2007 and co-founded Student Achievement Partners, a nonprofit that assembles educators and researchers to design actions based on evidence to improve student outcomes. Student Achievement Partners played a leading role in developing the Common Core State Standards in math and literacy, a process that drew on the input of teachers, states, higher education, business leaders, and researchers from across the country. As a Founding Partner, David now helps lead Student Achievement Partners' work with teachers and policymakers to achieve the promise of the Common Core State Standards.
So David brings to his immodest crusade to realign the Western Canon for the purposes of global corporations the sensitivity of an Athenian elite, the rhetorical skills of a fine sophist, and the business acumen of the sharp-faced Brits from whence he learned to ply his trade.

My question: why should we allow David Coleman's personal childhood issues to become part of a national pathology that is transmitted to every public school child in America? Does anyone give a shit!?

Some further insights on the Coleman Project from Susan Ohanian, posted together at UnderNews.  Susan does give a shit:
Susan Ohanion, Daily Censored - Common Core Curriculum Standards entrepreneur David Coleman is barnstorming the country claiming that schools need to deemphasize fiction and obliterate any semblance of reader response. No feelings, no imaginations, no speculations: Just the facts, kid.

What children need, asserts Coleman, is a close reading of “informational text.” That’s what he calls non-fiction. No opinion, no flights of fancy. No creation of new worlds. The teacher’s job is to make sure kids stick just to the text. Informational text, pronounces Coleman, is what will give students the world knowledge necessary to compete as workers in the Global Economy...

Coleman insists that informational text is what gives readers “world knowledge.”

Susan Ohanian, Substance News - “[A]s you grow up in this world you realize people really don’t give a shit about what you feel or what you think.” Thus, Common Core Standards architect David Coleman delivered [1] the core pedagogy of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) to educators gathered at the New York State Department of Education in April 2011. Listen to a few more of Coleman’s proclamations and you have to ask yourself if this is a man of deep experience and rectitude or just a cuckoo bird let loose on a hapless bunch of educrats who don’t know how to voice dissent. Coleman was on stage one hour 59 minutes in Chancellor’s Hall decreeing the new reality of teaching in public schools across America. No one in the audience challenged his bizarre declarations.

Coleman is billed as “a leading author and architect of the CCSS, and our professional organizations have already caved in on the Common Core — without a shot being fired. As premier standards entrepreneur, Coleman is a busy man, having already co-written the Common Core State Curriculum Standards and the Publishers’ Criteria for the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts and Literac.

Coleman insists that teachers must train students to be workers in the Global Economy. In his words, “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.” Translation to the classroom: No more primary grade essays about lost teeth or middle school essays about prepubescent angst. Instead, students must provide critical analysis of the “Allegory of the Cave” from Plato’s Republic, listed as an “exemplary informational text” in the Common Core State Standards for Language Arts. If that’s judged as over the top for 12-year-olds, there’s always Ronald Reagan’s 1988 “Address to Students at Moscow State University.”

As though literacy is to prepare children only for a working environment. And as though personal opinion isn’t vital in a working environment.

Coleman is on a mission to slash both the amount of personal narrative in writing and the amount of fiction in reading. This is based not on any experience teaching –except at the University of London–but because, he insists, readers gain “world knowledge” through nonfiction, which he calls “informational text.”

Standardisto David Coleman doesn't give a shit about what children have long enjoyed about reading fiction and poetry, since he wants to make schools a boot camp for the global economy via the "Common Core Standards" he is helping the U.S. Department of Education push like crack cocaine across the USA. Ironically, schools like Sidwell Friends in Washington, D.C. (where the children of Barack Obama go to school) and the University of Chicago Lab School (where the children of former White House Chief of Staff and now Chicago's Mayor Rahm Emanuel go to school) reject straight jackets like the "Common Core" and promote the reading of children, young adult, and real literature .Skeptics who might doubt that replacing Brown Bear, Brown Bear with a Wikipedia entry on Ursus arctos will stave off our nation’s economic woes might wonder: Why, if fiction is no more vital than leftover turnips, is there a Nobel Prize in Literature and not in lawyers’ briefs or material from the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco’s Web site (listed as a Common Core exemplary text)?...

The Common Core State Standards exist because the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation wanted them. To help their aide-de-camps, the president and the U. S. Secretary of Education, pretend that these are state and not national standards, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation sent buckets of money to the National Governors Association and Council of Chief State School Officers to act as sponsors. More tons of money to the National PTA to spread the good word and so on. As I revealed in an article in Extra![ix] very few media have pointed to the money source. Of course very few media even bother to mention anything about the Common Core...

