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Monday, February 22, 2016

Sign of the times

When I drove past this sign this morning, I had to stop and take the picture. It tells an entire tale about how education is creating new rifts in a society already characterized by vast inequality.

“Mendham Country Day School. Advanced Educational Opportunities. Teaching to the student NOT the test. NO Common Core. NO PARCC Testing.”

This private, $20,000-a-year K-6 school knows exactly how to grab the attention of affluent parents who are likely to send their kids there -- parents who either have direct experience with or have been hearing a lot about high-stakes standardized testing in public education. The four words, teaching to the test, speak volumes, and none of it good. They suggest that public school offers mechanistic pedagogy designed as a very limited tool to do one narrow task -- prepare children to pass a specific test  -- rather than the kind of teaching that inspires creativity and original thinking,  promotes intellectual curiosity, and develops the power to reason. Teaching to the test gets kids over an arbitrary hurdle placed in front of them in one given year. The implication is that this school will instead give kids the tools they need to be more broadly successful throughout their education and beyond.

“Nonsense,” say the data pushers. “That’s just paranoid. Common Core-aligned PARCC tests are just tools that help kids see how they’re doing and allow teachers and schools to be held responsible for their outcomes.” We’ve been hearing the rebuttals for years now: Affluent white parents are just afraid to discover their precious little dears aren’t as smart as they thought they were. They’ve been brainwashed by the teachers union. They’re afraid of change. They fail to see the big picture.

But if it’s so paranoid, why are the people behind these reforms, like New Jersey governor Chris Christie and state Board of Education president Mark Biedron, sending their kids to exactly this type of private school? They live in towns with some of the top public schools in the nation -- schools that don’t have to deal with the problems of poverty and lack of resources, but are subject to the same testing requirements as every other public school in the state. Instead, for their own kids, they choose private schools free of Common Core and standardized tests. Are these guys afraid their kids aren’t smart enough for Common Core and PARCC?

Of course not. Neither was I when I chose to remove my three children from the public school system. Sure, standardized testing soaked up a ridiculous amount of time that could have been spent on more important things, but I honestly didn’t believe those lost days would have a significant impact on my high-achieving kids over the long run. The real issue was what would happen on all the rest of the days. Even before the implementation of Common Core, I could see the harm that was being done by the high-stakes testing regime of No Child Left Behind, and later the Obama administration’s Race to the Top program, which bound the fates of schools and teachers to the test scores of their students.

High-stakes standardized testing strangles learning in a number of ways. It dictates what is taught in the classroom by creating an irresistible incentive to focus on test prep. It pushes out of the classroom any subject, activity, or strategy that doesn’t directly enhance test scores in the short term. It handcuffs teachers from developing curriculums and classroom strategies that play to their own strengths as teachers and meet the unique needs of specific classes and students. It promotes mediocrity by rewarding schools and teachers for getting as many kids as possible over the line of basic proficiency rather than for driving high achievers to new heights. It drives schools to divert resources away from extracurricular and enrichment programs that keep kids engaged with school but aren’t perceived to contribute to higher test scores.

As my children moved through elementary and middle public schools, the writing on the wall became ever clearer: High-stakes testing was the new normal. By the time my eldest were entering their last year of middle school 4 1/2 years ago, it was a crapshoot whether they’d make it through high school before the shit really hit the fan. We knew that Common Core-aligned tests would emphasize close readings of informational text, which would change the way high school English was taught. We saw our school district’s excellent instrumental music program beginning to shrink. It seemed likely that PARCC would soon be a graduation requirement. Teachers, already vilified by anti-union forces who begrudged them their pensions, were alarmed at the prospect of their jobs depending on highly unreliable test scores. How would this affect our kids? Without a crystal ball, we couldn’t be sure. But we knew two things for certain: Every kid gets only one shot at high school, and all this data-driven reform was bullshit. We enrolled our kids in private school. We were lucky we could, though not with the same ease as many other parents who send their kids to elite private schools. Most people are not fortunate enough to be able to take this route.

