If you missed yesterday’s post, you might want to read it before you read today’s. We are closely reading the following quote from David Coleman’s speech, “Bringing the Common Core to Life,” which he delivered to a host of New York educators in spring of 2011.
Do people know the two most popular forms of writing in the American high school today? Texting someone said; I don’t think that’s for credit though yet. But I would say that as someone said it is personal writing. It is either the exposition of a personal opinion or it is the presentation of a personal matter. The only problem, forgive me for saying this so bluntly, the only problem with those two forms of writing is as you grow up in this world you realize people really don’t give a sheet about what you feel or what you think. What they instead care about is can you make an argument with evidence, is there something verifiable behind what you’re saying or what you think or feel that you can demonstrate to me. It is rare in a working environment that someone says, “Johnson, I need a market analysis by Friday but before that I need a compelling account of your childhood.” That is rare.
(Please note, items 1 and 2 on this list of observations are in yesterday’s post.)
3. We don’t think that saying sheet on stage in front of a crowd of educators while the video camera is rolling was the best word choice. While it was risky, however, it was not ridiculous, and risk warrants at least a token of respect. For the country to be scandalized by some selective use of profanity is a bit hypocritical given that the media typically consumed in our culture is not G-rated. We think most who seized on Coleman’s use of profanity were saying to themselves, “Sheet, this is our chance to score some points for our team!”
While Coleman’s profanity was pretty benign, the spirit of the statement is worth reading closely. It points the field of education in the direction of emotional drought, putting educators in situations where they are inclined to ignore their instincts. (The only evidence we have to support this statement is the acid in our stomachs.) Of course, anyone who ignores his/her instincts must take responsibility for that. We won’t be able to say, “David made me do it.”
4. Finally, Coleman offers a definition of argument as a statement backed by evidence, verifiable, and demonstrable. We presume that persuasion includes statements that are not verified with evidence, even if they are true, AND statements which assert verification, even though it doesn’t exist. In fact, we think the persuasioniest persuaders must be those who announce a statement’s verifiability loudly, without taking great care to pre-verify.
Sound argument is rooted in fact. Persuasion is rooted in emotion. At least this seems to be the current evolution of the Common Core vernacular. What then grows in the fertile ground between the argument and persuasion, the place where facts are distorted for the sake of persuasion. We call it a persuadument, where the speaker crosses his/her fingers and hopes the numbers are convincing enough to keep us from looking behind the curtains. When we listen to a presenter, we all tend to say to ourselves, “It must be true, because no one would say 37.2 percent of children with red hair score better on standardized tests if their teachers teach while standing on their heads, if it weren’t.” Oh, mighty Oz …
We wrote about Coleman’s misrepresentation of the data regarding the use of informational texts in elementary schools. This bad exegesis calls into question every statement of statistical fact presented in the two hour speech that is the source of the quote above. We challenge you to choose a David Coleman video. Take your pick. When he “argues” a point with statistics, particularly if the statement is startling, try to track down the research behind it. We are very concerned that there is a lot more persuasion than argument behind the marketing strategy for the Common Core. Hopefully, most of the statements are true. Whether we are wrong or right, the Common Core deserves an intense vetting. Even Reader’s Digest has fact checkers.** We think even the authors would have a hard time arguing with double checking the statements surrounding the Common Core.
It’s all a little ironic, though, isn’t it … misrepresenting data to persuade people not to teach children to persuade people?
**Okay, we aren’t positive about this, but odds are in our favor. