I just finished reading the March issue of Educational Leadership published by ASCD. The March issue deals with “What do students need to learn?” in the context of the Common Core State Standards. The two articles I underlined were by Grant Wiggins and David J. Ferrero.
Grant Wiggins is probably best known for being the co-author, with Jay McTighe, of Understanding By Design. In his article titled “A Diploma Worth Having” he makes the statement: ” There’s only one valid measure of the high school curriculum: How well does it prepare students for their adult lives?”
Here’s an excerpt:
Think about it: We are on the verge of requiring every student in the United States to learn two years of algebra that they will likely never use, but no one is required to learn wellness or parenting.
The current standards movement, for all its good intentions, is perilously narrowing our definition of education, to the great harm of not only students but also entire fields of study: the arts, the technical arts and trades, and the social sciences. Gone are excellent vocational programs—as powerfully described by Matthew Crawford in Shop Class as Soul Craft (Penguin, 2010), arguably the best book on education in the last five years. Threatened are visual arts, theater, music, and dance programs despite their obvious value. Indeed, there are more musicians in this country than mathematicians, but you would never know it from the work of standards committees.
Not Which Standards, but Whose Standards
At a meeting many years ago, I heard Ted Sizer respond to a proponent of national standards, “It’s not which standards, it’s whose standards!” In other words, don’t make this sound so objective. It’s a political determination, made by whoever has a seat at the table.
You should be able to read the whole article at:
David J. Ferrero is a senior program officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and serves on the board of directors for the DC Arts and Humanities Education Collaborative in Washington, D.C.
“The Humanities: Why Such a Hard Sell?” is the title of his article.
The relevance of the humanities rests on a broader understanding of humanism, an orientation toward teaching and learning that goes beyond workforce competency and credentialing to encompass personal and civic dimensions of life. If educators take seriously the ideal of the whole child, we’ll need to work to preserve and perpetuate that humanistic spirit. Just don’t expect a lot of policy support for it.
Ferrero states that the Common Core State Standards “were developed out of a preoccupation with competitiveness and credentials. But a careful reading of the standards for the English language arts suggests that the architects consciously designed them to allow for legitimate diversity of aims and breadth of content.”
One such tool for working out these details is the set of curriculum maps developed by the coincidentally named Common Core, a nonprofit organization established in 2007 that is unrelated to the Common Core State Standards project.
Working in collaboration with teachers and content experts, Common Core the organization uses Common Core standards to create curricular units—six per grade for grades K–12— that tie rich humanities content to the standards. The online resources at www.commoncore.org/maps include outlines, pacing guides, sample assessments, recommended works and artifacts, and other resources. The site includes a 5th grade unit called Clues to a Culture, which “focuses on clues to Native American nations/ cultures as revealed through pairings of literature and informational text,” . . .
I looked at several of the units on the Common Core site and thought, “Boy would I like to go back to school and be in a classroom that taught this!” The 5th grade “Clues to a Culture” referenced above has stories, poems, a speech, informational texts, art, and music examples from several tribes. The note at the beginning says, “The list of Native American nations below is illustrative—not comprehensive; please choose a local nation to examine in a similar manner.”
I encourage you to check out the curriculum maps on the Common Core site above. To read Ferrero’s whole article go here: http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/mar11/vol68/num06/The-Humanities@-Why-Such-a-Hard-Sell%C2%A2.aspx.