When Rigor Collides With Wonder

February 12, 2014

As in all campaigns in which fear and brainwashing are essential components, corporate education reform is highly dependent on and makes great use of repetition. As such, teachers across America have been forced to read, listen to, and at times regurgitate the same language — never our own — endlessly to please the current education overlords who, being non educators, are radically different from those who came before them.

I assure you the current overlords are not easily pleased.

Consider Commissioner John King or Secretary of Education Arne Duncan — not to mention those like Bill Gates and Eli Broad, from whom people like King and Duncan receive their orders.

One of the more disturbing and disturbingly repeated words one hears in school these days is “rigor.” Teachers need to demand and model rigor. Students must display rigor. Lessons must be built on rigor. There need be rigor all over the place. Just as the experimental Common Core State Standards are suddenly absolutely essential for our kids to be “college and career ready”, so too must teachers and students approach the sacred Core with ceaseless rigor. If not, the mantra goes, how in the world will they ever compete for jobs in the super savage new global economy?

Personally, I am appalled by the use of such a word in schools, no less now, in fact, then when I first encountered it at least 1000 usages ago. Consider its various meanings:

a (1) : harsh inflexibility in opinion, temper, or judgment : severity (2) : the quality of being unyielding or inflexible : strictness (3) : severity of life : austerity
b : an act or instance of strictness, severity, or cruelty
2: a tremor caused by a chill
3: a condition that makes life difficult, challenging, or uncomfortable; especially : extremity of cold
4: strict precision : exactness
5a obsolete : rigidity, stiffness
b : rigidness or torpor of organs or tissue that prevents response to stimuli
c : rigor mortis

Such a word could only have found its way into education by someone who has no experience whatsoever in education and no understanding of it. I have been told by many that the demand that this particular word be used and used and used comes from non other than monopolist Bill Gates, which makes perfect sense, given the way this man conducts his life as well as his fierce desire to conduct the life of everyone else on the planet.

I had an encounter with the word this morning. Or rather, I had an encounter with the success of the incessant propaganda that has been rammed into my head for the past two years concerning this thing called “rigor.” It was a disturbing revelation that repetition works, and works without you hardly being aware of it.

At first.

What happened was this: as my lesson ended and I and my students prepared to leave my room, one of my charges had wandered over to the window of my classroom and stood there looking at the window, motionless. I called to him by name once, twice, three times, but he moved not a muscle. I could feel anger welling up within me as I walked to the window to confront him on his disrespect and for screwing up my rigorous schedule and theirs. We had to move. Now. No time for dilly-dallying.

When I got to the window and looked at him looking out the window I was instantly disarmed: I encountered a face in something like rapture. I encountered a child in wonder.
“Look! “ he said to me, never moving his head and pointing. “Look! How beautiful! The snow! It’s everywhere!” He pointed here and there on the snow covered playground which a fourth floor window afforded an angle he’d not seen before.

The other children heard the elation in his voice and rushed over to where we stood. They began to peer out the window, ooing and ahhing. Suddenly, where there was one child there was a crowd of kids, big eyed and smiling, being children, happy.

It was an extremely humbling and revealing moment. And it was deeply moving. And it was beautiful.

It made me feel shame for the impatience I had felt for this child only a moment before. And it made me loathe that much the more the damned fools that have hijacked our school system and rammed their sadistic, ignorant notions down our throats and into our heads so that we, in turn, ram them down the throats and into the heads of innocent children.
And it made me that much more determined to expose and expel them.

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7 Responses to “When Rigor Collides With Wonder”

  1. Sean Ahern Says:

    Rigor equals death. It is the watchword of the new scholasticism bankrolled by the oligarchs. Once again Patrick you peel back the cloak and with great insight and feeling push us to think and hope again.

  2. ileneonwords Says:

    Yes, that horrid word, “rigor” has been around for years. I remember the phrase, “embedded with rigor,” I think that’s how it went. It is all so much BS, smoke & mirrors!!! The wonderment your student demonstrated was reality and a beautiful moment. I’m glad I’m retired from the NYC school system.

  3. Michael Fiorillo Says:

    It’s interesting, and not in a good way, that “rigor” should be the key word for the CCSS, when the most notable feature of children, and what makes them the learning sponges they are, is the “plasticity,” to use the neuroscientist’s term, of their minds. That, combined with their innate curiosity, is part of what makes teaching the great pleasure it can be.

    Gates and his ilk, who are both masters and captives of the panopticon of greed and power lust that now rules public education, can do nothing but project their own twisted fantasies of power and control onto these beautiful children, placing them and their teachers on a forced march toward harsh inflexibility, severity and austerity.


  4. Reblogged this on Timbered Classrooms… and commented:
    “…One of the more disturbingly repeated words one hears in school these days is “rigor.” Teachers need to demand rigor. Students must display rigor. Lessons must be built on rigor. There need be rigor all over the place. Just as the experimental Common Core State Standards are suddenly absolutely essential for our kids to be “college and career ready”, so too must teachers and students approach the sacred Core with ceaseless rigor. If not, the mantra goes, how in the world will they ever compete for jobs in the super savage new global economy?

    Personally, I am appalled by the use of such a word in schools, no less now, in fact, than when I first encountered it at least 1000 usages ago. Consider its various meanings:

    a (1) : harsh inflexibility in opinion, temper, or judgment : severity (2) : the quality of being unyielding or inflexible : strictness (3) : severity of life : austerity
    b : an act or instance of strictness, severity, or cruelty
    2: a tremor caused by a chill
    3: a condition that makes life difficult, challenging, or uncomfortable; especially : extremity of cold
    4: strict precision : exactness
    5a obsolete : rigidity, stiffness
    b : rigidness or torpor of organs or tissue that prevents response to stimuli
    c : rigor mortis…”


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