For the fourth time in as many months the stately New York Times, “the paper of record “ and all that, has published yet another remarkably uninformed opinion piece attempting to defend the deceptively named Common Core State Standards (CCSS) by discrediting those who refuse to genuflect before them.
A vast and unprecedented national experiment on American’s children, paved by sound bites and steamrolled into reality by billionaires and testing companies, the recently implemented CCSS has been furiously rejected by an ever-increasing army of parents, disgusted and dismayed at what it is doing to their children. The standards, you could say, are going over like a lead zeppelin. Except that is, at institutions like the New York Times whose writers see light where parents see darkness and crazed Tea Partiers where others see concerned parents.
And once again the New York Times, here in the person of Frank Bruni, comes to the rescue with an article titled, “Are Kids Too Coddled? ” Like every one who attempts to defend an untested experiment, Bruni, like NYT’s writers Bill Keller, Paul Krugman and Charles Blow before him, has very few hands to play. One is to repeat ad nauseum the standards creators’ stated goals of inducing critical thinking skills, making students college and career ready (as if they are the same thing) and preparing them to compete for jobs in the super savage new global economy. One must repeat these aspirations as if they are hard proven facts. Indeed, as if constant repetition makes them into hard proven facts. As of now, defenders have nothing to offer but hope, a quality that has lost a lot of its market value following the election of Barack Obama. A second strategy, and one favored by the Times and Arne Duncan, is to attack the credibility of all those who dare question the Most Holy and Sacred Core.
Bruni was inspired to action by parental reaction against Arne Duncan’s latest insult. You know, the one about the “white suburban moms” whose kids the Common Core is exposing as “not as brilliant as they thought they were.”
Bruni looks not at the CCSS itself, of which he apparently knows only what is claimed for it in press releases, but instead follows “the fevered lamentations over the Common Core” to “ look hard at some of the complaints from the parents and teachers and factor in the modern cult of self-esteem.”
In short order, Bruin determines that the problem with the CCSS is not with the CCSS itself – a self evident impossibility for New York Times opinion writers — but that parents are surrendering to the impulse to coddle their kids.
Even as I share Mr. Bruni’s disdain for the once faddish “cult of self esteem, “ I can honestly say that I have seen very, very, little evidence of such a cult in all my years teaching. What I see daily, however, is lots, and lots and lots of evidence of the cult of the Common Core. That which one shall not question. That which thou shall obey. That which knoweth all. And as for coddling, musing over their anemic arguments, I could not help but wonder if the editors of the Times are coddling their opinion writers — at least when they are writing about the Common Core.
I’m not joking. Consider Bruni’s article. Bruni begins with an anecdotal story about a silly decision made by administrators at a school near Boston, fattens it up with more meaningless anecdotes about sports leagues where no one loses and high schools with 30 valedictorians that have no conceivable connection with the rage and disgust parents feel about the effects of the CCSS on their kids. Or the intrinsic data mining. Or the high stakes testing that are part and parcel with the scheme and of which Bruni says nada. Zilch. Nothing.
As a non-coddling editor (or even a high school English teacher) I would never accept Bruni’s specious attempt to wed the wholly unconnected scenarios. I’d send him back to work. Not, it seems, the Times.
Consider that the Times were apparently fine with the fact that the only two people Bruni actually bothered to speak to — education entrepreneur and “architect of the Common Core” David Coleman and Marc Tucker, president of the National Center on Education and the Economy — could not have been more predicable or less challenging interviewees. Or had greater stakes in seeing criticisms of the CCSS dismissed as political lunacy or psychological weakness.
Were the editors of the Times worried that talking to real parents who have concluded that the CC is damaging to their children might be damaging to Bruni’s self esteem?
Consider Bruni’s s bi-partisan expansion of nut-job opponents of the CCSS complementing fellow Times writer Bill Keller’s earlier depictions of CCSS opponents,as Tea Partiers. Were the editors concerned that indisputable facts from some of the “ left-wing paranoiacs” ( Diane Ravitch, for example, along with millions of American parents) who Bruni sees “imagining some conspiracy to ultimately privatize education and create a new frontier of profits for money-mad plutocrats, — (many of whom who are named as benefactors of Tucker’s NCEE and every other “reformer” front group) “might shatter Bruni’s fragile sense of reality ?
Note to Bruni: Former Assistant Secretary of Education and Diane Ravitch’s new book, Reign of Error, is subtitled, The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools.)
Are the editors of the Times so concerned with sheltering the psyches of their opinion writers that they allow them to publish on vast, far reaching and shadowy issues like the CCSS while not requiring them to do the slightest bit of research into who funded such programs and why? And how they dare impose such a thing on an entire nation without as much as a field test ?
Will America be allowing pharmaceutical companies to do the same if desired by Bill Gates and the Business Round Table ?
I don’t know about you but such lousy writing and thinking sure smells like coddling to me.
Addendum: I learned only after I had written this piece that Bruni is a food critic, a fact that partially explains his complete ignorance of the subject on which he pontificated but does not excuse his arrogance. The fact that the New York Times allowed a food critic ample space in which to babble on about education is merely a continuation of their unstated but apparent belief that just about everyone is an expert on education excepting the people actually engaged in it on a daily basis, which is to say, teachers or, through their children, parents.
Post script: Herein is a link to an article in a mainstream news outlet reporting a secret meeting of millionaires and billionaires, among them Gates, Bloomberg and Jeb Bush, all whom are deeply involved and invested in “education reform. Mr. Gates claimed the meeting concerned the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which it may well have done. But anyone who has been in anyway following anything that has been done in education for the past decade knows the Bill and Melina Gates Foundation has bankrolled and largely dictated just about every aspect of it. They also know that Arne Duncan takes his marching orders from Gates and that the Common Core is largely the product of Gates and his Foundation. Indeed, it is impossible to conceive of “education reform” without the Foundation. This, despite the fact that Gates is a private citizen and the DOE is a vital public trust.
Given this, I would love to hear Mr. Bruni and anyone else who speaks so contemptuously of “left wing paranoia” explain this little gathering of concerned citizens.