Thanks to DEDOE twitter feed I found this:
Delaware Teacher Jennifer Hollstein on Common Core
Evidence of our irrational fears:
- Killer bees
- The hype surrounding the Common Core
We are a culture of worriers. Just turn on the news and you’ll hear that “experts fear” pretty much everything and that “new studies warn” us that life is scary at every turn. Lately, the Common Core has been the media target. The reports and comments about these standards have been so extreme that, as a practicing teacher, I can only laugh at the incongruity between the myth and the reality.
For example, one educational blogger wrote that the Common Core was scarier than the end of the world, natural disasters and zombies (yes, he said “zombies”). As a person who teaches these standards each day, I can assure you that I would be far more frightened if a tornado swept up my classroom or if my students turned pale and began twitching and groaning than if they determined the central ideas of a text or evaluated the specific claims in an argument.
When conservative author and constitutional lawyer Phyllis Schlafly claimed that the Common Core would “dumb down children so they will be obedient servants to the government,” I could only visualize what she must think occurs behind the scenes. Imagine our very own Governor Markell, a leader in this educational reform, sitting on a gilded throne wearing a crown and cape, tapping his fingertips together and shouting “mwahahaha” as he plans to make Delaware’s children dependent on the state. Is this really a theory we are willing to invest in?
As a high school English teacher in a top-performing school, I can assure you that I am not “dumbing it down” in order to produce the robots, zombies and infidels of the future. Instead, I am focusing more deeply on critical thinking skills, modern researching skills, and the identification of fallacious reasoning and distorted evidence. Now, that last one should make Schlafly worry!
Also, I’d like to address this idea that the English teachers can no longer teach fiction as if the government is ripping classics from our clenched hands. In my classroom, Hawthorne’s Scarlet Letter, Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Twain’s Pudd’nhead Wilson and Wilson’s The Piano Lesson (among others) are very much alive. Alongside the novels, my students read primary nonfiction sources to support these texts, such as Edward’s “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” sermon, the Jim Crow Laws and King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.
Finally, my students have not been transformed into deserts, barren of all creativity. They continue to thrive as they write before-and-after scenes for The Scarlet Letter, mirroring Hawthorne’s complex ideas and language. They flourish as they create podcasts of great American speeches, writing witty banter to complement their multifaceted analysis. They perform their own original works, competing in poetry slams as they develop their presentation skills. Despite the hype that the Common Core will turn them into phantom menaces, they are thinking, breathing, dynamic human beings, and I am proud to be their teacher.
Jennifer has 14 years of experience teaching in Delaware schools. She currently teaches English at The Charter School of Wilmington. One of her greatest passions is encouraging students to problem-solve, plan and create in a group setting, which has led her to design innovative electives such as Think Tank that inspire her students to actively find solutions to problems they see in their community.
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