Appeal and core
This month I have been on my own ‘listening tour’, as I am learning more about you, my ever expanding community, and your approach to the same issues that interest me. 😀 What amazes me is that everyone I know was talking about the perils of online interaction this week.
Tangentially, I was watching one of our 2016 hopefuls sitting at a table, chatting with students and teachers on Monday. Education as well as perception of personalities have been on my mind for quite some time and this is the week I will be talking about both.
The other thing I want to touch on briefly is the purpose of this blog, what motivates me, why I am here (I heard the candidate discuss this and it seems like a good thing to clarify on a blog). This will be a topic that unfolds as we sit at this virtual round-table — which is the way I visualize my spot and you visiting. I see us when we are here on my blog as a community of which I am merely a member. We are friends when we get together here — and by the way, I don’t see you as virtual. You are real human beings with feelings and ideas and so am I.
There are many ways to approach this subject. Since I want this blog to have a variety of posts, some ‘serious’, some merely entertaining, I may reorganize it so there are tabs for different types of discussions. That way people who want to read what I have written on Southern California, baking or gardening or knitting, etc., can simply head to that area and avoid political or academic editorials.
That said, and before I get into a discussion on what I meant when I wrote the title to this post, let me just say a few words about what you can expect when you come here, since I truly want to prompt discussion, regardless of whether you agree or disagree with anything I say or with me.
First, what you won’t encounter: sacred cows, land mines, hot-buttons, hair-triggers, traps, and eggshells that would make you tremble at the prospect of treading in the wrong place, violating some unspoken rule, wounding fragile feelings and incurring wrath and abuse. It won’t happen and here’s why: you are my guest. You are busy and yet you took the time to stop here and react to something I have written. What a privilege for me — I mean that sincerely. I hope you have noticed that I am pretty respectful when I come to your place too, always with a gift in hand in the form of positive reinforcement and a compliment, even if I don’t understand or agree with you on every thing you write. I always try to find something kind to say.
And who am I, that I should sit in judgment of anyone else? Among true friends, judgment can be laid aside.
In a nutshell: if someone can take offense at a progressive softy like me, then something else is likely operating. Projection, for example. Perhaps the way we are reading one another’s words creates whatever impression we believe we are getting. Often, we have areas in which we are already sensitive and merely a few simple words touches them off. We are no longer really listening to the other person, but dredging up old hurts and vulnerabilities. If we were speaking with one another, we would likely get the spirit in which those words were intended. And may still not like them. That’s fine, but at least we would be present in the moment. Writing is limited. That is why I go to such lengths to be nice.
Anything I say here, is simply my opinion. My opinions can be: fill in any adjective you like. But, I don’t fall in love with myself and my ideas. I may not be enlightened yet and I have my share of hang-ups, but low self esteem and insecurity or overblown/fragile ego and belief that I know it all are not among them. I will probably give you a bit more background on my life and experience in my field and related disciplines, in an upcoming page that fleshes out my profile. But one thing I hope you will never see here is regression to anger, pettiness, spite, puerility or paranoia.
You are welcome to be yourself here! If my training hasn’t given me the ability to be accepting and kind — no matter who you are and what your issues may be –, then I wasted my time and my parents’ money. 🙂
I attempt to take a Socratic approach to every subject. That is the way I was brought up, trained, and frankly in my estimation indicates true intellectual curiosity. I question everything, including my own assumptions. No one person has a lock on any topic, I don’t care what it is and what we think we know. Being smug is intellectual death.
What do you care about my opinion anyway, as long as I express it with a modicum of humility? I try not to take myself too seriously. If we are healthy-ish we can handle a few unsettling ideas. But if anyone is seeking groupies, they would probably be happier elsewhere — that’s fine! I treat everyone as equals. I don’t want to be on a pedestal and I am not going to go out looking for idols to worship either.
So below is my point on the concept of core and appeal. Core can mean so many aspects of life: central beliefs, the heart of any matter, the most important or fundamental values, and so on. Or it could refer to a group of people who make up the inner structure of a movement or organization or cultural institution (in the social scientific sense of that term).
Those cores are all relevant and I have talked or will talk about them in one way or another. As a behavioral scientist I am fascinated by people’s belief systems and how they develop, function, and change over time. I like to think of myself as growing and changing and improving. Hopefully, right?
The core I am focusing on this time — and only briefly — is the philosophy behind the ‘Common Core’ initiative. Primarily because it is such a pivotal yet explosive issue now. And it doesn’t need to be.
I am not going to say, it ‘should’ or ‘shouldn’t’ be either. There is another thing I am trying to purge from my intellectual lexicon, what is ‘supposed’ to or ‘ought’ to be. Instead, I think it might be useful if we used instead, ‘I would like it to be’, xyz, etc. That is what we really mean. When we use any of those value-judging words we really mean that we have certain preferences based on our own view of the world and want everyone to come around to our way of thinking. There are 7 billion + people on this planet. What makes any one of us think every one of them should subscribe to our belief system? Or we to any one of theirs?
