Everything and Nothing is Going On

cuomo

It’s been tough to come up with stuff to write about lately. It’s an odd time of year, with nothing and everything going on all at once. The stuff I usually write about is quiet – the inside baseball parade of political fumfering and failure. The stuff I generally avoid is really hot – Hillary, Cruz, Rubio, Bush, I can’t care. Not yet. In the meantime, the school budgets are being formulated and that has almost all my free attention as I work with a great team of dedicated volunteers to make sure we do right by schoolkids. Of course, there’s also the imbroglio over “high stakes” testing of whether elementary school kids are learning anything, and the idiotic war that Governor Cuomo has decided to wage on teachers, basically upsetting a long-dormant hornet’s nest, as someone characterized it to me Tuesday night.

I’m up to two (maybe three) people who are running as Democrats for the County Legislature this year who have announced, and whose press releases I’ve received. One in Lancaster/Cheektowaga, one in Amherst. I couldn’t tell you their names, what they stand for, or anything else about them. My guess is that Pigeon’s JV squad will sit this year out, seeing as how Preet’s all up in their business right now. Pigeon’s too busy calling Bob McCarthy every day and chatting him up about Hillary or how Preet’s got nothing on him, etc. To his credit, Bob’s Transcription Service, Ltd. is only too pleased to serve.

On Facebook, I’ve already seen a Hitler / Hillary comparison, so that was quick. I’m also reminded of the 2008 election and how much all the right-wing commentators had effusive praise for Hillary because she wasn’t Obama. Now, of course, she’s Satan, Stalin, and Hitler wrapped up in an ISIS flag waving over Benghazi, and a bucket of deleted emails.  Is she the best candidate the Democrats could put up? I don’t know, but never count the Clintons out. Given the state of the GOP roster so far, she should win in a walk, because Ted Cruz is a hateful demagogue, Jeb Bush is this year’s Romney, Rubio has tons of empathy for the beleaguered ultrawealthy and a healthy hatred of gays, and Rand Paul is an intemperate pseudo-libertarian. Know this: Paris Hilton doesn’t need any more tax cuts, and it’s sickening to witness families whine about paying taxes on estates valued in excess of $10 million. How are we supposed to pay for all of your guys’ wars?

I occasionally switch on Sky News on my Apple TV, and the UK is in the middle of a general election they called on March 31st, and which is being held on May 7th. By contrast, we’re talking about an Iowa Caucus process that’s nine months away, and an election that is a year and a half away. Billions will be spent on our election, voters will be treated like brainless sheep, Hillary will win, and we’ll have four (maybe eight) more years of utter nonsense. Anyone who says our system is the bestest in the whole world, ever, is not very informed.

In the meantime, my Facebook timeline is absolutely overrun with people opting their kids out of the state exams. We did not opt our 3rd grader out because exams are a part of life. I don’t have to like them, and neither does she, but if they’re there, she’ll take them. We don’t put any pressure on her, nor did her teacher. She was told it was all stuff they had already learned, and to just do her best. She came home exclaiming how “easy” they were the first two days, and she high-fived me.

I don’t begrudge parents opting out, nor do I mean them any disrespect – they know their own kids best & you do what you need to do. But in my experience, if I’m anxious about a thing, my kids are going to pick up on that and, in turn, also be anxious about that thing. If I’m ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ NBD do your best, there won’t be tears or trauma.

I understand that it’s unfair the way that Cuomo wants to evaluate teachers (see the hornet’s nest comment, above), and if they manage to legislate these tests away, good for everyone. But some of what I saw being used to advocate for opting out – whether it was tests that the parents can’t understand or don’t like, or the fact that a private company – Pearson – is involved – just wasn’t persuasive. Ultimately, I don’t like teaching a 3rd grader that it’s ok to disobey authority or break the rules. No one’s being asked to do anything untoward or outlandish – just to read a passage and answer questions, or to maybe write a short essay.

I’m not embracing the tests – I’m just not going to intervene to save her from participating in pointless, harmless nuisances because there’s suddenly a movement to do so. Finland, for instance, doesn’t do memorization and testing. Are we going to become like Finland? Not in a million years, but if that’s not the goal, then what is?

if we want young people with the competencies to innovate and make our economy more competitive, we need to model our schools after how innovation actually happens. “Teaching and learning have traditionally been conceptualized as linear, deterministic procedures,” he wrote in a paper on economic competitiveness and education. “Innovation is an organic entity. Teaching and learning in schools should rely on principles of active participation, social interaction and reflection”…

All of this school reform that’s sprung up since “No Child Left Behind” had pretty widespread support a decade ago, and few alternatives have been publicly discussed or debated beyond just going back to how things used to be. Instead of focusing on the tests, which are merely a symptom of the testing & accountability scheme, why aren’t we discussing adopting the Finnish model? Or something.

As for the “I can’t do my kid’s homework”, frankly, I should hope that education has progressed enough in the 30 years since I graduated high school that the work my kids do is somehow done differently, and something I can’t comprehend or recognize. I should hope that ways of teaching concepts has evolved over time, and that maybe my kids can teach me a thing or two.  The whole thing reminds me of jokes in Mad Magazines from the 1960s with obscure jokes about the “new math”.

I also saw articles excoriating Governor Cuomo because StartupNY has only created about 76 jobs. The Conservative Fusion Party has entered an unholy alliance with the the Working Families Fusion Party and other progressive activist organizations to demand its destruction. They’ve declared StartupNY to be a failure because it’s spent a lot on marketing, and has little to show for it.

StartupNY, however, cannot by definition add millions of jobs in just a few years. It is set up to help new and existing businesses grow tax-free within certain areas, but these companies are either small or brand-new. According to the last press release from the governor’s office, the 83 businesses that have joined the program have pledged to create over 2,000 new jobs. The program launched in 2013, and how many jobs did people expect in less than two years? If you look at the roster of companies, they’re all brand-new, still developing their product, or otherwise in transition. I know that people can’t be patient anymore, but maybe we can take a little bit of time and let this program run its course. Simply abolishing it in mid-stream, violating agreements with the schools and companies who have signed on, doesn’t seem very prudent.

But the most obnoxious, most cynical thing about this is the Conservative Fusion Party or Working Families Fusion Party demanding StartupNY be abolished and that taxes be lowered across the board. Great, guys! Considering how you’ve both been in existence for at least a decade, and how each of you purportedly vets, endorses, and runs candidates on your line who eventually win and enter government, why is it that none of this has happened? Are you so weak and ineffectual that you can’t influence your own candidates to accomplish things you agitate for? If anything, the ineffectiveness of StartupNY is dwarfed by the collossal pointless waste of the fusion system and its beneficiaries throwing shade at a Cuomo program that’s still in its infancy.

Here’s something new, though. I was recently appointed a trustee of the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library. Everyone there has been so welcoming, and I’ve learned a tremendous amount about the library system that I never before knew. The system itself, and the staff at the central branch are simply incredible. They are so knowledgable, so enthusiastic about what they do, and incredibly eager to make the library a safe, welcoming place to learn.

But the rare books – Tuesday night I attended a reception hosted by trustee Wayne Wisbaum, and library staff were present along with priceless, incredible treasures. These materials are owned by a library system in a small city that’s just starting to, at least psychically, overcome generations of decline. Yet here is an original edition of the Federalist Papers that John Jay gave to Thomas Jefferson, and in the margins of the book are Jefferson’s hand-written annotations and notes. I was inches away from it, and I could have stared at that annotation for hours, mesmerised. There were cuneiform tablets, a handwritten letter from George Washington asking for troop reinforcements, a handwritten letter from Thomas Jefferson about smallpox innoculation, a letter from Mark Twain that had been found in a first edition of one of his books, a book with incredible, intricate fore-edge art, and a unique and incredible map of the world from 1475. These are things that I had never seen, or was completely ignorant about, or had no idea existed in Buffalo before a few months ago.

Hey, at least it stopped snowing.

Assemblyman DiPietro: Shoot First, Ask Questions Never

dip

Last week, we examined Assemblyman David DiPietro’s hatred of Muslims and Islam, his deliberate and admitted ignorance to anything resembling facts, and just how allergic he is to knowledge and learning.

DiPietro took to Facebook and WBEN’s airwaves to expound on how an elementary school in East Aurora was busy indoctrinating 3rd graders in jihad, or something. The books in question – Nasreen’s Secret School, and the Librarian of Basra – are set in Afghanistan and Iraq, respectively. They teach young kids about different cultures and about how knowledge and education are things that need to be protected and fought for in places less enlightened than the US. By any measure, they are excellent books that teach a valuable lesson.

