NFL Adopts Common Core Playbook–Copying Education Reforms

NFL Adopts Common Core Playbook–Copying Education Reforms
by John J. Viall
(Washington, D. C.) In a surprise news conference today U. S. Secretary of Education Arne BengalsDuncan and National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell announced plans to improve NFL performance in coming seasons.

Unlike news conferences on education, which draw sparse crowds, representatives from hundreds of newspapers, television and radio networks, and ESPN, ESPN 2, ESPN for Kids and ESPN Tales from the Crypt were in attendance.

Mr. Duncan spoke first. “We are pleased to announce a partnership involving the U. S. Department of Education and the NFL,” he explained. “We will call this new effort to improve pro football ‘Race to the End Zone.’ All the leading school reform experts insist this approach will dramatically improve the quality of football play.”

“Frankly,” Commissioner Goodell admitted, “this joint effort developed out of a concern for failing NFL franchises. We have watched the brilliant successes wrought by Mr. Duncan and others like him in recent years and believe it is time to adopt a variety of sports reforms, similar to school reforms, and introduce them in our league. We believe with such changes in place the Cleveland Browns can finally reach the Super Bowl and win.”

“We in the NFL love the Common Core Curriculum that Mr. Duncan is pushing on schools here in D. C. and in forty-five states,” Goodell continued. “Just as he believes Common Core Curriculum can save the schools, we believe a Common Core Playbook will save our struggling teams. Beginning with the 2013 season every coach and every team will use the same playbook.”

A collective gasp went up from the audience. “Does Bill Belichick know about this?” a reporter from ABC wondered.

An MSNBC reporter shouted from the fifth row: “Do you truly believe if all teams run the same plays they’ll all have the same success?”

“Of course,” Mr. Duncan interjected. “It’s going to work in education, too. I promise. And I went to Harvard. So you have to listen to me.”

“You don’t know anything about NFL football…” a Fox Sports Channel representative pointedly remarked.

“Yes, well, Mr. Duncan never taught school, either,” Goodell offered in lame defense. “And look at the fantastic job he’s doing fixing U. S. schools. Only $4.35 billion spent on ‘Race to the Top’ and scores on standardized tests are soaring.”

At this point, reporters could be seen shooting each other strange looks. Frankly, none of them paid the slightest attention to stories about American education. So, for all they knew, Goodell might be telling the truth.

“We believe with this system in place every player can succeed,” the Commissioner added. “By 2020 we believe every player in the league will be proficient in blocking, tackling and pass catching.”

“Are you saying that a new playbook—nothing more than diagrams on paper—will magically change the game?” a representative of local television station WJLA wanted to know.

“From now on every quarterback will be calling the same plays,” Goodell replied. “In other words, all of them will play like Tom Brady and Peyton Manning.

“Even Mark Sanchez?” asked a dubious correspondent from the New York Post.

“That’s the beauty of the Common Core Playbook,” Duncan explained. “We draw up new standards—kind of like we said we would do under No Child Left Behind—but this time the standards really work, because I promise they will. After all, I’m really smart. Did I mention that I went to Harvard? See: all the running backs run the same plays and all succeed the same way, because the coaches don’t try to design their own schemes.”

“Naturally, all defenses will be set up in the same way,” the Commissioner added.

A young lady standing in the back of the auditorium raised a hand. The Secretary called on her to state her question.

“I’m sorry. I’m not a sports person. I’m just a third grade teacher visiting the capitol on vacation. Are you saying that if all coaches follow the same plays and all players follow the same offensive and defensive plans this will guarantee success for every player and every team?”

“Yes…” Duncan began; but the teacher had more to say.

“Wouldn’t it be wiser to let the coaches design their plays? Aren’t coaches skilled in their field and doesn’t knowledge gathered over many years in the game count for anything? Don’t players have different strengths and weaknesses, so that coaches must tailor plans to meet their needs? Don’t players, themselves, have a dramatic impact on their own success or failure during the games and the success of their teams? No  playbook in the world would have saved Aaron Hernandez if he was truly intent on committing murder this past week. And I’ve heard Peyton Manning studies more game film than anyone else…”

By now, Duncan was shifting nervously from foot to foot at the podium where he stood. “Did I mention I went to Harvard? I think we experts can fix the NFL, just like we’re fixing the schools! Pretty soon, we’ll be like Finland, whose students rank #1 in reading and math whenever international competitions are held. Just listen to me and all the other school reformers. By the way, I went to Harvard, in case you’ve forgotten.”

“I don’t think that guy knows s$%# about football,” a sportscaster from Chicago could be heard telling the teacher.

“I don’t think he knows anything about education, either,” she nodded glumly. Unlike school reformers she had learned about helping students by actually helping students for many years. She already knew what worked in a classroom and understood that writing a bunch of standards had almost nothing to do with real success.

(Standards in education, she realized, were like diet advice. Losing weight boiled down to motivation in the end.)

She tried one last question: “Mr. Duncan, I know experts say Finland’s scores are high because they have better teachers. Do you think we should copy their system in other ways? For example, their schools have no sports teams and focus entirely on academics. Might we copy them in that respect? Might we do away with organized sports in our schools?”

At that point pandemonium ensued, with shouting ESPN reporters and fainting sports columnists, and Godell looking aghast. A Fox Sports correspondent jumped on stage and tried to wrestle the microphone away before Secretary Duncan could posit an answer. No one in the audience could even fathom the idea.

Insanity, surely, putting academics first—and right here in America, too!

The teacher smiled at the irony and exited from the room.

Here’s how Common Core Playbook will work: All teams will use identical plays.
Coaches’ and players’ strengths and weakness will no longer be paramount.
Written standards of play are clearly the key—just as it now is in U. S. education.
It’s not “how you play the game.”
It’s a bureaucrat’s dream of how you play the game.

P. S. John Curry has wisely noted that under this plan all referees will be replaced by young Referee for America candidates, who had a crash course in rules that lasted five weeks., a program modeled on the fabled Teach for America plan.

This satire was re-posted here with permission by the author, John J. Viall, and was originally posted on his blog, A Teacher on Teaching at

7 thoughts on “NFL Adopts Common Core Playbook–Copying Education Reforms

  1. This may be the best thing I’ve seen on CC in a while. I’d lay money more people will read it than care about what the public institutions are doing to our kids. Sad.

  2. The flip side of this argument is that every NFL football player grew up on a field that was 100 yards by 50 yards. There were 11 players on each team on the field at any given time. Touchdowns were always 6 points, extra points 1, field goals 3, and safeties 2. Because players were able to perform against these common standards for years, they were able to take their skills to a level that otherwise would not have been possible. Because the standards are set, NFL coaches are can more effectively innovate around them confident that the standards will be the same wherever they play. If these standards didn’t exist, the quality of play in the NFL would be considerably lower.

    Reimagining public education has to start with what is essential. What capabilities must students have to be successful in a 21st century diverse, rapidly changing, global economy? What is the playing field on which teachers are expected to coach students so they can perform at the highest level.

    There is much discussion that “even if operated as designed public schools are obsolete.” That starts with standards that are no longer match the reality students face. It doesn’t mean standards aren’t essential. The common standards need to be redefined to be relevant.

    1. Oh, come on…the rules of football have been changed over the years, to merely site the size of the field and the scoring system does not take into account the rules of refereeing nor the subjective matter that ensues. AND can you say instant replay? Teams lacking success look to more successful teams for ideas, just as school districts once did. There have been national curriculum books for decades, which were updated to stay relevant. The problem comes with the infusion of political/private money…which is the common thread to the commercial for profit NFL.

      Common core is simply rehashing the obvious to appear to justify the private sectors money grab through testing, textbooks, and for profit schools, all of which are woefully pathetic excuses of educational reform. Educational performance will only increase when creativity and innovation return to the classroom. We must teach students, not cores. By not allowing the innovation to initiate from the classrooms, schools and districts, we have sentenced the public school system to become obsolete. As in football, there are way too many Monday morning quarterbacks in education.

