Considering the Root Causes of the Common Core War

Last night, I was asked to speak at the Cheektowaga Board of Education meeting about the work I’m beginning to lead there with the Common Core. This is something I’m asked to do fairly often when I lead any kind of an initiative in schools. Reporters are often present.

This morning, I received an incredibly hostile voicemail message from someone who read this morning’s Buffalo News article and took exception its positive tone and particularly, to a faulty statement that the reporter made about my sentiments. I do not know the caller beyond the name and number he left me, but he felt it was his obligation to verbally abuse, taunt, and mock me in the name of protecting teachers and children.

And I’m not surprised.

So much of what I’m witnessing from the “anti-core” movement is fueled by this kind of energy, and far too much of it is being incited by the inaccurate things that people are reading and hearing. I speak from experience. This morning’s article captures much of what was positive about my presentation to the board, and I appreciate that.  In fact, I’m fairly confident that the reporter’s intentions were good ones. It’s challenging for educators to understand all that is happening with Race to the Top and the implementation of the Core, let alone reporters–I understand this.  But words have power, and portions of that article stand to undermine the very good work that Cheektowaga teachers and administrators are doing.

So, for the record: it is important to me that the friends and teachers I respect who are engaging in peaceful, respectful, and most importantly INFORMED protest know that I did not characterize your efforts in the way this reporter suggests that I did. I requested a review of the recording from last night’s meeting this morning, and it was confirmed: I said no such thing. I did make several references to the kind of dangerous, misinformed, and snarky behavior that this morning’s caller and far too many others who are upset are exemplifying, however.

My friends and family will tell you that there are aspects of the Race to the Top reform effort that I am opposed to and actively protesting: specifically, the amount and type of assessments that are dominating the system right now and the ways we are using the data they produce to evaluate teachers. There are problems, for sure. I’m trying to be a part of the solution by doing the best work I can in schools–daily. I know that attacking those I disagree with, mocking their hard work, practicing confirmation bias all the live long day, and disrespecting those who have expertise that is different from mine won’t solve these problems though.

I cannot stomach the attacks, the mudslinging, and the passionate yet completely misinformed tirades that seem to be dominating conversations on both sides of the debate about the Common Core anymore.

It’s why I’ve fallen all but silent here and elsewhere. 

This isn’t a war.

We’re supposed to be engaging in civil discourse so we can learn from one another and help kids.

What I’m witnessing lately isn’t reflective of that intention, and on the ground, in conversations with those I respect, we continue to consider why. I know that the answer, if there is one, is very complex. Perhaps we need to begin asking ourselves and others if those in the media are sensitive to the unintended consequences of their reporting on this particular topic, though. Suggesting that I characterized protesters and marches as “misinformed snark” was more than a bit inflammatory in my opinion.

And if you listen to my voice mail today, you’ll know that I’m not the only one who thinks so.

 

 

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