With David Coleman as their spokesman out on the stump, the National Governors Association, the Council of Chief State School Officers, and the U. S. Department of Education, acting in concert with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, prescribe a very pale, sickly shade of green future for our vibrant and deliciously messy classrooms. Certainly, Lobel’s moral, Without a doubt, there is such a thing as too much order, applies even more to the classroom than it does to wallpaper. And letting our corporate school reformers steamroll our schools into a neat and tidy standardized product puts our children in great peril.


  1. The GE Foundation recently gave David Coleman's Student Achievement Partners $18,000,000 to spread his Global Economy message. And the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation grant of $5,068,671 to the James B. Hunt, Jr. Institute for Educational Leadership and Policy Foundation, Inc. has helped them spread 32 videos featuring Coleman and another Common Core author Sue Pimentel showing teachers how to teach. They are appearing in required Professional Development sessions across the country.

    Gates gave PTA $2,000,000 to spread the word. National Writing Project got $2,645,593 and ASCD $3,024,695. This sure makes the AFT sellout look like small potatoes. They only got $1,000,000 from Gates to write CCSS crap.

    1. The National Writing Project's slow descent is both saddening and entirely predictable. The network grew dependent on fed money and when that dried up (thanks to, among others, Arnie and his boss) the skeletal crew scrambled to keep something on the NWP bones. It's possible that the local projects might survive, but if they want any of the income stream they used to get from professional development services, CCSS kool-aide consumption will be necessary. And even gulping great big pitchers of the stuff, how are local WPs going to compete with the glossy professional development packages of Pearson et al.?

  2. Anonymous12:42 PM

    He is also connected with a charter school and was paid 70k by NYSED for a few months work

  3. Anonymous9:14 PM

    Tutored briefly while attending a private university....like the head of our local charter school advocacy group here in Buffalo NY... "I did not understand just how lucky I was until I began working in a low-income housing district in Washington, DC as a literacy instructor." That's it, the entire length and breadth of her pedagogical experience while earning an Art History degree at Georgetown.


    Is quoted as an expert by our local charter loving union hating newspaper. Gotta love the arrogance of the "refomer class."

  4. The GE Foundation recently gave David Coleman's Student Achievement Partners $18,000,000 to spread his Global Economy message. And the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation grant of $5,068,671 to the James B. Hunt, Jr. Institute for Educational Leadership and Policy Foundation, Inc. has helped them spread 32 videos featuring Coleman and another Common Core author Sue Pimentel showing teachers how to teach. They are appearing in required Professional Development sessions across the country.

    Gates gave PTA $2,000,000 to spread the word. National Writing Project got $2,645,593 and ASCD $3,024,695. This sure makes the AFT sellout look like small potatoes. They only got $1,000,000 from Gates to write CCSS crap.

  5. Using the common core standards in a public school is like a social studies class using a civil rights curriculum donated by the KKK, or a health class using a unit donated by Hersey.

    1. Anonymous1:46 PM

      Love your post, especially civil rights curriculum donated by the KKK...the way we are going maybe they'll give the KKK "special accreditation" to be techers too...that's what Michelle Rhee's Students First want states to do: certify people without degrees to teach. Perhaps the kids could listen to Limbaugh from Noon to 3pm. while a monitor supervises the room.

  6. Well, at risk of being that kid, I read the Allegory of the Cave when I was in high school and loved it. Loved writing the critical analysis, loved anything my highly engaged and exacting teacher required of me. I also wrote an ode to my locker. I will continue to demand that my students can do a careful reading and literary analysis (BTW, no one ever, ever, ever will ask you to do that shit after you get out of school either), and to write poems about their shoes. And they will continue to excel for the very most important reason. Because I will never mention the core standards as a goal. I will simply post them and teach to them, and around them, and though them, and my students will learn because of them and in spite of them. What a lot of words and energy we spend fighting one another in education, and NOT fighting for kids.

  7. I should probably identify myself. Ten years ago, I was one of the Curie 12 who stood up to boycott the CASE exam mandated by the Chicago Public Schools. In the decade since then, high stakes testing has grown and grown. I feel like our protest was for naught and what's happening now is so much worse than anything I could have naively imagined a decade ago. There are so many things we need to fight. And we waste energy on the Common Core, a set of standards that actually encompass effective teaching practices. Maybe we need to refocus our priorities?

