Skip to comments.Common Core: Orwellian Lessons in Florida
Posted on 01/19/2013 7:36:06 AM PST by Kaslin
Ask any college freshman what he knows about communism and he will likely engage in a word association game.
The red scare, McCarthyism, he will blurt out, displaying lessons well-learned from his textbooks and teachers.
One way to go beyond the idea of communism as evidence of paranoia, though, is to recall George Orwells Animal Farm. All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others will be the phrase students recall. Students seem to get that from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs never works out in reality from this fictional work.
This novel shows how literature can sometimes demonstrate historical realities better than many textbooks.
But with the Obama administrations unconstitutional program of nationalizing education, students will not likely be able to experience the insights and pleasures of novels, like Orwells. In 2009, during the economic crisis, states were offered part of the $4.35 billion in stimulus funds in a hurried contest called Race to the Top. After the initial application, they were told that they would have to adhere to national standards and testing called Common Core, sight unseen, and without any legislative input. Forty-eight states signed on initially; today, 45 states are committed to CCalthough citizens and teachers are organizing against it.
The standards, now in place for math and English, emphasize work and career readiness--that is for workers who see themselves as global citizens unacquainted with their national and cultural heritage. This became apparent as I read the recent article, Teachers Get Help with Common Core Lessons Through (sic) CPALMS, at the NPR site. This was also because one of the CPALMS lessons for English/Language Arts was on Animal Farm.
The article explained that as Common-Core aligned assessments and textbooks are being written, the state of Florida is using a federal Race to the Top grant from the Department of Education to develop a site of resources for teachers who are scrambling to adhere to the new standards.
Pinnellas County School Superintendant Mike Grego recently told the Florida State Board of Education that there is no resistance to Common Core. At the same time, Floridas new state superintendant, Tony Bennett, is steamrolling in the curriculum. Bennett, by the way, lost reelection in Indiana, many believe, because of his support for Common Core.
The lack of resistance may very well be due to the behind-the-scenes maneuvering by the Department of Education that bypassed state legislatures and public input, often gaining the support of Republicans with vague promises of rigor and uniform standards. Most in the politically informed Tea Party Manatee audience before whom I spoke on the evening of January 8 were not aware of this federal takeover of education.
Among the points I made are those from my recent report for Accuracy in Media. National tests (being written by close, like-minded colleagues of terrorist-turned-education-professor Bill Ayers, like Stanford education professor Linda Darling-Hammond) will eventually nullify the idea of private schools and even home schools. Some Catholic and other religious schools are already beginning to adopt Common Core standards as they see college entrance exams being written to CC specifications. The 45 participating states are also required to keep data bases of students from cradle to career--to use Education Secretary Arne Duncans favorite phrase--and submit them to the federal government, in effect making a national database.
Some conservative organizations have protested this unconstitutional power grab by the Department of Education.
But the mandate to replace literature in English classes with informational textswith only half the time allotted to literature, and reduced to only 30 percent by the last two years of high schoolcaught the attention of even the liberal media. They became alarmed that favorites like To Kill a Mockingbird and Catcher in the Rye are to be replaced by such things as EPA directives.
Spokesmen tried to alleviate fears. They directed skeptics to the standards: the Standards require a certain critical content for all students including classic myths and stories from around the world, Americas Founding Documents, foundational American literature, and Shakespeare. Plus, they intentionally do not offer a reading list. David Coleman the well-connected new president of the College Board, which writes and administers college entrance exams, has pointed to these caveats, and repeated the claim that the standards call for evidence-based writing instead of writing based on personal experience and feelings. (See the very funny takedown by the Pioneer Institutes James Stergios of how the advocate of close reading, David Coleman, mixed up Federalist 51 and 10 in an instructional video.)
Animal Farm would seem to fall into the category of classical literature that the bureaucrats and educrats refer to in attempts to mollify critics. Those who wrote the ninth and tenth-grade lesson plans for CPALMS (Collaborate, Plan, Align, Learn, Motivate, Share) seemed to have this in mind. First, the novel is put into the broad category of fables from Aesop, with a list of those usually taught to young children like The Tortoise and the Hare. In typical Common Core fashion, students are to search out elements of a fable and then mechanically fill in a chart that is provided as a hand-out in the lesson plan.
