I have been ecstatically and enthusiastically happy about being a school teacher for my entire professional life. I have been gifted the extraordinary insight to know who it is that has been sitting in front of me for the last 23 years. Never once has the thought of advancement, or administrative ladder climbing ever entered my head or my heart. When I have closed my door every school day for the last several decades, it is just me, a room full souls made in the image and
likeness of God, a mountain of odious and unused curricular materials, and what I have used without apology since the beginning, the myths, the fairy tales, Bible stories, epic poets, philosophers, the great mathematicians all to great effect and all unmeasurable by the great eye of the state overseers.
I have known for a long time that there was something dreadfully wrong with modern methods of education; I understand now that it has been the ideologues in the universities who began to treat the human students as a scientific algorithm and with self-professed genius came up with a stupid scheme like “outcomes based education” in an attempt to mine human potential with about as much chance of success as harvesting gold from a hay bail.
The nails in the coffin of my teaching career in the public schools was my 24 days of intensive training in the Common Core last year. If ever the empress was revealed to be naked, it was there in that intensive training. I don’t possess the talent or the vocabulary to adequately articulate what a farce the Common Core really is or how incredibly devoid of humanity it is in comparison with an authentic education. I make the bold claim that with the Common Core, there is no baby to throw out with the bath water.
Houdini may not have made as seamless an escape from his fetters as I did from the public schools. Two months into my new teaching position at Holy Spirit Prep in Atlanta, I feel like my family and I were swept away by a clan of giant eagles, as Tolkien would have wished for us. It was in the nick of time because this coming year was the year of full implementation of the mind-numbing curriculum we developed based on the idiotic standards proffered by the Common Core inventors and I am afraid I would have lost my remaining threads of cover and been exposed for the subversive that I am.
In my 23 years, I was never shy about expressing my opinion against the odious outcomes based education, however, my words were never received well by my bosses. I enjoyed labels, names and slanders to my reputation that really made no difference in the grand scheme of things, but all that prepared me for what I experienced this last Wednesday, September 24th, 2014, in Milledgeville, Georgia, during the House Study Committee on the Role of Federal Government in Education meeting.
It was my honor to prepare remarks concerning the state of modern education over the last 40 years and to speak truthfully about the incompetence of the entire Common Core agenda and to try to explain why. It was an extraordinary experience speaking before the committee, and I must admit that I was not prepared at all for this kind of venue. I am used to a very open, inquisitive and forgiving audience. All the details about who was there and what transpired can be accessed here. Suffice it to say I was a little fish in a big pond, but I did it anyway.
One of the most jarring things about that experience is that I should have realized that I ought not to have tried to explain the philosophical errors that undergird modern education. And though it is clear the committee understood my overarching points, like the assertion that the modern schools have failed for generations, and that the Common Core is not the answer, it was clear by the questions and answers following my presentation that some on the panel did not follow my explanation. We were in fact not speaking the same language.
It took me 20 minutes to read my remarks and then I was questioned for 20 minutes more. I felt so overwhelmed by the experience that I thought I had trouble responding to the questions. I also felt that there was hostility. However, memory influenced by sentiment makes a poor historian. When I watched the video footage this morning I learned that I didn’t handle myself as poorly as I had remembered, and that the panel was not as hostile as I had thought, at least it appeared that way on the video.
If anyone is interested the entire meeting is on video with the posted link at the bottom under “video archive” and remarkable statements were made by the likes of Joy Pullman, Sandra Stotsky, James Milgram, and Richard Innes. Then there were a few concerned parents who gave heartfelt and sensible remarks, and at the end, there were two college professors from the Georgia College and state university college of education who gave self-serving testimony. My portion begins around 5 hours and 30 minutes and goes for about 40 minutes.
I am glad I was able to speak, but in the end I don’t know that it was to good effect. In the final analysis, some on the panel were not interested in asking whether what was said was true or false but interested in discrediting the witnesses. With them, there was no real dialogue, just a probing to see if there were any chinks in the armor so that words of truth can be ignored by an overemphasis on an apparent discrepancy. In my case, a particularly obtuse parent tried to suggest that because I worked for a private school, even though I just began, that I may not be in touch with the nature of public schools. In the end this may be an exercise in futility. But still, I would rather have tried and failed than to have never tried at all.
The personal upside to this is that I got to work with the APP, to meet some very good folks. Maybe not all was in vain, because after the proceedings, one representative of the House approached me and said he appreciated my comments. He gave me his card and told me to stay in touch. He confided in me that he supports the classical model of education. Also, my daughter Kenya came with me to witness the proceedings. It was an education for her as it was for me and our class was enjoyable as we discussed it in detail on the two hour car ride.
In delusions of grandeur, I thought I would enter the House Committee and speak noble words capable of turning the hearts and minds of ardent supporters of the Common Core. In a summary of retrospect, where the view backwards yields far more sobriety, I would say that not only did I use the wrong words, I failed to understand the terms of the debate.
The problem with the entire Common Core debate is that it is taking place on the wrong grounds. An authentic education cannot be reduced to a series of political and empirically scientific arguments, as has the debate about public education in the past decades and the Common Core today. The nature of human learning concerning the development of the human person and for the common good ought to take place in at least the realm of natural law and the philosophical tradition.
The simple truth is that the proponents of Common Core have reduced the terms to the
material dialectic where the arbitrary measurable outcome becomes the summum bonum. This reduction takes the human and turns him into an animal to be trained.
What is required to resolve this educational fiasco is to wrest the debate from the death grip of the political ideologues and to take it from the playing field of materialism and return it to the sphere of natural law, where the family is truly the building block of civilization and the education of the children returns to being the transmission of civilization in the process of cultivating the virtues. The philosophy of the Common core is antithetical to this. I hope for more opportunities to try to persuade the policy makers, who I know want the best for our children and our society as we all do, that we are headed down the very wrong path.