Recently someone said, to my face, that “Common Core is the last, best hope for education that we have.” Really? Really. The last? The best? As opposed to what?
I was too stunned to speak. It’s like discarded dialogue from my favorite space opera. You know, the one that was originally released in 1977? This comment made it sound like we’re battling some evil educational overlord. As if we’re the Rebel Alliance of educational freedom and galactic justice.
Isn’t Common Core just another educational ideology, one in a succession of ideologies that have promised to change and improve things for our kids? For us? And often don’t. As an ideology, The Core isn’t completely off base, but it’s still an ideology. It’s still just a bunch of words that some humans came up with to straighten things out. Maybe. Is that really what kids need? Obi Wan, is Common Core really our only hope?
I thought parents and teachers were the last, best hope for education. I thought parents and teachers were the ones who inspire and teach and guide students. When was the last time a student said, “Wow, this math module really inspires me!”? Last I checked it’s parents and teachers who inspire students to become lifelong learners. It is teachers who urge students to develop and maintain a curiosity about the world; to discover new paths to enlightenment; new destinies. Think back, what do you remember of school? It’s not the curriculum or the standards. It’s the teachers who made a difference in your life. It’s the teachers who were like Robin Williams’ character in Dead Poet’s Society, the ones who truly communicated what it means to seize the day! (Oh captain, my captain!!) Heck, it was the teachers who were unique like Robin Williams, period.
It is our job as parents and educators to push our kids to meet new challenges day in and day out. Common Core is just a set of guidelines, but we don’t want students to only be college and career ready. Perhaps we don’t need Common Core as much as we need common sense.
Philosopher and counter-cultural icon Alan Watts said that the point of life is not the end. The goal or objective for being alive on this earth is to seek, it is to find, it is to experience the many-splendored things that the universe has to offer. We need to stop aiming kids at an end result. The end will come whether we like it or not, but that isn’t our desired outcome, is it? (Quite the opposite, I’d say!) Our kids should be seeking the lessons that you get on the journey. That’s where our focus should be. We should be preparing our children to be better humans, not better test-takers and students and employees and evidence-citers. Our goal should not merely be to create better arguers. We should be helping to shape better humans.
We should be pushing our students and children to be extraordinary, not common.