The Joy of Copywork? Yes. Sally Thomas has almost a decade on me, homeschool-wise, but even my inexperienced self can see her wisdom here. When I see the inane, random (and often personally intrusive) “journal prompts” with which school children are expected to stretch their daily writing muscles, copywork looks better and better. So sensible.
Here’s another excellent article laying out the problems with Common Core. (The fundamental problem with it being, of course, that national educational standards by which every student, teacher and school are judged just…suck. Sorry, not sorry.)
I want to pick out one section:
Another problem we found relates to the pedagogical method used in the Gettysburg Address exemplar that the Common Core calls “cold reading.”
This gives students a text they have never seen and asks them to read it with no preliminary introduction. This mimics the conditions of a standardized test on which students are asked to read material they have never seen and answer multiple choice questions about the passage.
Such pedagogy makes school wildly boring. Students are not asked to connect what they read yesterday to what they are reading today, or what they read in English to what they read in science.
The exemplar, in fact, forbids teachers from asking students if they have ever been to a funeral because such questions rely “on individual experience and opinion,” and answering them “will not move students closer to understanding the Gettysburg Address.”
(This is baffling, as if Lincoln delivered the speech in an intellectual vacuum; as if the speech wasn’t delivered at a funeral and meant to be heard in the context of a funeral; as if we must not think about memorials when we read words that memorialize. Rather, it is impossible to have any deep understanding of Lincoln’s speech without thinking about the context of the speech: a memorial service.)
The exemplar instructs teachers to “avoid giving any background context” because the Common Core’s close reading strategy “forces students to rely exclusively on the text instead of privileging background knowledge, and levels the playing field for all.” What sense does this make?
Now, anyone who is familiar with standardized-testing battles over the past few decades will recognize what’s going on: how it was determined that certain words and concepts couldn’t be included on standardized tests because understanding of them was dependent on a students socio-economic background.
Also: read that passage again. What’s this preparation for? Is it for learning, digging deeper and understanding?
No – it’s about test-taking skills.
And not even just test-taking skills in general, as in “Read the question carefully. Check your work.” No – it’s how to take this particular kind of test that some people have decided measures….something. What does it measure? Oh, right – this kind of reading that the test designers and pedagogical experts have decided to test you on.
The response of the Catholic educational establishment to Common Core has been disappointing, but with a resigned-trying-not-be-cynical, rather than shocked face. Because of course, they would go along, because they always do.
Parents (and children) are aching for something different. How refreshing if more Catholic schools – if the entire system – stepped off the national-standards-standardized-test-high-achievement-blue-ribbon-school train and started running a completely new train that really valued wisdom, faith and the individual (both the student and the teacher) and allowed a variety of different kind of schools to flourish in which no one gave a flip about your fear-mongering about the SAT and college admission and just laughed at the grant money.
They’re out there – a few of them, here and there. Catholic schools that are refusing to give in. They are Catholic Montessori schools, Catholic classical schools and hybrid schools. I wish there were more. I wish Catholic school administrators and pastors, as a whole were willing to step out in faith and be energetically counter-cultural about education, once again.
All right. Birthday week around here.
“You know,” it was announced a couple of days later, “Those were pretty good.”
High praise from the newly-minted 9 year old, I must say.
Birthday boy requested pumpkin pie for his treat. One of my cooking goals is to master pie crust from scratch, so of course I had to invest in a new gadget to meet that goal, and well, it was well worth the money. This time. It was this pastry cloth on a frame – somehow the frame really helped the process, and yes, it turned out well, although it did shrink, so I learned to roll it just a touch larger next time.
Bambinelli Sunday? Well, I covered that in the previous post. But a reminder that in a couple of weeks, I’ll be doing an online chat about the book. See more about that here. And you can buy the book from me here.
For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!