Diane Ravitch's Blog: Frank Bruni Wonders Whether American Kids are Too Coddled
For many years, Frank Bruni was a wonderful restaurant reviewer for the New York Times. But now he is a regular opinion writer for the New York Times, and when he writes about education, he is way over his head. He was one of the few to write sympathetically about the corporate reform turkey “Won’t Back Down,” which opened in 2,500 theaters to bad reviews and disappeared a month later.
His latest effort was a strident defense of the Common Core standards and tests, in which he made fun of the parents who spoke out against the overuse and misuse of standardized testing. His thesis was that American kids are “too coddled.”
Surely, he was not referring to the majority of public school students in the south and the west who–according to the Southern Education Fund–live in poverty. Are they coddled?
Does he know that in New York State, only 3% of English learners passed the tests; only 5% of students with disabilities; only 15-18% of black and Hispanic students? What will we do with these students if large numbers fail these “rigorous” tests in the future? Surely they won’t be coddled.
His purpose is to show solidarity with the Common Core standards and tests, although he doesn’t seem to know how they were developed, why they were adopted, or why their advocates feel certain they will produce good results.
He disparages their critics as extremists, echoing Arne Duncan:
“The Common Core, a laudable set of guidelines that emphasize analytical thinking over rote memorization, has been adopted in more than 40 states. In instances its implementation has been flawed, and its accompanying emphasis on testing certainly warrants debate.
“What’s not warranted is the welling hysteria: from right-wing alarmists, who hallucinate a federal takeover of education and the indoctrination of a next generation of government-loving liberals; from left-wing paranoiacs, who imagine some conspiracy to ultimately privatize education and create a new frontier of profits for money-mad plutocrats.
“Then there’s the outcry, equally reflective of the times, from adults who assert that kids aren’t enjoying school as much; feel a level of stress that they shouldn’t have to; are being judged too narrowly; and doubt their own mettle.
“Aren’t aspects of school supposed to be relatively mirthless? Isn’t stress an acceptable byproduct of reaching higher and digging deeper? Aren’t certain fixed judgments inevitable? And isn’t mettle established through hard work?”
Imagine thinking that the burst of thousands of privately managed charters and the spread of vouchers to 17 states in the past 20 years is worthy of concern? Nah, that’s leftwing paranoic thinking. Imagine wondering how strained school budgets can afford billions for new software and hardware, more bandwidth, more teacher evaluations based on tests, more tests, more test prep…..Nah, just more left-wing paranoic thinking.
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