According to DiPietro, he:

Just talked to an irate parent. Parkdale school in East Aurora is teaching third graders(8-9 year olds) about the Koran, Mohammed and the Muslim faith. It is MANDATORY reading for Common Core! The teacher would not let the parents see the book until after they asked 3 times and threatened to go to the principal!!! The reading is all done in school and the books can not be taken out of the classroom! MORE TO COME!

More to come? Here’s more. While my pieces took down the underlying ignorance and bigotry, the East Aurora community weekly harvested some facts.

The Advertiser’s Kristy Kibler interviewed Parkdale Elementary School Principal Colleen Klimchuk, who said,

I wish Mr. DiPietro would have called me or popped his head in [my office] … He was misinformed and posted inaccurate information,

You don’t say. An elected official would go to Facebook and 90 minutes’ worth of talk radio and present inaccurate information based on misinformation? Who would be so irresponsible?

“To what extent are they Islamic books in terms of expressing or explaining the ideas or ideals or tenets and beliefs of Islam?” Bauerle asked DiPietro toward the beginning of his appearance on the radio show. DiPietro answered that he had not read the books, and one caller asked if he thought it was irresponsible to “incite a hailstorm before getting all the facts.”

DiPietro said no, because it was an important issue that should be discussed, that he trusted the parent he had spoken to and said he intended to talk to school officials and “get a lot more information shortly.”

David DiPietro and WBEN’s Tom Bauerle and Tim Wenger would be this irresponsible. But that’s not all. As DiPietro and Bauerle weaved the story through manufactured memes like “Islamic indoctrination”, they really caught their stride as they assailed Common Core as the catch-all bogeyman for everything sinister. So, DiPietro pivoted:

… mentions that the parent had said the two books “have been basis of the curriculum for weeks,” which prompted Bauerle to liken the school to a cult.

“Now if this was just one book out of 20—every week they’re doing a different book—fantastic,” DiPietro said. “But it’s not, and that’s where we draw the line.”

A 3rd grade class was dictated by Obama and Common Core – which sounds a lot like “communism” – to read Nasreen and Basra for “weeks?” Like a “cult”? Could that possibly be true? Of course not – consider the depraved sources.

However, Klimchuck said the two books that have caused such a controversy are just that—single pieces of a nine-book Common Core module for third grade. The class focuses on each book in the unit for one week, besides a main book—“My Librarian is a Camel: How Books are Brought to Children Around the World”—that gets about two weeks of attention. The two Winter books were both discussed in October.

“[The unit is about] the power of reading, and the courageous efforts people go through to access education … this whole unit is all about becoming a better reader and how that will help you succeed in any walk of life,” Klimchuck said.

Other books in the module include “Rain School,” a book that talks about education in Chad, Africa; “Thank You, Mr. Falkner,” which touches on a student with dyslexia in modern-day California; “That Book Woman,” about a traveling teacher in a rural Appalachian area of the United States; and “Waiting for the Biblioburro,” about

Here is the module itself. Had DiPietro bothered to – ahem – educate himself by contacting the principal or the teacher and getting both sides of the story, as well as a copy of the module, before taking to WBEN’s airwaves to spread hysteria and lies, then he’d at least have been acting as a responsible adult. What he did instead is present lies and misinformation based on ignorance and prejudice.

I challenge any fair-minded person to review this Common Core 3rd grade ELA curriculum and tell me it’s wrong or improper or unreasonable, much less some sort of socialist indoctrination.

Taking another tack, DiPietro thought that he found a constitutional argument, throwing “separation of church and state” back in the liberals’ dumb, evil faces. Wrong.

…public school students would never be allowed to read a book that references Christianity.

“If that had been God talking to Jesus Christ [in the introductory quote], we would have the ACLU [American Civil Liberties Union] up our butts so fast, Tom—we would have people screaming to keep religion out of our public school,” he said.

Klimchuck said a school’s role is not to teach religion, but to discuss issues of similarities and differences between cultures if they come up in discussion.

