Common Core: Gerald Graff Versus Diane Ravitch?

Many of you are probably familiar with (and perhaps have partaken in) the heated conversations occurring on the state and national level about the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).

Particularly resonant to my own situation is that the “Common Core Yields Odd Political Allegiances“: the article title I invoked in the previous clause begins with this line– “To say that new academic standards have yielded strange bedfellows would be an understatement.”

However, I am concerned that, as usual, the national discourse about CCSS reduces the complexity of these tensions to the equivalent of twin (albeit opposing) Facebook status updates– one to which we respond “like” or “dislike” without much further research or thought.

At the risk of reducing a complex issue to a simplistic “Good Thing/Bad Thing” binary (If you watch the clip, I love it when Jon Stewart says, “Good thing or bad thing?  Let’s go to our analyst, Flippy the Coin!” and I am always horrified anew when the reporter cuts off a sophisticated financial analysis with an unbelievably snide “Can you just say if that’s a good thing or a bad thing?”), I think it’s worth noting that two remarkably fine minds and scholars have both produced coherent arguments regarding their opposing stances on the Common Core– Diane Ravitch and Gerald Graff.

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Peter Elbow to Speak at Spring Assessment, Teaching, and Learning Conference

Peter ElbowHappy Holidays to all of you, and congratulations to all of you for completing a highly successful fall quarter 2013!  While April and May of 2014 might seem very far off, I urge you to reserve April 30th-May 2nd for the annual Assessment, Teaching, and Learning Conference held at the Hilton Hotel in Vancouver, Washington.

This year our keynote speaker will be Peter Elbow, Professor Emeritus in the department of English at University of Massachusetts, Amherst.  In his keynote address, “Trying to Teach While Thinking About the End,” Dr. Elbow will revisit an essay (published in 1979 in the anthology On Competence).  In the original essay, Elbow explored some of what he called the “paradoxical effects” of a competence approach and raised questions about whether such an “rules out or inhibits certain styles or temperaments in teaching.”

35 years later, his inquiry still feel resonant and timely—perhaps even more so, as technology offers us previously un-imagined possibilities in regards to instructional design and competency based education (CBE).  I, for one, am most eager to hear the insights of this thoughtful scholar on this provocative topic.  As an added bonus, Dr. Elbow will be available for a follow-up discussion after the keynote with interested faculty.