The Mendham Country Day School sign is a pretty strong indicator that we are not alone. Other parents who can afford to jump ship are moving their kids to private school in response to high-stakes testing. Those schools are understandably capitalizing on that trend in the way they market themselves. How long before the demographic shift becomes noticeable and suburban school districts begin to feel the pinch of wealth flight?

When “No Common Core, No PARCC Testing” is a major selling point to the well-off, even as the ruling class pushes Common Core and PARCC for everyone else’s kids, there’s something very wrong. “Teaching to the student not the test” is not just a sign of the times. It’s a sign of trouble.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Downton Ranty

Spoiler warning for Downton Abbey season 6 episodes 4 and 5.

So Tom Branson, Irish revolutionary turned fortunate son, now loves American-style capitalism. BLECH.

Downton Abbey drowns in fantasy-based nostalgia for an aristocracy doomed by historical circumstance, threatened by unions and socialists out to destroy civilization, and ultimately rescued by free-market capitalism. Unlike Upstairs Downstairs, which he shamelessly ripped off and turned on its head, Julian Fellowes has no real sympathy for the lower classes, who walk a razor-thin line between menial employment and starvation; he treats their revolutionary chatter as adolescent ranting, because obviously what everyone really wants is to win the lottery like Tom Branson and get a free ticket to the good life. Fellowes is far more sympathetic to the “hardships” of the aristocrats and the threats to their social status and vast estates; all they need to do is chill on the snobbery and they'll be good peeps. Because while the servants are childishly ranting about Marx, their betters are embracing Jews and Irish revolutionaries. Because, yeah, I bet THAT happened a lot among the aristocracy between the wars.

Downton invites wonder at the splendors of the upper class's vanished lifestyle -- maybe even raises questions about its sustainability -- but stops well short of indignation at the injustice of a system that supports such artful gluttony.  One wonders if Fellowes even sees the irony in Robert Crawley puking blood all over the lavish table and evening wear, which the servants will have to somehow render spotless by morning.

And speaking of irony, here's an interesting parallel to chew on:

Monday, February 1, 2016

Patriarchy and the dinosaurs

My interest in Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries (which I adore) and Downton Abbey (which I haven’t adored since season 1 but kept watching anyway) has led me to read up a bit about the change in women’s status in the 1920s. One refrain is repeated over and over: World War I created a sea change in the status of women, the ripples of which affected everything from politics to industry to fashion, with one of the most important results being the right to vote.

But it wasn’t until the other day, when my husband was telling me about a Nova he watched about secret tunnel warfare in WWI, which mentioned some shocking casualty statistics, that the whole thing really came together in my mind. I started looking up the numbers. I always knew that WWI was insanely bloody, but – holy shit. Between both sides, more than 65 million men were mobilized; of them, 8.5 million were killed, more than 21 million were wounded, 7.75 million were taken prisoner or went missing, for a total of about 37.5 million casualties, or 57.5% of the total force. It’s safe to assume that these casualties were almost entirely male.

And then, for good measure, 30 years later WE DID IT AGAIN. In World War II, there were 25 million or so military deaths, 70 to 85 million deaths total. Estimates vary a lot, and I won’t bother trying to look up numbers of wounded or any demographic breakdowns – obviously, a significant proportion of those deaths were women and non-Westerners – but the point is, between the two world wars, the male population of the Western world was decimated.

In other words, in order for the status of Western women to improve, it took a cataclysm that killed or maimed an incredible percentage of men – in some cases, like Germany, half or more. In a sense, WWI and WWII are like the meteor that wiped out the dinosaurs: an event so deadly that a new ecological niche opened up, allowing other species to rise up and fill it. (It’s not a coincidence that in Switzerland, which remained neutral through both world wars, women didn’t get the vote until 1971! Did you know that?)

 All of this makes me ask two questions. First, why is it that the status of women in the world defaults to “super sucky” unless we start wiping out men? And second, can human beings bring about a more just world without all the killing? Please?