“Our role is to expose kids to everything—our role is not to teach religion,” Klimchuck said. “There are books that reference religion. A child in second grade made a comparison of [the myth] Pandora’s Box to Adam and Eve—we said, ‘yes, it’s a very similar story.’ We talk about differences—the theme is respect for everyone.”

Respect for everyone: a concept that’s anathema to knee-jerk reactionaries like David DiPietro. “Shoot first and ask questions later” is why the NY SAFE Act exists.

Now, what about DiPietro’s claim that parents were forbidden access to these books?

“I have a really hard time believing that,” Klimchuck said, adding that both books were on display during Open House in September and brought to a PTO meeting, and that one class had been given a homework assignment to take the book home and read it to their parents.

She said the only reason she could think of that a book wouldn’t be allowed home is that if there weren’t extra copies and the book was currently in use in the classroom. She also mentioned that the books in the unit were discussed each day during the week, and since some children were forgetting their copies at home, the teacher said to leave them in school during the week.

The books, in other words, were everywhere and available. But even if the books were not available to take home, there’s got to be some alternative, right?

Klimchuck said she invites any parent that has concerns about the curriculum to come into school so they can sit down in the library and go over the book together.

According to Klimchuck, East Aurora began using the Common Core Module that includes the two Winter books in 2012. That year, an introductory letter went out at the beginning of the year to all third grade parents, explaining the two books and why they were chosen, how teachers talk to the students concerning reading about difficult issues like violence and war, and how the books are meant to tie into the social studies curriculum.

Teachers also integrated articles from “Time for Kids” and Scholastic, Inc.’s “News for Kids” connecting the stories to Malala Yousafzai, a real-life Pakistani teenager who was targeted for speaking out for girls’ rights and whose life has connections with the situations portrayed in the two books. Klimchuck said that year, she had one parent raise additional questions, but no other feedback.

You’d figure that there was a huge outcry over these books to get a sitting Assemblyman not only involved, but to expound on the radio against reading, right?

This year, one parent, Lisa Hilliard, spoke at the November School Board meeting about her concerns that “Nasreen’s Secret School” was too violent for the age group to which it was being taught, and that it contained inappropriate materials. She also said she was having a hard time getting responses from her daughter’s teachers…

…Klimchuck said she replied to the parent who spoke at the meeting with a letter that included the unit’s book list, copies of the aforementioned articles the children read with the unit, and copies of district policy explaining how to request that the superintendent review objections of instructional materials. She also apologized for the delay and said the November snow storm that canceled school for a week and parent-teacher conferences might have caused the teachers to take longer than usual in responding.

One parent raised a concern, and it was promptly addressed. Any outcry since DiPietro’s nonsense started?

Since DiPietro’s post, Klimchuck said she’s only received two or three calls from parents requesting clarification of the books, but nothing else.

“What this is telling me, is that next year we’ll be even more proactive,” she said. “We’ll make sure we send out the [introductory] letter,” and have all the classes bring the book home for homework, she added.

When Bauerle’s show called her office and invited her on to speak on behalf of the district during the Assemblyman’s interview, she declined, saying she’d rather speak to DiPietro directly. She said she and his secretary have been in touch to set up a meeting, which will hopefully occur by the end of the month.

Unlike the career politician, the professional school principal declined to turn her school and its ELA curriculum into a spectacle.

“I’m disappointed that misinformation was posted,” Klimchuck said. “It incited anger and misinformation, and it turned into this disrespectful … and disturbing thing.”

Next time you wonder why teachers and school administrators earn a living wage with nice benefits, consider the children they have to deal with. Children like David DiPietro, who combines ignorance with a lack of impulse control, to embarassing effect. DiPietro out-earns most teachers, and enjoys the same state health and retirement benefits, but I must have missed his call to reduce and eliminate these perks. Being a tea party guy is all well and good in theory, but in practice DiPietro is a statist taker/moocher.

At a bare minimum, we should expect our elected officials to be informed and responsible. David DiPietro appears incapable of those basic character traits.

By the way, what did DiPietro tell the reporter from the Advertiser about all of this? How did he explain himself?

The newspaper left several messages for DiPietro on his cell phone and at his district office in Albany, but he did not return them by this publication’s deadline.

He’s a coward, to boot.

The Books that Assemblyman David DiPietro Wants to Ban

With respect to Librarian of Basra and Nasreen’s Secret School, the craven, ignorant opportunist David DiPietro alleged that:

The teacher would not let the parents see the book until after they asked 3 times and threatened to go to the principal!!! The reading is all done in school and the books can not be taken out of the classroom!

Luckily, we have the internet. And Google. And YouTube.

 

Someone needs to run against – and defeat – this imbecile.

David DiPietro’s Jihad on Learning

Assemblyman David DiPietro of East Aurora has declared a holy war on book lernin‘. ‘Specially that Moozlim kind. (It’s not the first time, either. DiPietro was convinced Obama was a seekrit Moozlim back in 2010).

Just talked to an irate parent. Parkdale school in East Aurora is teaching third graders(8-9 year olds) about the Koran, Mohammed and the Muslim faith. It is MANDATORY reading for Common Core! The teacher would not let the parents see the book until after they asked 3 times and threatened to go to the principal!!! The reading is all done in school and the books can not be taken out of the classroom! MORE TO COME!

This has quickly become a cause celebre (that’s French) among the tea party anti-learning set.

I have a third grader in a public school, and neither the Koran, Mohammed, nor the Muslim faith is MANDATORY ALL CAPS reading under Common Core or any other standard, so I immediately know DiPietro is lying. What are the books, you ask?

Nasreen’s Secret School is a children’s picture book, described thusly:

Young Nasreen has not spoken a word to anyone since her parents disappeared.

In despair, her grandmother risks everything to enroll Nasreen in a secret school for girls. Will a devoted teacher, a new friend, and the worlds she discovers in books be enough to draw Nasreen out of her shell of sadness?

Based on a true story from Afghanistan, this inspiring book will touch readers deeply as it affirms both the life-changing power of education and the healing power of love.

A review from the “School Library Journal” describes the premise thusly:

Grade 2–4—This story begins with an author’s note that succinctly explains the drastic changes that occurred when the Taliban came to power in Afghanistan in 1996. The focus is primarily on the regime’s impact on women, who were no longer allowed to attend school or leave home without a male chaperone, and had to cover their heads and bodies with a burqa. After Nasreen’s parents disappeared, the child neither spoke nor smiled. Her grandmother, the story’s narrator, took her to a secret school, where she slowly discovered a world of art, literature, and history obscured by the harsh prohibitions of the Taliban. As she did in The Librarian of Basra (Harcourt, 2005), Winter manages to achieve that delicate balance that is respectful of the seriousness of the experience, yet presents it in a way that is appropriate for young children. Winter’s acrylic paintings make effective use of color, with dramatic purples and grays, with clouds and shadows dominating the scenes in which the Taliban are featured, and light, hopeful pinks both framing and featured in the scenes at school. This is an important book that makes events in a faraway place immediate and real. It is a true testament to the remarkable, inspiring courage of individuals when placed in such dire circumstances.—Grace Oliff, Ann Blanche Smith School, Hillsdale, NJ END

Interestingly enough, “Librarian of Basra” is the other book in question.

“In the Koran, the first thing God said to Muhammad was ‘Read.'”*

–Alia Muhammad Baker

 

Alia Muhammad Baker is a librarian in Basra, Iraq. For fourteen years, her library has been a meeting place for those who love books. Until now. Now war has come, and Alia fears that the library–along with the thirty thousand books within it–will be destroyed forever.

 

In a war-stricken country where civilians–especially women–have little power, this true story about a librarian’s struggle to save her community’s priceless collection of books reminds us all how, throughout the world, the love of literature and the respect for knowledge know no boundaries. Illustrated by Jeanette Winter in bright acrylic and ink.

 

And

Starred Review. Grade 2-4 – When war seemed imminent, Alia Muhammad Baker, chief librarian of Basra’s Central Library, was determined to protect the library’s holdings. In spite of the government’s refusal to help, she moved the books into a nearby restaurant only nine days before the library burned to the ground. When the fighting moved on, this courageous woman transferred the 30,000 volumes to her and her friends’ homes to await peace and the rebuilding of a new library. In telling this story, first reported in the New York Timeson July 27, 2003, by Shaila K. Dewan, Winter artfully achieves a fine balance between honestly describing the casualties of war and not making the story too frightening for young children. The text is spare and matter-of-fact. It is in the illustrations, executed in acrylic and ink in her signature style, that Winter suggests the impending horror. The artist uses color to evoke mood, moving from a yellow sky to orange, to deep maroon during the bombing, and then blues and pinks with doves flying aloft as the librarian hopes for a brighter future. Palm trees, architecture, dress, and Arabic writing on the flag convey a sense of place and culture. Although the invading country is never mentioned, this is an important story that puts a human face on the victims of war and demonstrates that a love of books and learning is a value that unites people everywhere. – Marianne Saccardi, Norwalk Community College, CT

