Common Core Fo’ Real Stories

Stay Monday: Mom get two cans corned beef. One head cabbage. One a bottle of milk. Fruit from our yard, and some vegetables, tofu, shoyu, spices bought with credit from one friendly family store across the street. We already wen spend advances on my Dad’s pay so no mo money till pas’ payday. How she goin’ feed our family of nine fo’ rest of da week?

High Stakes Test: Try hard for dis one, okay Arne? If no can understand, ask your boss. ‘Tink maybe he can help you, yah? He wen’ grow up Hawai‘i, you know.

Bruddah wen get bit by scorpian. We wen live wit lotsa animals. Kakaroches. Lizards. Rats. But scorpian real bad. Was infected. Give Bruddah lockjaw almost. My Faddah and Oncle take him emergency. Da guy say, “He’s in real serious condition, but we think we can save him. It’ll be real expensive. Can you afford it?” My Faddah have one meltdown.

Why faddah have meltdown? What choo tink faddah and oncle should do?

• • •

As I related to readers last month, Common Core was quickly adopted by 45 states as part of U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s Race to the Top (RTTP) Grades 1–12 education initiative to “reform schools.” RTTP, which pits school districts against each other in a competition for big federal dollars, gave extra points to districts that accepted Common Core, Charter Schools, and Test-Based Teacher Evaluation. It didn’t guarantee any RTTT grant money, but districts received extra points in their application if they agreed to these “reforms.” Most of the states adopted these “reforms.”

Common Core is being marketed as a “set of standards for learning.” One of their promotional packages is, ironically, titled “Real Learning for Real Life.”  “Virtual Learning for a Virtual Life” would have been a more accurate title. Common Core will employ a lot of new technology supposedly to guide teachers so that they can spend more time teaching, designing curriculum, and lesson plans. Common Core will also deemphasize longhand writing, with keyboarding taking a stronger role.

For-profit companies are already gearing up to make money by producing computer-generated tests, which can be graded by computers. I guess thereby saving teachers’ time for better things like being laid off. All of these rang alarm bells in my head, especially when I think of all the “self-correcting” programs I deal with when I’m “keyboarding” anything. There will be high stakes testing. More of it. Which means that teachers will be forced to do more “teaching to the tests.” The tests will become the curriculum. Oh, and by the way, very few K-12 classroom teachers were included in the planning.

We should be asking, “Who is making these decisions?”

The basic three principles of Common Core:

1. Consistent and raised learning expectations for all public school students.

2. Clear Standards that focus on deeper understanding.

Building the critical skills students need in the job market.

Because our state Legislatures did not ask questions, we need to. Questions such as who and why are Common Core consultants making these decisions behind closed doors? What makes them think their knowledge bank is more important than ours?

As I’ve said before, I believe Common Core poses a threat to the cultural creativity and diversity that are essential to our individual and societal survival.  We need to recall our own “knowledge banks,” the knowledge, emotions, and culture learned that drives the actions of all of us from the time we’re born (some suggest even before we’re born) until the time we die. Given a chance, Common Core will ignore and devalue our knowledge banks. And CC will kill any pride we have in our own culture. I’m not just making this stuff up.

Pidgin English, the “unofficial” language of Hawai‘i spoken by 80 percent of the population, was “devalued” by the “one-percenter” controlling interests in Hawai‘i. In order to be considered “educated” by the one percent and the managers who do the hiring for them, one not only needed to speak proper English, but also speak it without a pidgin accent. This song sung by students at Kahuku High School in 1944 (to the tune of “Battle Hymn of the Republic,”) says it all:

We need to speak American at school and when we play;
We need to help each other hear our errors day by day;
We need to join together as we open up the way
For American speech to win
Glory glory, hallelujah, etc.
American speech must win.
Let’s all resolve to practice every little bit we know;
To make good speech as popular as going to a show;
Let’s all resolve to do our best to make pidgin English go
Down and out in 1944

Also included in my personal knowledge bank are stories of historical incidents, photographs, and brief conversations with family members, especially my parents. The following two paragraphs are part of my knowledge bank continuing to influence my thoughts and actions today.

In 1924, my dad, 17 years old, left Okinawa on the last boat to carry “legal” immigrants from Japan to Hawai‘i because he wanted to learn to read the Bible in English. By the time he died in 1962, he was an atheist, a non-card carrying communist, a community and labor organizer.

My mom, eight years younger than dad, was born on Maui. She passed up an opportunity to go to Normal (teaching) School, to marry dad when she graduated from high school. My mom’s father housed the printing press of a newspaper Shinji Dai (The New Era), which dad and my uncle worked on. Zenwa uncle worked the business end; dad was a columnist who said he often simply “translated articles from the Daily Worker.”

If Common Core goes through, we will be throwing one-half of our nation’s children under the bus. All in the name of “reforming” the public school system, while squeezing more bucks out of us 99 percenters. More than half of public school students are low-income (eligible for free or subsidized school meals), yet Common Core does not address poverty. Another question, Why not?

So what do the tests for Arne and a few anecdotes about my parents have to do with Common Core, Greedy Capitalists, Weapons of Mass Destruction, and my thoughts on knowledge bank, critical thinking and the so-called “reform movement” assault on our public schools?

Let’s do a little exercise, a walk-through for Bob’s Real Life approach to develop critical thinking. Let’s ask the important questions about Common Core:

• Who will pay the costs of Common Core and who will benefit financially?

• Who will pay the costs of the new technology, and who will benefit financially?

• What programs will Common Core create for those who fail to meet the standards?

• Has there been any testing of Common Core standards and programs? How do we know whether any of this will work?

• Why is it that private college prep schools have not adopted common core?

That’s it. Ask these questions to legislators and school officials. Ask teachers too, but don’t bug them too much, because they’ve got much more important business: teaching our kids. Remember, you, too, have your own knowledge bank. What questions do you think we should be asking?

Next time: Jobs, continuing lockjaw story.

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