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

More on morons in Oregon (and elsewhere)

In yesterday’s post about the occupation by “militiamen” (aka domestic terrorists) of a wildlife refuge in Oregon, I hit the “angry white man” theme pretty hard. In thinking about their motives, I wondered, “What’s it like to be terrified to find yourself part of a society that is no longer dominated by straight, white, Christian men?” And I connected their belief system to the kind of extreme pro-gun, anti-government rhetoric we hear all too often from ideologues who preach American exceptionalism and a kind of nostalgia for a white America that never was.

It occurs to me that some might question that. I mean, why make this about race, right? Why do liberals have to keep blaming everything on white privilege? Sure, armed men occupying federal property over a land dispute might be really messed up, but what does that have to do with white privilege? You can’t just assume these guys are racists, can you?

That’s debatable. I mean, think about the extraordinary sense of privilege required to actually believe that, while non-white people all over the country are peacefully protesting economic and racial injustice, your cattle-grazing and land-burning rights are worth starting a shootin’ war over.  But luckily, we don’t have to extrapolate white privilege. These yahoos come right out and address race head-on, given half a chance -- and it’s not pretty.

Cliven Bundy, whose own run-in with the feds over land use put these guys on the media map, and whose son is one of the lead yahoos in the Oregon debacle -- and who, by the way, still has not paid the more than $1 million in fees and fines he owes, and whose cattle continue to graze on federal lands -- has spoken about driving by a public housing project in North Las Vegas and seeing "at least a half-dozen (black) people sitting on the porch, they didn't have nothing to do....Because they were basically on government subsidy, so now what do they do? They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I've often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn't get no more freedom. They got less freedom." (source)

Yep. People like Bundy pine for the good ol’ days, when slavery gave black people a clear idea of their place in this world.

But surely, that kind of thinking doesn’t fly on the more liberal East Coast, home of New Jersey state Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll, whom I quoted urging Americans to arm themselves against potential government tyranny and to stand willing to shoot at soldiers should the (ill-defined) need arise. Well, apparently it does fly if you live in affluent Republican enclaves like Morris County, where, I suspect, the majority of voters don’t much care what a local politician says, as long as he promises not to raise taxes. The only national attention Carroll’s ever gotten was when he said this:

"If slavery was the price that a modern American's ancestors had to pay in order to make one an American, one should get down on one's knees every single day and thank the Lord that such price was paid." (source)

Once again, when it comes to black people, slavery is better than the alternative. Spot a pattern? Hint: The belief that slavery was a favor to black people, who otherwise would be lazy leeches in America or savages back in Africa.

Of course, neither Bundy nor Carroll would ever admit that their views on race, guns, and land are connected by their longing for an America where rugged (white) individualists live free (manly) lives, bearing arms to protect the land (that they took by force from the Native people who were there first).

Oh yeah -- I forgot to mention -- the occupied Malheur National Wildlife Refuge was once a Native American reservation. President Ulysses S. Grant established the Malheur Indian Reservation for the Northern Paiute in 1872; the Bannock War in 1878 ended with surrendered Paiutes and Bannocks on the reservation being removed and forced to move to Washington Territory. (source)

I feel fairly certain that the irony of this is completely lost on the angry white morons involved.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

What's goin' on in Oregon?

Why do a bunch of angry white men out West see it as their right to take up arms against a democratically elected government? Why do they think their ideas on land use, or anything else, can justifiably be promoted at gunpoint? Where does such a staggeringly misguided sense of entitlement come from?

I wonder what it’s like to believe with the certainty of divine revelation that you’re supposed to be the top dog in the most powerful nation on Earth, and that anything less is a threat to the very order of the universe? What’s it like to be terrified to find yourself part of a society that is no longer dominated by straight, white, Christian men? I expect these are the feelings that have made the guys occupying a wildlife refuge in Oregon so vulnerable to manipulation by those who profit, both financially and politically, from gun culture, and to the dangerous rhetoric of ideologues who live in a fantasy world of American exceptionalism, rugged individualism, and white Christian privilege.

