This is funny. From Scholastic Administrator story on Finland:
“One anecdote that truly illuminates the difference between U.S. and Finnish culture came when visitors asked librarians how they filter the Internet for students. Finnish educators didn’t understand the question, Walker says, because the concept was so foreign to them. Finally, the two responses the group got were, ‘Students know these computers are for learning,’ and ‘The filters are in students’ heads.’”
I’ve been reading Richard Ford’s novel Canada, told from the perspective of a 15-year-old boy whose parents—unexpectedly, disastrously—rob a bank in 1960 in North Dakota. Damn, this is some fine writing.
One paragraph in particular encapsulates what separates human beings who recover from trauma and those who do not. It is almost a trick of the imagination, a kind of elegant delusion that changes everything. The boy and his sister have just visited their parents in jail, for what would be the first and last time. They are alone and abandoned in the world, and yet the boy makes a decision, as they stand on a bridge, staring out at the Missouri River:
“I wondered, for just that moment, if we were like that: small, fixed figures being ordered around by forces greater than ourselves. I decided we weren’t. Whether we liked it or even knew it, we were accountable only to ourselves now, not to some greater design….And by then I was well on my way to knowing how to subordinate one thing to another—a lesson the game of chess teaches you, and does so almost immediately. The events that made all the difference to our parents’ lives were becoming secondary to the events carrying me onward from that August day….I believe that’s ... why I felt freed…why my heart was beating hard with exhilaration.”
It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a grown-up author occupy the voice of a teenager so completely. That is hard to do. I keep having to remind myself that this experience did not actually happen to Richard Ford. It is fiction, which makes it brilliant.
I’ll be giving a talk about The Unthinkable at the 9/11 Tribute Center in Manhattan on May 14 at 6:30 pm. It’s been 12 years since I began interviewing disaster survivors all over the world, starting in New York City on Sept. 11, 2001. I am honored to be returning to this complicated place carrying a message of hope. Please join me if you can make it.
Marc Tucker explains why Americans are so burnt-out on tests that they might cannibalize the Common Core—the best thing to happen in American education in a long while.
“American teachers’ experience of testing is very different from that of their counterparts in the top-performing countries. They see cheap tests, unrelated to what they teach and incapable of measuring the things they really care about, being used to determine their fate and that of their students. What is ironic about this is that, because these other countries do much less accountability testing than we do, they can afford to spend much more on the tests they do use, and so are getting much better tests at costs that are probably no greater than what we are spending for our cheap tests.”
American students, teachers and parents are sick of tests and rightly so. For years, they’ve been bombarded with ridiculous, dumbed-down tests that waste class time and demoralize everyone.
Now some are taking their rage out on the Common Core, a new set of voluntary, rigorous standards designed by educators around the country.
That is a mistake, understandable as it may be. And it’s one that could grow into a tragedy over the next year if things continue as they are.
Here’s what we know for sure: The U.S. urgently needs more rigorous standards aligned to international benchmarks. That is what the Common Core does. I have traveled to the most impressive school systems in the world, and their standards look a lot like the Common Core.
But to sell this idea to a wary public, the proponents of the Common Core need to make a deal: In exchange for subjecting students and teachers to new tests, ones which will be harder (since that is what happens when things get, er, harder), they need to give something up. Cancel other tests. Reduce the total number of testing days by half.
And please, for the love of God, insist that the new Common Core tests are actually smarter. There must be essays, and they must be graded by humans. Enough is enough. Abandon the insulting tests and spend the money on meaningful ones. Or you will see more and more kids and parents refusing to take even smarter tests, more teachers gaming the system or just quitting their jobs, and politicians will eventually buckle under the pressure and give up on the Common Core—the most meaningful step towards rigor taken by the United States in decades.