 

The theme in both books is the universal importance of education and knowledge, even in the face of adversity or outright hostility. I can’t think of a better lesson to teach young readers than that. To use real stories about real kids to convey that is moving and powerful. These are books that I will go out of my way to acquire and have my child read, because of the irony at work.

Books. Education. Knowledge. Having and accomplishing these things in the face of war or religious fanaticism. Nasreen isn’t a book about religion, it’s about fighting religious extremism. Basra isn’t a book about religion, it’s a book about the importance of reading; protecting your culture and heritage. It’s heartbreakingly anti-American to condemn and ban these books, with these themes.

Both Basra and Nasreen are on the recommended book list for grades 3 – 5 under the National Catholic Educational Association. Nasreen teaches “justice”, and Basra teaches “courage”.

DiPietro is on local AM radio this afternoon concern-trolling about how these books mention Islam, and that’s wrong because Christian and Jewish mentions are forbidden. Like “Under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance.

David DiPietro and other book-killers like he are tantamount to the religious fanatics in Basra and Nasreen who would deny books, knowledge, and an education to the protagonists. Unable to see beyond his own limited and prejudiced worldview, DiPietro is seemingly seeking to withhold these important and age-appropriate stories from local children because the protaganists are of the Muslim faith.

As we learned in Clarence in March 2014, the books aren’t the problem, it’s the book banners. Tyrannies ban books.

(Join Banned Books Week on Facebook if you believe in freedom of education and expression; freedom to learn).

Kathy Weppner’s Common Core Piece

Maybe we need Common Core, y’know? Perhaps this blog post by silly radio lady Kathy Weppner is the best argument yet for stronger national ELA standards. Because seriously, reading this vomit of all-caps, conspiracy theories, re-hashed Facebook memes, and lies will make your head spin. 

Correcting Weppner

//www.scribd.com/embeds/225689567/content?start_page=1&view_mode=scroll&show_recommendations=true

Chris Collins Propaganda Call on Line 1

Maybe he just hates everything “common”

My Congressman was desperately interested in hearing my input about education and the Common Core standards that are slowly being transformed from an initiative to improve and enhance education and student expectations for the 21st century into a communard bete noir. Because Common Core was implemented during the Obama Presidency, Collins is automatically against it. Because many people are concerned about its testing protocols, Collins is interjecting himself into an issue about which he has never spoken before, and about which his ignorance is palpable.

Why was Common Core implemented? Because employers were concerned that High School students were unprepared for the job market – a pretty basic and fundamental issue

The initial motivation for the development of the Common Core State Standards was part of the American Diploma Project (ADP).

A report titled, “Ready or Not: Creating a High School Diploma That Counts,” from 2004 found that both employers and colleges are demanding more of high school graduates than in the past. According to Achieve, Inc., “current high-school exit expectations fall well short of [employer and college] demands.” The report explains that the major problem currently facing the American school system is that high school graduates were not provided with the skills and knowledge they needed to succeed in college and careers. “While students and their parents may still believe that the diploma reflects adequate preparation for the intellectual demands of adult life, in reality it falls far short of this common-sense goal.” The report continues that the diploma itself lost its value because graduates could not compete successfully beyond high school, and that the solution to this problem is a common set of rigorous standards.

Why implement it nationwide? So that a kid in Alabama meets the same standards as a kid in Vermont, and so that no kid is shortchanged. But to Chris Collins, this is communistic hogwash. Here’s the press release that followed the call: 

Jan 27, 2014 Press Release Thousands of district constituents participate in discussion about new educational standards

Congressman Chris Collins (NY-27) talked to parents about Common Core today as part of a district-wide telephone town hall meeting.  The new educational standards are currently being implemented in New York State.  Common Core is widely criticized for forcing students to learn skills necessary to perform well on tests as opposed to actually learning critical material. 

