Thursday, 19 January 2012


WATCH OUT! SOMEONE HAS DECIDED WHAT OUR TWENTY FIRST CENTURY SKILLS SHOULD BE - AND WE NEED A PARADIGM SHIFT TO GET THERE!!! Wow! Who is this genius? Please show yourself so at least we know who we're talking to and what makes you so special!

When did we lose control of our schools? When did the public schools need to be controlled by some nameless genius who knows (supposedly) what the future is and what our kids need to know for it? Who is this person who knows more than teachers and parents and must control all of us?

At the last planning meeting for the new BOND (more property taxes needed), the curriculum director gave a presentation about the new COMMON CORE STANDARDS which were recommended by the Office of Public Instruction and then approved by the State Board of Education (surprise, surprise- I bet they spent late nights struggling over that decision don't you?). The curriculum director was careful to point out that these standards were written by "teachers". I would guess they were manipulated just like we are at the planning meetings. You are given a premise or a problem to get you to decide on some form of what they want you to come up with. How else would they get 45 states and then the world to agree with exactly the same standards?!!!

At the first planning meeting each table was given a student with a particular problem to solve. For each thing the firm wanted in the new "plan" they had a student with that problem. Then at the second meeting the firm summed up for us what we came up with at the last meeting- of course it came out to be COMPREHENSIVE PRESCHOOL TO COLLEGE AND VOTECH TRAINING, EVERY STUDENT ON AN I.E.P.(individualized educational plan), COLLABORATING WITH EVERY OUTFIT IN TOWN THAT NEEDS STUDENT HEAD COUNT (Holter, Exploration Works, Grand Street etc.),WELL BALANCED LIFE SKILLS AND GUIDANCE COUNSELING (this covers Youth Connections integration into the School District) and of course TECHNOLOGY. Just a few points to make here. First of all, have you seen the studies that actually tracked kids from Head Start and compared their school progress with kids who didn't go to Head Start? Well, there was no difference. They found this out a long time ago and since then they have just doubled down and increased Head Start ten fold integrating them into public schools. Secondly, it looks like all the "balanced life skills" stuff may be interfering with academic focus and college preparedness, did you hear the report that the United States had the lowest scores in math and reading on the SATS ( scholastic achievement tests you take to get into college) last year that we've ever had in this nation? Finally, I was fortunate enough to be at a table with three really great high school students. One young man, sadly, pointed out to me that there is too much tech focus in school.  Teachers don't care if you know grammar and spelling anymore, they tell you to just use spell check, etc.

One thing's for sure- kids know when they are being cheated out of an education. Let's change up the genius's idea for "21st century skills". Let's change the 4 C's this genius came up with (communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity). Let's reinforce the three R's with the Four I's.

INDUSTRIOUSNESS: Instead of 6 year olds wasting their days talking to each other about why six plus six equals twelve- have them learn to compute so well that their minds are little computers and they can actually think mathematically because their mental math is like a buzz saw! Along the way they will learn to work hard, focus, stick to the task, and learn to be proud of their success!

INDEPENDENCE: The ability to believe in and count on yourself. The spirit that brought our forefathers to this country and made them successful. The spirit that brought us through World War II successfully. We all know the stories about how the Germans fell apart when their General was killed but in the same situation our soldiers just stepped right up and took command of the action.  Let these kids do their own work, especially struggling students. They need to learn that they can indeed do their own work!

INTEGRITY: It's more important than creativity. The ability to be creative comes to people genetically.  We all know those wonderful designers (the best designer I know majored in Anthropology!), or wonderful painters, while some of us have trouble with stick figures. Education helps some but in the end it's like football, you can either do it or you can't. As far as creative thinking goes, necessity is the mother of invention. Did you all see the movie Apollo 13? These guys had integrity. When a problem needed to be solved (they had to get the Apollo 13 spacecraft home) they worked together and solved it because those were their friends out their. They did it with a slide rule. And just think, they were never taught "21st century skills"! They had integrity. You do your job and you do it well. You don't lie you don't cheat and you do your duty in spite of any obstacles. You're not a victim or a whiner, you're a doer.

INDIVIDUALISM: It's great to be able to communicate in this world of texting, blogging, face booking, tweeting, and every other form of communication, but let's learn to spell and write and use grammar because we have some pride in who we are as an individual. Who we are as a human being, not who we are as part of some constant group which constantly changes with each new project in every class. Kids who have pride in their individual accomplishments will grow up to be adults with initiative and pride in themselves. Then they can be proud of themselves as part of their family, their school and part of that one most wonderful group, proud of themselves as Americans.

Have no doubt that whomever this "genius" is that knows what the 21st century will be and knows what our kids should learn is looking for a "paradigm shift," as our curriculum director never fails to remind us. I didn't even know what a paradigm shift was until 1992 when Hillary Clinton introduced GOALS 2000. But what it is, is a change in business as usual in our schools. Not an evolutionary change that appreciates what our schools are and have done (think Apollo 13, landing on the moon, building the nation) but a revolutionary change in beliefs and attitudes that I believe will not only destroy our children's education, but will destroy the greatest nation that is and ever will be on this earth. Think losing your freedom as these 21st century" geniuses" strive for their utopia.

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