Did anyone consider, though, that the comparison to a fable for preschoolers might be insulting to teenagers? The teachers version of the chart has the blanks filled in, with the element of the problem described as Power can make the animals corrupt; they struggle to take care of the farm and with leadership. The resolution is The farm ends up being worse with the animals in control because of too much power and corruptness by the pigs. The moral/lesson is Power Corrupts, and Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely. (The source for this quotation, the conservative historian Lord Acton, is not mentioned, however.)
All this is very general. And when one compares it to other sample lessons in Common Core and its standards, one sees that it is deliberately so. While one small mention is made in a sheet on the elements of a fable that Animal Farm is satirized Stalinist Communism, in particular, and totalitarianism, in general it is clear that the novel is to be taught in a historic vacuum. The pointed criticisms of communism are generalized to an indictment of a vague sense of too much power.
This exercise recalls one that gave consternation to teachers when they were instructed to read Lincolns Gettysburg Address without emotion and without providing any historical context. Common Core reduces all texts to one level: the Gettysburg Address to the EPAs Recommended Levels of Insulation. This leveling is demonstrated in another lesson plan at CPALMS that involves the historical young adult novel Kidnapped in Key West, where teachers are told to avoid giving any background context or instructional guidance at the outset of the lesson while students are reading the text chorally. This kind of close reading presumably forces students to rely exclusively on the text instead of privileging background knowledge and levels the playing field for all students as they seek to comprehend the text.
Leveling the playing field is a primary objective of the Obama Department of Education, and Common Core presents a means to do so by encouraging such close or deep reading. Reading the text chorally, which Merriam-Webster defines as "sung," implies reading aloud in unison. It ensures that all students, including struggling readers, are brought along with the group. Such objectives are in line with Darling-Hammonds educational agenda. The former Obama education transition team director is in charge of using $176 in Race-to-the-Top funds to develop tests for one of two consortia and is implementing her five-dimensional grading rubric of personal responsibility, social responsibility, communication skills, application of knowledge, and critical and creative thinking. This assessment philosophy had the dubious distinction of placing her Stanford New Schools on Californias list of the lowest-achieving five percent. Now about half of American students will be required to take her tests.
The sample test questions released by her consortia give no indication that acquisition of knowledge is important. As I noted in my other reports, social responsibility is the aim of the new curriculum materials being developed. They follow Arne Duncans stated purpose for schools: to be part of the battle for social justice.
Many have been fooled by rhetoric that simply repeats the talking points of the Department of Education and the well-connected leftists in the education field who will profit from our tax dollars by selling teacher training, software and hardware, and Common Core-aligned curricula. Bernie Reeves even called David Coleman an education hero in American Thinker. I thought it might be a satire, or Newspeak.
Duncan, who worked with Bill Ayers in Chicago on education issues, is on the same page, as is Darling-Hammond. Obamas signature education initiative has been dubbed Obama Core for good reason. It is an Orwellian re-education campaign.
Floridas sample lesson for teaching, among all things, Animal Farm, provides an illustration of how this is being done.
Holy Crike! The only way this will work is for homeschooling to be outlawed, just like in Europe. Private/Religious schools won’t receive accreditation if they don’t cooperate. Home Schooling is the only way to save our children. So, your kid doesn’t get to go to college - Big Woop! Knowing what I know now, how could I recommend it. All but a handful are nothing more than indoctrination camps that are set up to make money on huge student loans that the taxpayers are on the hook for.
Young people, get out there and learn a trade. As long as you can get yourself to a library, there is no reason you can’t educate yourself.
As I look back on my high school education in the early 1960s, it was pretty worthless. I graduated 21 out of 500 and was totally naive and ignorant. I read Catcher in the Rye and Animal Farm and had no clue of any deeper meaning - what context did a 17 year old have for any of that? Total waste — the first wave of Leftie teachers were infiltrating the schools back then, and they had their marching orders ...
