For the Love of Children

Rancho Tehama

Outside of Tehama Elementary School after yesterday’s shooting. Photo credit: Jim Schultz. Source: USA Today

Our society does not love its children.

It has been almost 5 years since the Sandy Hook shootings, where twenty children, aged 6 and 7, and six adults were killed in cold blood. In these intervening years, not only have we failed to pass common sense gun laws, we seem to have grown numb to the violence. Yesterday’s shooting at Tehama Elementary School did not even make the landing page of the New York Times online this morning.

Our society does not love its children.

Violence against children is normalized. I do not see collective will to invest in their health and well-being. It has been 45 days since Congress has failed to renew the Children’s Insurance Program, which insures about nine million American children. Nine million. That is nine million children whose parents will put off or avoid check ups that can catch diseases early. Nine million children whose life chances just got worse.


Our society does not love its children.

Our current U.S. Department of Education wants to cut funding to support after-school and summer programs. The current budget allocates $0 to Title II of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which purports to support high quality teaching and support for special education. Parents will have to choose between working or letting children be alone after school or on long summer days. Children need care and attention, and parents should not have to choose between earning a livable income and attending to those needs.

Our society does not love its children.

Politicians defend a pedophile’s pedophilia –– and even invoke religion to do so. Our society does not love its children.

Anybody who professionally cares for children is economically penalized. Their labor is not valued. Pediatricians make less than general practitioners. Educators, the stewards of the next generation, often work in inhospitable conditions and are asked to treat children as widgets, inputting knowledge so the children can output test scores, instead of as burgeoning people, with questions and needs and loves and worries.

Our society does not love its children. And it breaks my heart.



My Opinion on Common Core State Standards in Mathematics

I have had the luxury of taking time to form my opinion on the new Common Core Standards.

There are three issues to consider, all of which get discussed when we talk about them.

1. The content of the standards themselves.

2. The nature of the assessments used to hold schools accountable for them.

3. The implementation of them, from curricular support, professional development and accountability processes.

My take on Issue 1 is that they are a strong first draft. The practice standards are the boldest and most important innovation, since they press on higher order thinking. Nonetheless they have some flaws. For instance, a teacher friend told me one grade asks that students learn to make box-and-whiskers plots while the subsequent grade asks for students to compare them to look at differences in measures of central tendency. Well, making those plots without looking comparatively is a silly exercise since the whole point is that they make measures of central tendency and spread visible. Goofs like this could be tweaked in field testing, but the authors did not have that chance.

2. I had some hope that the ‘second generation’ assessments developed for CCSS-M would be a step up from a lot of what we have seen. The release items I have seen so far have not carried out that promise.

3. The biggest problem, in my mind, is the rush of implementation and the lack of resources to make this ambitious goal feasible. Perhaps the most fatal aspect of implementation is that CCSS-M is getting put into the very flawed infrastructure of NCLB/RTTT. On the ground, it ends up feeling like a turning of the screws in the already problematic accountability pressures schools and teachers are facing.