Standards circus: Who’s the clown?

An “ideological circus” is burying the “sensible idea” of common standards in “hysterical claims and fevered accusations,” writes David Brooks. (Beware of mixed metaphors and “descending” circuses.)

“Common Core education standards are being attacked on the right because they are common and on the left because they are core,” according to Brooks. He  sees no legitimate reason to oppose the new standards, which are “clearly superior” to the old ones.

The column amounts to “backseat driving in the clown car,” responds Aaron Barlow in Academe Blog.

North Korean math: n gory bastards

A math problem from a North Korean textbook pops up in a Christian Science Monitor review of The Real North Korea, a new book by Andrei Lankov.

“During the Fatherland Liberation War [North Korea’s official name for the Korean War] the brave uncles of Korean People’s Army killed 265 American Imperial bastards in the first battle,” reads one question.

“In the second battle they killed 70 more bastards than they had in the first battle. How many bastards did they kill in the second battle? How many bastards did they kill altogether?”

I wonder if they work in groups to solve the problem.

Needed: More ideologues, less kumbaya

“Can’t we all just get along?” asked Rodney King. No, answers Matt Barnum on Dropout Nation. School reformers and traditionalists have different ideas on “what’s best for kids.”  Ideas matter.

A Teach for America alum, he criticizes TFA President Wendy Kopp for writing, “We have to stop thinking of ourselves as locked in an ideological battle and focus on doing everything in our power to give students today the education they deserve.”

. . . Kopp seems to create a dichotomy between ideologues –those “locked in an ideological battle” – on the one hand, and those who want to do what’s best for kids, on the other. In actuality, ideologues not only want what’s best for kids, they actually have ideas – some good, some bad – for how to achieve results. Reformers emphasize school choice, parental empowerment, and teacher quality; traditionalists focus on class size, early-childhood education, and wrap-around services.

It seems to me that part of the problem in education is not too many, but rather, too few ideologues.

Traditionalist Diane Ravitch and union leader Karen Lewis have engaged in increasingly vicious attacks, writes Barnum. Reformers have employed “harmful and distasteful rhetoric.”  He favors “discussing ideas over demeaning people.”

At times, compromise may be necessary Barnum concedes. But not always. An “uncompromising, ideological vision of change to our education system may, in fact, be what’s best for kids.”