Building The Machine: A Must See

1959327_280263062141673_1981119502_n.jpgI concur with Joy Pullmann, educrats do not want you watching Building The Machine as they already had their spin machines kicked into high gear even prior to its release on Monday.  HSLDA did a terrific job putting this documentary together.  I was impressed with the attempt HSLDA made to interview proponents of the Common Core State Standards, that they did not want this to be a one-sided documentary.

Mike Petrilli and Chester Finn of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute agreed to be interviewed, of the three lead writers of the Common Core two declined to be interviewed and the other never got back to them.  While Building the Machine certainly is critical of the Common Core State Standards they did present proponents arguments which is a far cry better than anything I have seen from advocates.

And there in lies the problem.  They have gone out of their way to avoid a debate, they discourage dissenting voices.  One of the primary lines of the movie that has been part of the promotional materials rings true – the Common Core is “the biggest reform you know nothing about.”  If this reform is so great why not come defend it?

All you hear from the Fordham duo was talking points and cliches.  The clips they showed of Bill Gates and Jeb Bush, nothing but talking points.  It sounds good on the surface, but as Sandra Stotsky pointed out, do they even know what “college readiness” means?  Do they even know what standards are or even how to read them?

Points that Stotsky, Ze’ev Wurman, and James Milgram made about the deficiency of the Common Core for college preparation reminds me of The Princess Bride.  I don’t think “college-readiness” means what they think it means.

I’ve been writing about the Common Core for three years, and this movie reminded me why as a Dad I’m in this fight.  The future of American education is at stake, and this is too vital to bow out.

At the end Wayne Brasler, a journalism teacher with the University of Chicago Lab Schools, made a excellent point.  “They have to teach to the standards or the kids won’t get the right scores, and the right scores is not the point here.  They are trying to quantify everything and this will make it all right, we’ll be a brilliant nation.  No we’ll be a nation where nobody is brilliant.  Every person has a different talent, different ability, different interest.  These are living, breathing people.  Every prominent person in this nation, in politics, in government, in entertainment, in law, followed a passion and were brilliant for something.  They weren’t all mushed out to be the same. And once again some of the most famous, richest people in this country were terrible students with terrible test scores who struggled through school.  But that wasn’t the be all and end all of their lives and the judgments about them,” Brasler said.

Very true.  He says later on…  “This is a highly diverse nation, we have people growing up in the heart of big cities, people who never be in a big city, people on farms, people on the reservations, people whose whole lives will be spent in agriculture, people who really don’t want to go to college, people who don’t need to go to college.  We have kids who come to school at the age of 4 1/2 and five never having seen an orange or a wrap and they don’t even know their own names, and their childhoods have been a total tumult.  And the waffle plate is being put over them and they are supposed to learn,” Brasler noted.

“I especially love the fact that districts mine included in St. Louis are being punished because kids don’t come in and keep up.  A friend of mine who is a teacher said ‘I don’t get it if they are all getting the same lessons why are they all making the top standardized scores? No matter what their childhoods were?’  I couldn’t answer her, I was so dumbfounded.  Because they’re not apples, they’re people.  They are going to come and not know how to focus, have a vocabulary, know how to respond to an adult, ever being addressed directly, ever having a meaningful conversation, they’re scared, and you’re worried about your test standards,” he added.

At the end of the movie, HSLDA notes that the most important element of a child’s education, which unlike Common Core has been backed up by decades of research, is parental involvement.

They point out no matter where you may land in this current debate, be involved in your kids education.  I couldn’t agree more.

Watch the documentary and share it widely.