Thousands of NY-27 constituents participated in the town hall to learn more about Common Core and voice their concerns about how the new standards are impacting their children. 

“There are few issues as important to the future of our country as the education of our children,” said Congressman Collins.  “Unfortunately, in today’s world, too many of the decisions surrounding our children’s education are being made by government bureaucrats far removed from the classroom.  I believe strongly that parents, teachers and local school leaders know what is best for our children.  Common Core is a typical one-size-fits-all approach generated by big government bureaucrats.”

New York State adopted Common Core standards in 2010.  Across the country, 45 states have begun Common Core implementation, but recently ten states, including Massachusetts, have started to rethink or delay their participation over growing concerns from parents, educators and students themselves.  States were incentivized to participate in Common Core by the federal government through grant money available as part of the American Recovery and Restoration Act (federal stimulus). 

During the telephone town hall, parents voiced concerns about the student testing standards, mandated curriculum, and teacher/school evaluations tied to test results as dictated by Common Core.   Joining Collins for the town hall was Neal McCluskey, Associate Director of the Cato Institute’s Center for Educational Freedom

“We should all want our children to be college or career ready following high school graduation and we should be willing to raise our standards to achieve that goal,” continued Collins.  “But Common Core is about churning out students as test takers, not inquisitive students excited about learning.

By forcing students to spend their K-12 years arduously focused on test talking, we will never develop our next generation of leaders, educators and entrepreneurs.  That is sad for our children and our country.”

Collins continued to urge parents and educators to raise awareness of Common Core and push for changes to its implementation, if not full repeal.  Parents with questions about Common Core are encouraged to contact Congressman Collins’ office.

Well there it is. It wasn’t so much to let parents vent concerns as much as it was an opportunity for some guy from a libertarian think tank to propagandize to a conservative constituency. Was there a principal from a school in the district on the call? Was there anyone there who wasn’t there to promote an agenda, but had actual practical experience to offer? Was there anyone there with an advanced teaching degree? This less than a year after the school district that covers Collins’ own home underwent a brutal and painful budget process last year – one that saw tons of young, dedicated educators unceremoniously fired and myriad programs cut. Chutzpah is the word. 

Who got to participate in the call? I’m not on Collins’ mailing list, despite having subscribed at least twice. So, yesterday, while my wife and I were at work, we got this call: 

http://blogs.artvoice.com/avdaily/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/collinscall.mp3

Well, I wasn’t at home. I was at work working. Even though I knew about the call ahead of time, thanks to some local media reporting, I couldn’t participate because I was at work working on work so that I can bring home an income and, among other things, donate money to the school foundation set up to help fund programs that were cut last year. 

Common Core may be susceptible to demagoguery because it sounds ominous, is new, and because the state of New York’s implementation of its standards was as abrupt as it was inept. Tons of kids came home last year having been tested against standards that weren’t taught during the school year, and they got bad scores. But when I talked to my youngest’s school principal and teachers about the new standards, they were universally enthusiastic about it. The new standards will not only ensure that the right things are being taught, but they will have an ability to track how kids are doing in real time, and divert extra help where it’s needed. 

This isn’t about rolling back Common Core. This is about outlawing public education in this country. This is about codifying a fundamentally unfair, tiered education system whereby the poor and middle class receive vouchers enabling their kids to attend de-funded, decontented, tertiary quality schools; the upper middle class might be able to kick in extra for parochial or second-quality private schools; and the millionaire class can afford whatever they damn well please, and have their precious snowflakes’ private educations subsidized by the poor and middle class. It is the very definition of class warfare – by the wealthy against the not-wealthy. This is about the slow dismantling of every progressive goal this country has ever achieved – public K-12 education, social security, unemployment insurance, Medicaid, Medicare – anything designed to help average people and the elderly enjoy life. This is a war being waged by millionaires and billionaires against you and me. 

It is a war against the American Dream itself. 

So, if people were hosting a genuine conversation about Common Core and its standards and implementation, that would be great. But that’s not what Collins was doing. He timed the “discussion” so that working parents could not participate. He did not advertise it nearly well enough. He did not have a balanced discussion, but instead propagandized with the help of libertarian school choice advocates (read: public school opponents).