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

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Get "Building the Machine" for Every Parent, Educator, and Student Group in America

Building the Machine brings to light new understanding of Common Core that I have not encountered before.  New degrees of deception are laid bare, and a range of implications are explored in a finely-edited and dark-toned piece of documentary filmmaking. The film comes in an extended 3 DVD set that includes original documentary, the parents' interviews, and supplementary episodes on Disc 3 that examine the standards, data mining, national curriculum, and the little-understanding subject of international benchmarking.

My comments are limited to Disc 1.  The first disc runs just over a half hour and would make a fine centerpiece for any PTA or student group meeting.  In introducing both proponents and opponents of Common Core in the intro, the facts to follow become even more devastating as the viewer is allowed to see how good intentions can go so bad and how the corporate machine may easily exploit any good intentions to grow corporate revenue by diverting the river of cash that Americans rain into education each year.

We hear about the cloaking during the early drafts of CC and the truncated response to public comment that never altered the original course.  We hear the shabbiness of the argument that states were involved in decision-making and drafting, when it was only a group of governors and state execs rubber-stamping a process and product that citizens did not even know about.  We hear of how the national standards had to appear as an "immaculate conception" that had no linkages to the Bush I agenda of national curriculum and national testing that was launched during the DC high times of Lamar Alexander and Diane Ravitch.

We hear about the five members of the Validation Committee who refused to sign on even with huge political pressure, and how their names were expunged from the Committee as if they never existed.

We hear about the two months that states had to write Race to the Top grants based on Gates guidance, and how 45 states came to sign on almost overnight to national standards that were being written by David Coleman, Susan Pimentel, and Jason Zimba.

We hear from Stanford mathematician, Jim Milgram and from curriculum expert from Massachusetts, Susan Stotsky, the only two content experts on the Validation Committee.  We find out from Milgram what was to me a most insidious aspect of Common Core for which I was totally unaware.  Hidden within Race to the Top verbiage is a requirement for public colleges in states that sign on the Common Core commitment: No remedial courses for credit will be allowed in state colleges and universities.  What this will do, of course, is drive down the quality of the courses to fit where students are whose preparation remains affected by underfunded schools, racism, and poverty.  This, in turn, will open the pubic colleges to criticism and failure labeling, which, in turn, will drive the corporate PR campaign to privatize public colleges and universities.

The insanity of having a single test to measure preparedness for college and careers is also explored in some detail.  The bottom line, of course, is that you end up with a test and and test-based curriculum that does neither.  Those not interested in college will drop out in larger numbers from high school, and those headed to college will only be prepared for 3rd and 4th tier institutions.

The last part of Part I examines the absurdity and dangers of central education planning for a nation so vast and diverse.  As one Chicago teacher suggests, the race we are in, if there is one, should be to keep democracy alive and ahead of capitalism.

All three discs are available for under 30 dollars with shipping.  A final note: the documentary is funded by the Home School Legal Defense Association.  Why, you ask?  Because home schoolers know, too, that with Common Core tests becoming college entrance tests, then their children will be forced into the same mold.  For those phony federalists like Lamar Alexander and his fans who remain advocates for a neo-stalinist approach to education, all I can say is get your head out of your ass: there will be no voluntary local adoption when there is no choice.

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