I think for myself. I am fairly sure that decades of thinking on certain topics qualifies me to analyze and perhaps venture an opinion on some of them. On some of them, I am pretty thoroughly educated or have deep experience, both with hands-on direct contact with the issue and the complex of factors in which it is embedded, as well as extensive intellectual or mental exercise on the topic, whether positive or negative. But, it still all boils down to my conclusions, preferences, opinions. I have very strong convictions but until I am totally awake and aware, I will always see them as a work in progress. And yours may be just as valid and true as mine.
For example, I think I am an inclusive person. I grew up in a diverse environment, albeit with some advantages over which I had no control. When I woke up one day and saw that I was pretty well off in this world, I decided I had to go out and seek those who did not have the same luck of birth. That is what I have done from that day to this: sought out those who were in need, tried to understand them, and when possible, to do something to make their lives better.
So, back to the so-called concept of a common core. This is merely my opinion, based on my history, including my background, experiences and study.
Every child would likely do better in life if s/he were able to read, write, calculate, speak, analyze at a level that an average local university requires for doing the course work offered.
Now, is that controversial? Maybe. We could argue that, were you to simply leave school at any point after the third grade in the average school anywhere in the US, that you might progress farther in the direction of your own goals from the age of 9 than you would have, had you stayed and gone on through grade 16. I have no idea of any credible research done on this, but if you do, feel free to share it. There is reason to believe that the earlier you have exposure to certain basic skills and the longer you work on refining them, in a formal setting like the organizational environment we term ‘schools’, the greater your lifetime earnings are projected to be, the longer you are likely to live, and the more satisfying your daily existence. I am not wedded to that, but it is probably now a given.
We can also debate the best way to ensure that those core skills and achievements are developed in any given child to the point that they are able to choose from a wider range of options when it comes to moving forward in the realm of academia. Personally, I am not a subscriber to testing as it is currently done. There are other methods for assessing individual student performance. These methods are more teacher-intensive. But, were they to be implemented in lieu of the eight hours of yearly standardized testing now being administered, time would be released back to the school day and year for the arts, physical education and recess. Yes, recess, an important part of a child (and adult’s) day.
There is also a coherent body of behavioral law that has been devised by theorists and investigators along the lines of Jean Piaget and others of almost equal stature in the area of child development that suggests a fairly universal — human species-wise — sequence to the course of growth during the first 18 to 21 years of life. If the environment in which we spend those first 18 years supports that sequence in an appropriate way, we are more likely to succeed according to some parameters, like those I touched on above.
Again, the idea behind Common Core was to have the states create a set of standards that would guide local schools and help them provide their students with the skills that would be expected of them, should they wish to go on to college. Please note the word: local.
This means that if you live in rural, Upstate New York, where I was an undergrad, you might want those standards to include agriculture and all the many necessary skills, practical, theoretical, and generative, to attend a husbandry program, for example. Not that no one in Upstate New York does anything but farm, but farming has been an integral part of that culture and social system for hundreds of years.
That ‘core’ set of skills and abilities might be very different if you are going to school in Silicon Valley, California or the Maine border with Canada. It would be silly to have someone from Napa Valley telling a school district in Pittsburgh what to teach in school. Yet both would easily agree upon their respective proposed Core talents and achievements, for their own neck of the woods.
Everyone agrees that this will be a topic for argument over the next many years because we have now and have had for a long time, children who cannot get into the advanced institutes of higher learning, because their elementary and secondary schools did not prepare them as a group or as individuals for that competitive winnowing process.
If I were Empress of the United States, I would collect a group of people to create a simple framework to send out to the states for consideration in creating their common core guidelines for local curriculums. That is in fact what was done, on a bi-partisan basis, 25 or so years ago, with the 50 or so governors. Your state common core curriculum probably looks different from mine.
Is that radical? I hope those of you who are upset by the notion of a common core will share your views here.
I would guess that most, if not all of us, adults, want to give every child every opportunity to realize his or her dreams, whatever those are. That is one reason, for example, I love Waldorf Education. Rudolf Steiner stated that education was just that, “to lead out” (from the Latin educare), to help bring forth whatever is already inside each child, creating an environment that offers the child freedom to be whoever s/he is and to express it safely and completely.
Here is the appeal part of this post. I ask, no invite, you to come here, express yourself freely on this and other topics, be mindful that some people who visit this blog (bless every one of them) have differing points of view and perhaps tender feelings, I don’t know, and proceed accordingly.
Until we are all conscious, we will have to stumble around blindly, trying to figure out the best way to navigate with the map we ourselves create, since we weren’t bundled with a manual.
I’m not fishing for compliments here and if you think I have been too harsh, you are encouraged to say so.
It’s your turn. Feel free to have at it. ❤
Images: Beth Byrnes, UCLA