The average citizen has no idea what this is. When I mention it, they look at me like I am crazy. Maybe I am, but this is happening right under their noses and nobody seems to notice what is going on in the schools that their own children attend.
Then I'd best pique some interest...
Party ownership of the print media
made it easy to manipulate public opinion,
and the film and radio carried the process further.
16. Ministry Of Truth
The Ministry of Truth, Winston's place of work, contained, it was said, three thousand rooms above ground level, and corresponding ramifications below.
The Ministry of Truth concerned itself with Lies. Party ownership of the print media made it easy to manipulate public opinion, and the film and radio carried the process further.
The primary job of the Ministry of Truth was to supply the citizens of Oceania with newspapers, films, textbooks, telescreen programmes, plays, novels - with every conceivable kind of information, instruction, or entertainment, from a statue to a slogan, from a lyric poem to a biological treatise, and from a child's spelling-book to a Newspeak dictionary.
Winston worked in the RECORDS DEPARTMENT (a single branch of the Ministry of Truth) editing and writing for The Times. He dictated into a machine called a speakwrite. Winston would receive articles or news-items which for one reason or another it was thought necessary to alter, or, in Newspeak, rectify. If, for example, the Ministry of Plenty forecast a surplus, and in reality the result was grossly less, Winston's job was to change previous versions so the old version would agree with the new one. This process of continuous alteration was applied not only to newspapers, but to books, periodicals, pamphlets, posters, leaflets, films, sound-tracks, cartoons, photographs - to every kind of literature or documentation which might conceivably hold any political or ideological significance.
When his day's work started, Winston pulled the speakwrite towards him, blew the dust from its mouthpiece, and put on his spectacles. He dialed 'back numbers' on the telescreen and called for the appropriate issues of The Times, which slid out of the pneumatic tube after only a few minutes' delay. The messages he had received referred to articles or news-items which for one reason or another it was thought necessary to rectify.
In the walls of the cubicle there were three orifices. To the right of the speakwrite, a small pneumatic tube for written messages; to the left, a larger one for newspapers; and on the side wall, within easy reach of Winston's arm, a large oblong slit protected by a wire grating. This last was for the disposal of waste paper. Similar slits existed in thousands or tens of thousands throughout the building, not only in every room but at short intervals in every corridor. For some reason they were nicknamed memory holes. When one knew that any document was due for destruction, or even when one saw a scrap of waste paper lying about, it was an automatic action to lift the flap of the nearest memory hole and drop it in, whereupon it would be whirled away on a current of warm air to the enormous furnaces which were hidden somewhere in the recesses of the building.
As soon as Winston had dealt with each of the messages, he clipped his speakwritten corrections to the appropriate copy of The Times and pushed them into the pneumatic tube. Then, with a movement which was as nearly as possible unconscious, he crumpled up the original message and any notes that he himself had made, and dropped them into the memory hole to be devoured by the flames.
What happened in the unseen labyrinth to which the tubes led, he did not know in detail, but he did know in general terms. As soon as all the corrections which happened to be necessary in any particular number of The Times had been assembled and collated, that number would be reprinted, the original copy destroyed, and the corrected copy placed on the files in its stead.
In the cubicle next to him the little woman with sandy hair toiled day in day out, simply at tracking down and deleting from the Press the names of people who had been vaporized and were therefore considered never to have existed. And this hall, with its fifty workers or thereabouts, was only one-sub-section, a single cell, as it were, in the huge complexity of the Records Department. Beyond, above, below, were other swarms of workers engaged in an unimaginable multitude of jobs.
There were huge printing-shops and their sub editors, their typography experts, and their elaborately equipped studios for the faking of photographs. There was the tele-programmes section with its engineers, its producers and its teams of actors specially chosen for their skill in imitating voices; clerks whose job was simply to draw up lists of books and periodicals which were due for recall; vast repositories where the corrected documents were stored; and the hidden furnaces where the original copies were destroyed.
And somewhere or other, quite anonymous, there were the directing brains who co-ordinated the whole effort and laid down the lines of policy which made it necessary that this fragment of the past should be preserved, that one falsified, and the other rubbed out of existence.