Saturday, September 28, 2013

* Cloaked in "The Common Core," Bill and Melinda Gradgrind Seize Control of American Education

LINK to The Gradgrind Foundation

(excerpted below)

The Common Bore
Mr. Hirsch’s newfound popularity comes largely because of the Common Core, a set of learning goals for kindergarten through 12th grade that have been adopted by almost every state in the last few years.

Mr. Hirsch [E.D. Hirsch] was already an accomplished scholar of literature, and head of the English department at the University of Virginia, when he began formulating the ideas that would become “Cultural Literacy.” He said that if poor students were ever to achieve equity in American society, they needed to be taught a core body of knowledge. Most of the book was a mixture of research, cognitive psychology and a call to action. But what made it famous was the appendix, known as “The List.”
Its 5,000 facts, names and concepts, which read like an index to human history and culture, served as an inventory of what he and his colleagues thought essential for success in America. The list began with “1066,” ended with “Zurich” and included, just to name a few terms Mr. Hirsch thought you should know, “Babbitt,” “Dachau,” “faux pas,” “Houston, Sam” and “Houston, Tex.,” “I-beam,” “Pickwickian,” “Spare the rod and spoil the child,” “Trappist monks,” “Turkey in the Straw,” “vanishing point” and “vasectomy.”

“Cultural Literacy” vaulted to the top of best-seller lists, where it sat alongside another book that saw education losing its backbone, “The Closing of the American Mind,” by Allan Bloom. But it was eviscerated as promoting a Eurocentric view of the world, and elevating rote memorization over critical thought.

A critic from those days, Henry A. Giroux, (LINK), Henry A. Giroux, said his sentiments about Mr. Hirsch’s theories were unchanged. “He is normalizing a view of teaching and content which, in the current moment, enshrines the standardization of knowledge and assessment, which I believe is very deadly for what it means for students to learn and think creatively and critically,” said Mr. Giroux, a professor of English and cultural studies at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. “There is a corporate-driven, pedagogical machine out there that would reduce classroom learning to rote memorization, embraces high-stakes testing and derides any kind of critical pedagogy as a pathology.”

No comments: