Sunday, November 02, 2014

Conform: Exposing the Truth about Common Core and Public Education

I had a very mixed experience as far as school is concerned.  I experienced both home school and public school.  While much more common now than when I did it, I continued a somewhat unorthodox path through college, attending a private, religious school and doing things like testing out of classes and taking independent study classes.  Eventually I got a master’s degree online.  The odyssey started in third grade, when my mom took me out of public school because she thought there was only one teacher at the school that could properly help me.  I was an advanced student for my age and prone to misbehavior when bored.  After a couple years at home, I asked my parents to send me back since that’s where my friends were.  At the end of that year, I was more than happy to be back at home for sixth grade.  Junior high, which scars many a person for life, tried hard with me, too, especially since we moved between my seventh- and eighth-grade years.  In high school I had a steady diet of AP classes mixed with various gym classes.  I considered early college for my senior year, but had a couple good friends at school, so decided to stick it out.  The benefits were skipping class to play basketball and running on the track team, where lots of girls practiced in nothing but short shorts and sports bras.  Academics were beside the point, and I breezed through even my AP classes.  The point, of course, is that throughout my schooling, the standard one-size-fits-all approach did not serve me well.

Book cover.In Conform: Exposing the Truth about Common Core and Public Education by Glenn Beck, Kyle Olson, and Kevin Balfe (ISBN: 978-1-4767-7388-9), the authors attack the federal government- and union-led approach to education in America.  The first half of the book is dedicated to debunking the typical arguments one hears about why public schools are the only way to go.  They also focus on the idea that the government should control schools, curricula, and even what students eat.  They present argument after argument showing that centrally-controlled education fails the vast majority of students outside the average and even a good many who are average.  They show that the current system encourages mediocrity, whether that be in students, teachers, or the school systems themselves.  Education policy is controlled by bureaucrats far removed from the process, unions who, despite what they say, care more about collecting money for their bosses than what teachers or students need, and administrators, legislators, teachers, and union officials who have an agenda to push.  The second part of the book talks about what us normal people can do to change.  We don’t have to conform to the system, the authors argue, but if we want to control our own or our kids’ education, we have to be involved in bringing about the change we want to see.  We have to participate in school boards, in meetings, on curriculum committees, and in elections, as voters, candidates, and campaign workers or volunteers.  They cite examples of places real change has taken place and note that more can happen should we choose to make it happen.

The book is a follow-on to Beck’s book about gun control and written in exactly the same manner and style.  This book does not live up to its predecessor.  I found the arguments to be weaker and not as convincing, although they were still all true.  The school question is a big one, and they touch on many different aspects.  I think the writing was a little scattered in places and could’ve used some focus.  I enjoyed the suggestions at the end of the book.  It is Beck’s style to encourage participation and responsibility instead of just complaining about a problem.  While he prophesies a lot of doom and gloom on his shows, I think his overall message is one of optimism, but only if we choose to get involved in the processes around us that affect our lives.  If we’re not involved, they’ll pass us by and we’ll really only get the messed up society we deserve.  The voice of the people usually gets it right, but all the people have to make their voices heard.  I like that message.

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This work, including all text, photographs, and other original work, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial No Derivatives 3.0 License and is copyrighted © MMXIV John Pruess.

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