    1. Anonymous1:52 PM

      The "Trolls" that are the Gates and their corporate cronies, the 1% are on course to change our whole society...AND it will not be for the benefit of the 99%. If they succeed they will make Hitler look like a pantywaist. There is much more at stake here than the Common Core...all the chips are on the table...and the corporate 1% wants them, winner take all...and they have declared themselves the only ones worthy of winning. Speak up Now!

  8. Anonymous6:13 AM

    Jim, Excellent piece. I was with you all the way up to,

    "Certainly, Lobel’s moral, Without a doubt, there is such a thing as too much order, applies even more to the classroom than it does to wallpaper."

    As a primary teacher, I feel as if I should have known what this means. Years ago, I believe I once understood this reference, but that was before Common Core, as if a dream within a dream.

  9. No serious educator would accept this kind of philosophy. Mr. Coleman's plan is akin to a dystopian educational protocol where the students are expected to do nothing but listen and follow; the thinking may or may not come later. Not too good.

  10. Anonymous1:31 PM

    Thinking will always happen. But will only be allowed in Ivy League Schools and other elite education institutions. And now that he's moved onto higher education, lets see the damage he can do there. He spits vitriol at creatives.

    1. Anonymous2:00 PM

      He does "spit vitrol at creatives". Truly. The people that he fronts for wish to pull down a dark curtain of conformity on this nation...art, music, literature, criticism will be for the elite 1% only...everyone else will be a cog in the machine. Remember this when you listen to the US Chamber of Commerce and your locally affiliated Chamber calling for more "perks" for the business world(they hide behind the skirts of "small businesses" but they do nothing to help the truly "small" business that your neighbor may start using his credit cards or the local mom and pop store being run out of business by the big-box stores). Vitrol, indeed...

  11. What drives me nuts about that Coleman quote, is that when he claims that personal writing is the most popular form of writing in high school, he's assuming that personal writing is what goes on most of the time. He's a moron. Assessment prep essay writing is what goes on most of the time in high school and that is NOT popular. If students did more personal writing in high school, then college admissions officers wouldn't be driven to despair over the quality of most college application essays, the most important piece of writing a high school senior will ever write.

    In order to establish a positive relationship with the writing process, students need to write about what they know and what's important to them. That's personal writing. Personal writing allows students to explore their own inner landscape, in other words they get to know themselves. That's something they care about. Allowed to do so enough, students will establish a positive relationship with the writing process. From there, informational writing WILL develop. What Coleman wants is unachievable because students are not automatons.

    Did I say David Coleman was a moron? Worth repeating.

  12. Anonymous1:57 PM

    Common core has hit many states, It seem they look at the money aspects first, what do governors know about common core, when are states are failing. what makes gates so powerfull was it that business contribute to it. where in the hell did Gates foundation have to do with schools. why all the money to bribe states and orgainzation such as PTA's, David Coleman, chief architect of the Common Core and his hypocrisy and racist remarks against hispanics, at a Boston data analyst conference, this is what he said quote" Students data will also be available for political purpose. David Colman, Extolling the advantage of using students data for winning elections and refering to poor hispanics as" LOW- HANGING FRUIT" , WITH RESPECT to how easily he feels they can be manipulated. what does that tell you about common core, Private companies that cater to students as consumers are champing at the bit to access student data as well. CEO Jonathan Harber, looks very forward to mining data for a more personalized learning experience for students."Also for achieve, Inc. which development the second set of common core standards came from servel large corporation including high tect and will presmably have access to the data as well, So what does that tell you again, spying on your whole life and family. there has been no statistics to prove that a student came out of college and got a job by common core, the Gates foundation and other who have an investment in this, all the money they will make and others, they will get back by all taxpayers this is about themselves and how to make a big bucks, this is how the rich get richer, they spread there rhetoric and wealth but behind your back you end up with nothing and paying for it. I would like to see what are the statistics on how many teachers are laid off because of trying to teach common core.

  13. Anonymous9:44 AM

    All you need to know about common core is who it's proponents are (1), who funds it (2), and who doesn't have to comply.
    1. Elitist academic types/educrats.
    2. Elites, who, if they were subjected to rote learning wouldn't have achieved what they did.
    3. Elites children.

    Almost like these asshats are saying: I got mine, now lets keep anyone from coming up and displacing me at the trough.