Words do matter. They do have life. They do have power. They can hurt our souls and bring us down or they can heal our hearts and raise us up. They can cause us to love and they can cause us to hate. We can take words and use them to spur us to actions or we can take words and use them to spur others to act in ways we desire. Words are power and words give and take life.
With that said, I want us to examine these 14 words that are shaping the future of American education. These words were spoken by Common Core wizard David Coleman at a NY State Department of Education presentation, in April of 2011:
“…people really don’t give a s*** about what you feel or what you think.”
If you replace the “you” with “students” and the “people” with “teachers” we now have a pedagogical statement that truly shatters my heart. Now it reads:
…teachers really don’t give a s*** about what students feel or what students think.
Let’s paraphrase this educational dogma less explicitly and reveal a sense of Coleman’s message to America’s educators:
Teachers should not care about what students feel or think.
Is it just me, or is this the antithesis to what a good teacher should be doing? A mere decade ago, the mantra “It’s All About the Kids” pervaded everything that was being done in my CT district. Almost before my eyes, we are now teaching in a time where the mantra has changed to “It’s All About the Data.”
Now I do not have anything against data teams and data sheets and data collection. But data is just that – DATA, NUMBERS, lifeless characters on a page. Good data can inform our instruction. It can reveal deficiencies and strengths in our teaching. It can help kids improve. But it’s just an inanimate tool. Each one of my students is much more than a placeholder on a spreadsheet.
If we accept Coleman’s directive and not care about what our students are actually thinking and feeling, then, I guess, it is easier for some teachers and administrators to view their students as just data. It’s like being a piece of merchandise in a retail store. The student is just inventory and the worth of the student is determined by the value in the spreadsheet. If the student isn’t making a profit, then the student should be reduced in value and eventually written off the books. This is a chilling way of looking at our young people.
My hope on this Sunday morning is that each and every educator, administrator, and parent would come to their senses and see just what is happening to our children in our schools. With one voice, we must all speak out and say that our kids have hearts, minds, bodies, emotions, talents, questions, and needs that must be valued. Our kids deserve to be seen and they need to be heard. With one voice, let us all proclaim these fourteen words and turn a curse into a blessing over America’s children:
Teachers, parents and administrators must deeply care about what our students feel and think.