  3. If lessons were designed by master teachers so you didn’t have to spend all your time dreaming up what you wanted to each and every day and waste time scrambling around trying to get together the materials you needed, that would be a benefit. We lived in Japan, there was one detailed curriculum for the whole country, with detailed lessons and all materials provided to all teachers. Teachers were able to concentrate on making sure those lessons worked for their individual students. Also, because the lessons were the same throughout the nation, all the students were in the same place all the time. Teachers didn’t have to wonder what this student transferring in or out needed because they knew they were on all pretty much on the same page. The lessons were all very well done too. They provided a lot of variety and used a lot of good methodology. I think we do our students disservice when they move from school to school because everyone is in a different place we’re all so fiercely independent, we all decide how we are going to do it in our district or in our state or in our city and who cares that the kids just get lost in the shuffle. I think that would be a wonderful benefit of Common Core, or one of the purposes, so that kids don’t get messed up when their parents move from one town to another. Then, if they took it another step further, actually providing all the materials and training necessary to carry out their mandates, that would also be beneficial.

    PS I am a high school teacher at a US school with a student turnover rate of about 30% a year and a budget that gets lower every time we’re asked to do one more thing.

    1. The problem with any national plan is that the funding for that plan comes from the local level. Our district gets 1% of it’s budget from the Feds. As a taxpaying citizen, I know that money comes from me whether it’s federal, state or local – doesn’t really matter. But the idea that so much is wasted on bureaucrats who aren’t (or haven’t) worked in the trenches with these kids instead of in the actual schools is obscene. Mandates are handed down from above and the funding for those mandates never follows. We want local control of our kids’ education b/c we pay for it locally (and as parents, we know what’s best for our kids.)

      Comparing the Japan to the US is also a little ridiculous. Their population is 1/3 of ours and roughly 21% is school aged compared to our 30%. They have a lot less racial/ethnic diversity (and that DOES matter) and even though they rank ahead of the US in test scores, they spend less on education than we do (as a percentage of GDP.) Maybe there are things we can learn from those countries who seem to outrank us, but that’s not what CC does, nor is it what NCLB did. I don’t know whether Japan is one of those countries who puts kids on a specific track at an early age or not, but here we are required to educate every child. The problems I see in schools stem more from students’ lack of respect for adults and either boredom or just plain not caring about school. Kids who are not being disciplined at home lack discipline outside of the home. If education is not a priority for parents, it is not a priority for kids. From what I have learned of Japanese culture, respect for elders is a huge part of society. As is education.

      I would love to see a locally proven program introduced to states or at the Federal level rather than throw out an unproven national “one size fits all” program every time we have a new president. NCLB resulted in more standardized testing and less creative time in the classroom. Show me something that is working and then we can figure out how to implement it on a larger scale. Somehow, we managed to educate our kids and have the fastest growing economy in the world LONG before the was a federal DOE.

      1. “The problems I see in schools stem more from students’ lack of respect for adults and either boredom or just plain not caring about school. Kids who are not being disciplined at home lack discipline outside of the home. If education is not a priority for parents, it is not a priority for kids.”
        Hit. It. On. The. Head.
        Most – if not all – of our culture’s problems find their roots in the home, in the family – both have fallen apart. Our decaying national morality – indicated by the disrespect, boredom, and apathy Ms. Cellucci mentions – must be repaired before we can expect change – let alone a program designed by the government – to exhibit positive effects. And I’m not sure that repair is possible any longer, on a national scale.

  4. The only problem with this post (which is great btw) is that the teacher walks out of the room, content with irony. Has anyone thought of actually contacting the NFL (for whom it would be great press in a rather grim time) and–I don’t know–staging this skit for a brief television spot? Not the elimination of school sports part, but the praising and respecting of trained professionals part? This is a divisive topic, but humor and visibility make it palatable and allow for real dialogue to happen among groups who have never before thought about common core standards and ED policy. Its time to stop settling for grins and irony. I hope the author realizes the potential of his post, and does something constructive with it. KC

Comments are closed.