Two Moms Against Common Core

Friday, November 15, 2013

High school student Ethan Young knocks down Common Core!

 Powerful testimony opposing Common Core from a high school student in Tennessee.  Thank you Ethan Young for inspiring many and giving people across the nation hope in the future of America.

Read or watch below.

In a mere 5 minutes, I hope to provide insightful comments about a variety of educational topics. I sincerely hope you disprove the research I've compiled.

Here's a history of the Common Core: in 2009, the National Governors' Association and Council of Chief State Officers partnered with Achieve, Inc., a nonprofit that received million in funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Thus,the initiative *seemed* to spring from states, when, in reality, it was contrived by an insular group of educational executives, with only 2 academic content specialists. Neither content specialist approved the final standards,and the English consultant, Dr. Sandra Stotsky, publicly stated she felt the standards left students with an "empty skill set," lacking literary knowledge. While educators and administrators were later included in the validation committee and feedback groups, they did not play a role in the actual drafting of the standards. The product is a "rigorous preparation for career and college," yet many educators agree that "rigorous" is a buzzword. These standards aren't rigorous, just different, designed for an industrial model of school. Nevertheless, Common Core emerged. Keep in mind,the specific standards were never voted upon by Congress, the Department of Education, state or local governments. Yet, their implementation was approved by 49 states and territories. The president essentially bribed states into implementation via Race to The Top, offering 4.35 billion taxpayer dollars to participating states, $500 million of which went to Tennessee. And, much like No Child Left Behind, the program promises national testing and a one-size-fits-all education because, hey, it worked really well the first time[laughter from audience].

While I do admire some aspects of the Core, such as fewer standards and an emphasis on application in writing, it's not going to fix our academic deficit. If nothing else, these standards are a glowing conflict of interest, and they lack the research they allegedly received. And most importantly, the standards illustrate a mistrust of teachers, something I believe this county has already felt for a while [cheers and applause]. I've been fortunate enough to have incredible educators that open my eyes to the joy of learning, and I love them like my family; I respect them entirely. Which is why it frustrates me to {I didn't really understand this part, even though I played it over and over.Maybe it'll sound familiar to you} review the team in Apex Evaluation Systems(???). These subjective anxiety-producers do more to damage a teacher's self-esteem than you realize [cheers, applause]. Erroneous evaluation, coupled with strategic compensation, presents a punitive model that, as a student, is like watching your teacher jump through flaming hoops to earn a score. Have we forgotten the nature of a classroom? A teacher cannot be evaluated without his students, because, as a craft, teaching is an interaction. Thus, how can you expect to gauge a teacher's success with no control for students' participation or interest? I stand before you because I care about education, but also because I want to support my teachers. And just as they fought for my academic achievement, so I want to fight for their ability to teach. This relationship is at the heart of instruction, yet there will never be a system by which it is accurately measured.

But I want to take a step back. We can argue the details ad infinitum, yet I observe a much broader issue with education today. Standards-based education is ruining the way we teach and learn. Yes, I've already been told by legislators and administrators, "Ethan that's just the way things work." But why? I'm going to answer that question. It's bureaucratic *convenience* [scattered applause]. It works with nuclear reactors, it works with business models, why can't it work with students? I mean, how convenient, calculating exactly who knows what and who needs what. I mean, why don't we just manufacture robots instead of students? They last longer, and they always do what they're told.But education is unlike any other institute in our government. The task of learning is *never* quantifiable. If everything I learned in high school was  objective, I haven't learned *anything*. I'd like to repeat that. If everything I learned in high school is a quantifiable objective, I haven't learned anything. Creativity, appreciation, inquisitiveness; these are impossible to scale, but they're the purpose of education. Why our teachers teach, why I choose to learn. And today we find ourselves in a nation that produces workers. Everything is career and college preparation. Somewhere our Founding Fathers are turning in their graves, pleading, screaming, and trying to say to us that we teach to *free minds*. We teach to inspire. We teach to equip. The careers will come naturally. I know we're just one city in a huge system that excitedly embraces numbers, but ask any of these teachers, ask any of my peers, and ask yourselves, "Haven't we gone too far with data?"[cheers, applause]

I attended tonight's meetings to share my critiques, but as Benjamin Franklin quipped, "Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain, and most fools do." The problems that I cite are very real, and I ask only that you hear them out, investigate them, and do not dismiss them as another fool's criticisms. I'll close with a quote of Jane L. Stanford, that Dr. McIntyre shared in a recent speech: "You have my entire confidence in your ability to do conscientious work to the very best advantage to the students, that they may be considered paramount to all and everything else." We're capable of fixing education, and I commit myself to that task. But you cannot ignore me,my teachers, or the truth. We need change, but not Common Core, high-stakes evaluations, or more robots. Thank you.