I suppose I have heard the phrase “college and career ready” a couple of thousand times in the last year or so. Outside of a national uprising that would send the deceitfully named Common Core State Standards back to whence they came,
I’m quite certain that, along with “rigor” and “critical thinking,” I will hear some variation of these words a few thousands times more in the next year or two. Making American students “college and career ready”, you understand, is what the Common Core State Standards are all about. (Well, that and making billions of dollars for Common Core curriculum writing companies, Common Core aligned textbook companies, Common Core aligned test making companies and Common Core computer software companies to grade the Common Core tests.)
As a goal at any rate, who can argue with making American students “career and college ready?”
“Not I”, said the Grey Goose.
And what’s more, according to its devotees, the CCSS can somehow tell if a student is on tract for “college and career readiness” as early as kindergarten! (Psssssssst. A word to the wise: most kindergarteners are not on track for “college and career”, almost certainly due to a “bad teacher” who must be removed post haste. )
Again, as a goal, who could argue with that?
Not I said the Red Hen!
(And, yes, they do seem to actually believe this madness.)
Putting aside for the moment the fact that the knowledge and skills required to have “a career” ( a career in what you may ask ? Plumbing? Carpentry? Sales? Pizza delivery person? Nurse ? ) and those needed for the demands of college are very, different things, indeed. But somehow, in some way that has yet to be explained, the magical Common Core can be applied to both.
Quite the trick.
Having never seen anything remotely approximating a definition, I myself am not really sure what it means to be “college and career ready.” I suspect being college ready has everything to do reducing or eliminating the need of inner city freshman college students for remedial courses in English and math; a need that “reformers”, as is their habit with dealing with inner city problems, have falsely insinuated is a nation-wide crisis. Still, I’m not sure. I’m also not sure how the “rigor” and “critical thinking” induced by the CCSS can possibly be measured by standardized tests which are marked by computers, which is yet another corporate windfall created by the Common Core.
Oh well, life is teeming with mysteries and there are millions of things I’m not sure about but what can you do?
But what is not so mysterious is the not –so- subtle reduction of all schools, save those of the children of the elite, to what are essentially job training programs as opposed to, say, educational institutions. And this reduction is also at work, at an ever escalating and disturbing rate, in colleges and universities: in all but the elite colleges and universities, departments of philosophy, theology, art, language, theatre, and science have all been radically reduced or eliminated altogether. Everything, that is, that has deepened and widened the human imagination and allowed civilization to make its slow, circuitous, often bloody emergence from the pit of “the war of one man against all men ” to a dignified life worth living.
This is not at all to diminish the practical aspects of education. Every parent wishes, at the very least, to see their child prepared to go to work in a decent job for decent money. With work comes dignity and a place in the world. A world without work, even temporarily, can be utterly demoralizing, that much more in America where we work longer and harder than any industrialized nation. I know. I have been unemployed – thankfully for short periods — and it is brutal.
That said, allow me to also say that there is something morally criminal in reducing the idea of education, for all but the children of the elite, to job training. If you think I exaggerate, ponder the following remarkable sentiment from non-teacher and educational entrepreneur David Coleman, considered the architect of the Common Core, at a formal presentation of the New York State Department of Education in April 2011:
“As you grow up in this world you realize people really don’t give a shit about what you feel or what you think”.
In the other countries in which I’ve lived it was simply understood that an educated person would know at least something of the subjects above and their vital importance in making life worth living. I’d bet ten to one that any child educated in Ireland will not merely know math and science but, for example, can recite poems by Yeats in their entirety and know why they are important. Ten to one that any child educated in Spain will know who Miguel de Unamuno was and what he brought into the world. Ten to one every child in Greece knows who Sappho was. What’s more, no teacher in his or her right mind believes that the study of the work of such people will help students find jobs. But that’s not the point. And that’s not the purpose of education. At any rate, it is not the only purpose and in a world where work is vanishing due to some of the same forces that are driving “education reform” — globalization and the technological takeover of everything that can be taken over — it could be argued that it is not even one that is possible.
Which leads me to my central question: Does being “college and career ready” and being educated mean the same thing? Are they even the same goals?
I think not. And not merely because I have never heard the Common Core cheerleaders once use the word “educated.” I think not because I have read the Common Core State Standards and, even putting aside the entire monstrous package deal that goes with them, I find them largely appalling. I understand completely why they are so relentlessly endorsed by the Business Round Table and the like. I understand completely that they are completely the product of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Certain questions, it seems to me, are eternally open. The question of what it means to be educated is one of them. I humbly submit a few of my thoughts on this question and invite you to add your own.
An educated person would understand that job training and education are radically different endeavors.
An educated person would have the ability to not merely choose between Coke and Pepsi but the ability to critique a system that produces such a “choice. ”
An educated person understands that technology is not science and data is information and not knowledge and that knowledge is not wisdom.
An educated person understands that technology is never value free.
An educated person would understand, on some level, the meaning of the statement “All philosophy is commentary on Plato. ” They would also know how such a statement could apply to all of the other arts and sciences.
An educated person would have at least some rudimentary knowledge of the great narratives, both secular and religious, that have shaped our world, institutions and consciousness.
An educated person would know the definitions of the words “sublime” and “transcendent “ and, even at the age of 10, be capable of articulating examples of both.
An educated person would not confuse data with reality.
An educated person would know that participation is vital in the establishment and maintenance of a functioning democracy. They would know too that when Thomas Jefferson wrote, “The Price of Freedom is Eternal Vigilance, “ he was not talking about external enemies.
Above all, an educated person would have an understanding of what is happening to him or her, why it is happening and who and what are making it happen and be able to articulate a response to what they see.
I invite you to send your own ideas on the same.