Who are these batshit, paranoid ideologues who promote the fantasy that accumulating a personal arsenal in modern America is exactly like the American Revolution, because TYRANNY, FORSOOTH!? Don’t they care that their paranoid rhetoric is routinely transformed by the people who swallow their crap into lunatic conspiracy theories about the government carrying out false flag operations to pave the way for martial law and concentration camps and such like?  No, this doesn’t seem to bother the mouthpieces of right wing extremism, probably because it serves their purposes to whip up fear and loathing in their core constituency. (Though I have to wonder, does it really serve anyone’s purpose to make people vote for Donald Trump -- other than Donald Trump’s, of course? But I digress.)

Anyhow, far be it from me to pass up an opportunity to flog my favorite hobbyhorse: that embarrassment of a politician who represents me in Trenton -- New Jersey’s own gun-lovin’, liberal-hatin’, Revolutionary War reenactin’, somewhere-to-the-right-of-Attila-the-Hun, extremist ideologue, Republican Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll. Because this speech of his is a great example of the kind of rhetoric behind what’s going on in Oregon.

    “The American revolution would have been impossible were America not a nation of armed citizens. The framers knew that tyranny is always possible, even here, and that tyrants rarely go peaceably into retirement. A people who only stay free so long as they retain the ability to defend that freedom. Put simply, in America, we trust the people. We do not put the entirety of our faith into parchment barriers against tyranny. In many places throughout the world, throughout history, people lived in fear of their government. Our founders understood that prospective tyrants should live in fear of the people, not merely willing, but fully capable of defending that freedom. The idea that we are somehow safer if only folks who possess firearms, the means of defense, are armed bands of disciplined young men working for the government and trained to follow orders without question is so obviously delusional that it’s amazing that somebody could advance it in good faith....
    "Let me ask you one simple question: If your neighbor cannot today be trusted with a firearm, how does donning a uniform change anything?  Now we are one of the very few nations in the world that celebrates a heritage of shooting at soldiers. God willing, no further poet will ever immortalize the deeds of private American citizens fomenting a successful revolution against a homegrown tyranny. But it behooves a free people to be prepared for that eventuality. We don’t celebrate firearms freedoms for their own sake, but for the legacy of freedom and independence that an armed population produced and will if necessary, defend. Firearms freedoms ensure that Americans will be governed, but we will never be ruled.”

Translation: Of course, we don’t want to shoot at our own soldiers, who work for the government and therefore cannot be trusted. But when -- ummm, I mean if -- we don’t like the government anymore, let’s not hesitate to occupy something and wave our guns around like idiots, ignoring the social contract, the rule of law, the principles of democracy, common sense, and any semblance of reason. With liberty and justice for all. Amen.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

This Christmas without my dad

In memory of my father, Michael Wyschogrod.

Warning: Contains Doctor Who spoilers through "The Husbands of River Song." 

Another Christmas, another Doctor Who special that seems to have been written for me personally.

After last year’s special, I was moved to write about my own situation. I was staying with my father, who was deep in the throes of advanced dementia, while my brother and his family were away. No longer safe on his own, Dad had been living with my brother and his wife, empty-nesters, for about six months. We are Jewish and don’t celebrate Christmas, so my brother had planned a much-needed and well-deserved vacation; rather than drive my father four hours to my house, which would have been very disorienting to him, I went to my brother’s, where Dad was settled in and had aides to help him nearly 24/7.

