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The Common Core Debate Continues

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The spirited discussion about Common Core, begun at my Education Week Teacher column, continues.

Paul Thomas wrote a thoughtful post titled Fatalism and Teacher Professionalism on the discussion and taking issue with my position I tried to leave a comment there, but my technological ineptness wouldn’t let me leave a response, so I emailed it to Paul and told him I’d publish it here (I assume he’ll put it up at his blog, too).

Here it is. All comments welcome:

Paul,

I appreciate your reflections here . However, I wouldn’t necessarily use the word “fatalism” to describe recognizing the inevitability of Common Core. I’d suggest that understanding the facts and figuring out the best way to deal with them to help teachers, our students, and their families, is, instead, “real life.”

In my nineteen year career as a community organizer for the Industrial Areas Foundation, I found that neither I nor the people I worked with needed to find more opportunities to fail. In my political judgment, trying to stop CCSS at this point would have zero hope of success.

I agree that there are programs, ideas and initiatives that are worth fighting “til the last drop” even though hope of victory is non-existent. In California, for example, our organizations fought Proposition 187, an awful anti-immigrant law, even though its victory was certain. However, I just do not see CCSS in that category.

There’s a famous article in community organizing circles called “The Importance of Being Unprincipled.” Its title is satirical, but its point is not — there really are few things that we should consider to be “principles” because, once something becomes a principle, you can’t compromise on it. And that one of the major problems we face in public life is that over-abundance of what people consider to be these “uncompromise-able” principles.

We don’t have the power now, nor will we in the foreseeable future, to stop CCSS. Given that political reality, I believe that my students and colleagues are best served by adapting to CCSS as best as possible. There seems to me to be plenty of ways to mitigate its damage in the classroom and even exploit it for useful learning opportunities.

Often times those of us trying to make change in the world have to confront the question: “Do we want to be right, or do we want to be effective?” In the case of CCSS, I’ll choose the latter.

Larry Ferlazzo

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Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.

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