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Common Core -- Not One Size Fits All

05/21/2014 06:12 pm ET | Updated Jul 21, 2014
  • Peter Greene Teacher and writer; blogger, curmudgucation.blogspot.com

I often criticize the core by calling it a "one size fits all" solution. But I'm wrong.

It's a handy shorthand phrase -- just four words and everybody knows what you mean. But it's not precisely correct.

"One size fits all" imagines a world where tailors make suits in just one size. People come put on the suit -- the suit is too small or too large or not correctly shaped for them. So the tailor says, "Oh well, you'll just have to make do," and we have a world of people walking around in misshapen ill-fitting suits.

But that's not what's going on.

Imagine instead a world where the tailors only make suits in one size. One tall man comes in to try on the suit, and it's too short for him. "We will fix that," says the tailor, who pulls out a saw and cuts six inches out of the middle of the man's legs. Another man comes in who is, well, fluffy. The suit is tight. "You," says the tailor sternly, "you must go sit in the basement. You may not have a job or go out into the world until you fit in that suit." Another man comes in and he's too short. The tailor calls up the police, gives the man's address, and sends the police to arrest his mother for giving birth to a too-short man.

Education under a CCSS regime is not "one size fits all." It's "all must fit one size." It's not "We'll try this on for size and if it doesn't fit, it sucks to be you." It's "You must fit this, or there will be consequences. You will be punished for not fitting what we made for you."

What is sold as "individualization" is not an offer to re-tailor the suit to fit, but a series of protocol for teaching tall customers how to slouch and fluffy customers to suck in their gut. Personalized education programs are not about adjusting the one size at all.

The CCSS is the worst kind of regime, the kind that views individual strengths and weaknesses and interests and skills as a problem to be fixed. We are not centered on the needs of the students; we are supposed to make the students serve the system, the standards, the test. We will not measure the success of education by how well it meets the students' needs; we'll now measure education by how well it makes the students adjust to the needs of the system.

"One size fits all" would actually be an improvement. What the CCSS regime offers is far worse.

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