Here, in part, is what I wrote on Christmas day, 2014:

    “‘Do you know why people get together at Christmas?’ [the Doctor] asks her. ‘Because every time they do, it might be the last time. Every Christmas is last Christmas.’
    “A lump swelled in my throat. Surely, this is my last Christmas with my father. It makes no difference that Christmas is just a date on the calendar for us. Whatever the coming year holds, I don’t think there will be even a glimmer of my dad left by next December 25.
    “Is there anyone my age who heard that line and didn’t react the same way? Anyone of any age who has felt the sting of loss, or who knows he or she soon will, who didn’t shed a tear? We mark the turnings of the seasons, the year’s end, the milestones, with gatherings of friends and family because, for each of us, there will be a last one. It’s not a truth we generally speak aloud, but we all know it.
    “‘Last Christmas’ is about the nightmare of dreams within dreams within dreams; about not knowing the dream from the reality. In the end, the characters are returned to their own realities – awakened -- by Santa Claus and a Time Lord, as absurd and unlikely a pair as any you could dream up. But of course, it doesn’t end there. There is one last awakening. I turn off the TV; Santa and the Time Lord disappear, and I am back in my niece’s old room in my brother’s house, with a father who is with me for one last Christmas.”

You can read the whole piece here.

My father died on December 17, 2015, a week before the next Christmas. I watched this year’s Doctor Who special the day after getting up from shiva, the traditional weeklong Jewish period of mourning, which we observed at my brother’s house. I spent the week sleeping in the bed my father had occupied the previous year; eating at the table where I’d given him his meals; greeting visitors in the living room where we had sat together in his quieter moments. Last Christmas had indeed been my father’s last.

It was a long, sad year with my dad, predictable as it was. In the first half of the year, his delusions, confusion, and agitation had grown steadily worse, even as his strength declined and he became less and less steady on his feet. The demands on my time from my own family meant I could only visit Dad about once a month, and so the change from visit to visit was obvious and painful to see. Then, at the beginning of the summer, he came down with pneumonia and was hospitalized. Realizing it no longer made sense to try to care for him at home, my brother and I decided to put him in a nursing home. We felt guilty and awful. In the home, his decline accelerated, which made us feel even more guilty. In the last couple of months, he was difficult to rouse; he spoke little; it was hard to tell how much he understood. We felt that the brilliant man who had always been such a powerful force in our lives had departed long before his body finally shut down for good. When the doctors told us it would just be a matter of weeks, my husband and I brought our three teenage kids to see him one last time. That was on a Sunday. On Thursday, he died in his sleep.

Last year, I wrote, “It’s a funny thing about Doctor Who lately: It’s a family show that often seems to be speaking more to the adults in the room.” In season nine, that’s been more true than ever. Steven Moffat has a gift for transforming a fanciful premise into a poignant tale about a lot of very un-childish things, and the twelfth Doctor, as played by Peter Capaldi, is the perfect vehicle for such tales. This is a Doctor who is decidedly not in the business of candy coating harsh reality; who expects joy to come mixed with equal parts sorrow; who rages against the inevitable, and then accepts it as the bitter pill it is.

It feels to me like Steven Moffat, who wrote the last two episodes of the regular season, “Heaven Sent” and “Hell Bent,” as well as the Christmas special, “The Husbands of River Song,” is writing from a place of sorrow tempered by an innate ability to see dark humor in everything and a stubborn refusal to give up on the idea that, if we’re very clever and very lucky, we can find joy and love along the way.

The character of Ashildr is the embodiment of the idea that if you live long enough, life’s suffering will become your constant companion, and that if one is to know joy, it must always be in admixture with sorrow. When you get right down to it, there’s no denying that, looked at one way, the Doctor did a terrible thing by giving Ashildr immortality. If pain is inevitable in life, then endless life inevitably brings infinite pain. But then, one could condemn anyone for bringing any sort of life into this world, and what would be the point of that? Life may be a bitch, but it’s all we have. The alternative is nothingness, and that is truly terrifying.

Which brings me to Clara. We’ve watched her heading toward her inevitable end ever since she first showed up. Her character actually starts off by dying a couple of times. That doesn’t bode well. So when we find her fate finally sealed in “Face the Raven,” it hardly comes as a surprise. And then comes “Heaven Sent,” which is mind-blowingly, devastatingly sad and painful, as the Doctor faces a trial that lasts a near-eternity, with none but his remembered Clara to keep him company and help him through.

