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Common Crap in our Schools

June 27, 2012

I am so sick and tired of the language used to push education reforms. Any teacher who has been around the block a few times has seen a few of these come and go and it’s always the same bag of burning dog feces wrapped up with a different pretty bow.

I was just reading an article pushing the Common Core standards and I just want to scream. America, please tell me you aren’t so easily manipulated!

Ok, before I put something out there that will prevent me from finding any future employment let me say that my problem has nothing to do with the actual standards. In theory, they actually have some merit.  My problem is the underhanded and manipulative violation of the English language being used to promote this nonsense.

The article I read talked about some brilliant and creative young teachers who were coming up with innovative ways to help motivate and educate students.

My Problem: Standards and strategies are two completely different things.  This article had nothing to do with Common Core, it was just a couple of stories about some great teachers doing great things.  Just because your school implements Common Core Standards does mot mean that every bit of good that happens there is purely the result of Common Core Standards!  But down in my stomach I know that thousands of teachers read the article and said to themselves “Wow, that teacher handled that situation in a really interesting and effective way! Common Core is great!  Let me get in on that!”

If any of you are familiar with the comedian Lewis Black, please imagine me responding with the same level of frustration, confusion and mental instability when I say

“Are you f*&^%ng serious?! Those weren’t the god damn standards; that was just a teacher bribing a student with food! Just because a f&*^%Ng pack of fruit snacks contains 100% of your daily vitamin C doesn’t make it a standards based biology lesson!”

To take this madness disguised as the Easter bunny even further, we teachers are presented ad nauseam with one of the most ridiculous pieces of administrative crap ever created (and I don’t fault the administrators, they are just saying it because they can’t afford to lose their jobs either).

“best practices”

Jesus Christ almighty! If our students ever sat in on a faculty meeting they would laugh in our faces. What the hell does that mean? What human being doesn’t attempt to use “best practices” in every gosh darn thing they do? What is next, publishing a book of “best practices” for wiping your ass?

I can picture it now; mothers all over America criticizing their children (and husbands) for not implementing ‘best practices’ while using the bathroom upon noticing a little urine on the seat.

What is being said here? While the purpose may be to share new and innovative ways to educate our children, what is really being drilled in our brains is “your teaching sucks, you need to do it my way”. Teachers aren’t angry and cynical because of rowdy students or low pay – it is the result of a system that is just as demeaning to our intelligence as we can sometimes unintentionally be to our own students. It is a cycle of implied superiority that creates an atmosphere of resentment, low self-confidence and frustration at every level.

The part that really gets me mad is that there really isn’t any person to be mad at; no focal point for my anger. Administrators care just as much about students as us teachers, and they are just as annoyed with the state of education in our country.

We are all trying to fix things, but we need to remember that it isn’t the people that need to be fixed, it is the system itself. The challenge is that we live in a world where everyone takes things so personally. You can’t criticize anything without criticizing every person that was involved in its creation or implementation. So we are left with the choice between holding back our words or preparing to do battle. It doesn’t need to be this way. Most of us are probably familiar with “the four agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz;

  • Be impeccable with your word
  • Don’t take anything personally
  • Don’t make assumptions
  • Always do your best

I have put extensive thought into these wise words but have always found the philosophy redundant. If we all simply learn not to take anything personally I believe the other three become quite irrelevant. Think about it – it is a revelation far more meaningful when you connect the dots by yourself so I am going to avoid discussing it any further.

That said, as we are in a world that takes everything personally, you should probably also try a little harder to be impeccable with your words, you idiot.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. June 27, 2012 8:28 pm

    True educational reform begins when current administrators are replace by teachers who would be the most reluctant leaders. People are drawn to powerful positions for very highly selfish reasons. Native American tribesmen knew this. Hence, the Great Chiefs were selected from the wisest of the tribe who least wanted to rule. We need to get teachers back into administrative positions, and kick out all the businessmen who went to “CEO school.” As Socrates said, “the philosophers should rule the city,” and so should they lead the institutions responsible for educating our young.

    Keep that pen going!

    Dr. Joseph Lennox

    • June 28, 2012 7:32 pm

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I do believe in my heart that most administrators in education are drawn to their positions with a desire to help young people. I just think that in their desire to make things better for children they sometimes forget to have the same faith in the teachers that they want us teachers to have in our students.

  2. June 27, 2012 8:38 pm

    This was hilarious and on point Matt! I often wonder what happened to common sense when it came to education. I have five generations of educators in my family, starting with those who began teaching in the early 20th century. The older educators in my family often comment that they were glad that they retired before all of these seemingly endless and unnecessary standards and practices replaced basic teaching. I have several friends, all great teachers, who are so inundated with all of these standards that they can barely do their jobs. I have to agree with Dr. Lennox here–there needs to be a complete replacement of these bureaucrats who know nothing about what really goes on in any classroom. FYI: I love Lewis Black, by the way.

    • June 28, 2012 7:27 pm

      Thanks as always Leslye. Whenever you mention your family I imagine being a fly on the wall during a holiday dinner or family reunion. I imagine the conversations are fascinating and hillarious.

      • June 28, 2012 10:20 pm

        You hit the nail on the head Matt!! The family discussions are Intellectual and funny all at the same time! There was never a better group of debaters (LOL)!

  3. June 28, 2012 5:39 am

    LOL. Great diatribe Matt! I have had to attend meetings about the Common CORE and work on the changes to our curriculum. I can be very facetious in meetings and not always politically correct, so as an English (now English Language Arts) teacher, or ELA teacher for the acronym happy administrators, I had to ask: “Will I still be teaching reading and writing?”

    After 23 years, I have learned to do as my students do. I nod, agree, say, “Great Idea!” then teach in my own style as if every child in my class was my own. Try not to let the “pointy – hair” bosses from Dilbert ruin your day and enjoy the ride with the kids!

    • June 28, 2012 6:43 am

      I was actually thinking of you when I wrote this so I am glad you read and commented. Feel free to share this with your department at the beginning of PD to lighten the mood before you are required to regurgitate some common crap.


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