What a poignant way to capture just what I felt as my father slipped further and further away, and I superimposed on his fading presence my own vivid sense of who he was and what he’d meant to me over the years. My remembered father, who taught me the “duty of care,” as the Doctor put it, guided me when it all got to be too much -- when I was splitting my time between my three endlessly needy teenage kids and my increasingly confused, delusional father, especially when he was in an independent living facility an hour from my house, and I was trying to manage his wandering episodes, his inability to manage his medication, his persistent delusion that every older woman he saw was my dead mother, his near-total loss of sense of time. I found myself in a surreal world, my own personal confession dial where, at first, day after day I broke it to my father anew that his wife was dead and that he couldn’t be seeing her, and eventually gave up and invented stories for him about where she was and why she kept appearing and disappearing. And all the while, I could feel death stalking the poor man, ever since a neurologist diagnosed him with Lewy Body disease and said, “There’s only one way this goes.” Don’t try to tell me Steven Moffat wasn’t thinking of me when he wrote the story of the Doctor trapped in the confession dial. I know better.

Then come “Hell Bent” and “The Husbands of River Song,” and we see the same thing happen twice: A beloved character heading for certain death gets an extended reprieve during which she gets to do exactly what she wants. For Clara, it’s her own Tardis and all of time and space; for River, it’s quiet years (one Darillium night) with her beloved Doctor, with no crises, no running, no apocalypses. What a lovely fantasy. It’s all my if-onlys come true: If only I’d been more accepting of our differences when I was young; if only I’d been more understanding of his faults; if only I’d spent more time with him when he was well; if only we’d traveled more together; if only I’d read his books and asked him about them; if only I’d written down all his stories; if only I’d brought the kids to see him more often.

If only we had more time.

The ending of “The Husbands of River Song” feels bittersweet, because of course I don’t get the fairy tale, the extra time, the reprieve. Memory and legacy are all well and good, but the finality of my father’s passing is unrelenting. I will wake up every morning for the rest of my life to the reality that he, and my mother before him, and others I’ve loved, are gone. Someday, my kids will do the same with me. Eventually, we will all mourn, until the time comes when others mourn us. But we’ll also take some comfort in stories about rescues and reprieves -- stories that move us all the more when they rest, as Moffat’s do, on a profound understanding of the psychology of grief and loss, and the very human urge to deny the inevitable.

“The Husbands of River Song” made me laugh (“Does sarcasm help?” “Wouldn’t it be a great universe if it did?”) and it made me cry (“When the wind stands fair and the night is perfect, when you least expect it, but always when you need it the most, there is a song.”). When all is said and done, we’re left with the songs and the stories that live in the nexus between past and present, memory and experience. As we sat shiva for my father, my brother and I repeated the stories of our father’s life over and over, and showed the pictures and documents that prove that, yes, the man was real, the stories are true.

And they’re all we have left.

I think perhaps, when I’m thinking about my father, and my mother, and all the if-onlys -- when my own mortality is pressing in, and I feel trapped in my own confession dial -- I’ll watch “Last Christmas” and “The Husbands of River Song” again. Maybe they’ll be the songs I hear “when the wind stands fair and the night is perfect.” Or maybe something else will be. But anyway, I’m grateful to Steven Moffat for creating lovely bits of fluff that tap into such a deep, vulnerable place and somehow make grief a little more bearable. I’ll end with the exact words I wrote a year ago:

“It’s a funny thing about Doctor Who lately: It’s a family show that often seems to be speaking more to the adults in the room. But I guess that’s what happens when an old, old show about an old, old time traveler is taken over by a middle-aged fan. Steven Moffat grew up with Doctor Who; now Doctor Who is growing up with Steven Moffat.”




Friday, February 20, 2015

Valuable Lessons of the Common Core


Lately, Common Core, defined by its creators as a set of academic K-12 standards "created to ensure that all students graduate from high school with the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in college, career, and life, regardless of where they live,"  has been getting such a  bad rap. This latest-and-greatest education innovation and its associated high-stakes testing are stressing out kids, narrowing the curriculum in schools around the country, draining money from education budgets and learning time from school days, pitting parents and teachers against administrators and state officials, and generally preventing schools from getting on with the job of educating students.

But hey, maybe everyone should stop being all grumpypants about Common Core and start to appreciate all that our kids can learn from it. After all, it IS all about the children – at least, that’s what Common Core proponents say: "Today’s students are preparing to enter a world in which colleges and businesses are demanding more than ever before." We all want our kids to go to college, right? And after college, our kids will have to meet the demands of...umm...businesses...right? So, yeah! Go Common Core!

And we all know that all kids can learn. If there's one thing every parent figures out pretty quickly, it's that kids aren't stupid. You can lecture them about being responsible and doing the right thing until you're blue in the face, but they soon figure out what's what, not by listening to what you say, but by observing the behaviors of adult around them and discerning the underlying values they demonstrate. So it's pretty obvious that our kids will learn something from Common Core! Isn't that great?

So let’s bring some good old-fashioned American positivity to the Common Core debate. Instead of being Negative Nellies, let's talk about...

VALUABLE LESSONS OF THE COMMON CORE:

1. Math: It’s all about numbers. And when we say all, we mean, all the stuff that really matters. And how do we know what really matters? We quantify it and attach a number to it! And when we say numbers, we mean the kinds in big data sets that are created by tests designed to quantify everything and attach numbers to it. In a world where all things can be measured and numbered, you will never have to settle for the squishily subjective, because SCIENCE! And speaking of…

2. Science: Data is good. As long as you have data, you are correct. What is data? Why, big sets of numbers that live in a database, silly! Why else would they call it a database? Do not bother yourself about where the data came from, how it is generated, what it actually reflects about the real world, whether the statistical models being used to interpret the data are valid, or whether that interpretation has any actual predictive value. Just do as you’re told and crunch those numbers, and you’ll be fine.

3. Language arts: Reading and writing are important. Why is reading important? Because that is how you learn about data, number-crunching, and all the other stuff that really matters. You know, the quantifiable stuff. Which is why reading “informational texts” is much more important than reading literature. Literature wastes your valuable, quantifiable time with stuff that will not be required in the business career for which Common Core is making you ready.  You know, unimportant stuff, like ethics, human relationships, aesthetics, and creativity. And writing is obviously very, very important. Think of all the memos, instruction manuals, financial reports, legal briefs, and resumes waiting to be written!

4. The arts: These are very important, to the extent that the material covered can be quantified and contributes to your demonstrated performance on standardized tests of math and language arts.  And just think of the important role the arts play in business careers! Ad copy! Jingles! Product design! Ummm…visually appealing PowerPoint presentations! So…umm…yeah. The arts.

5. History: Does this one even require explanation? Okay, for the slow students in the class, here goes. First of all, history is the wellspring of informational text, which, as we’ve established previously, you will need to be able to read for your 21st-century career. And then, of course, history is what you need to study in order to understand that America is the greatest country on Earth because it has free markets, little regulation, low taxes, and plenty of opportunity for those with enormous amounts of capital to create even more enormous amounts of capital. History is where you learn about how America ended discrimination based on race, gender, sexual orientation, and religion, creating the highest standard of living in the world [for straight white male Christians, mostly]. Oh, and also, history makes you good at memorizing dates, which is good, because dates are numbers, and we’ve already covered how great numbers are.

So there you have it. We hope we’ve cleared up all the unnecessary confusion and misinformation about Common Core. So kids, get out there and prep for those Common Core-aligned tests! And parents, please stay home and stop making a fuss at school board meetings. You have nothing to fear but the loss of public education to the agendas of for-profit testing companies and their oligarchic masters.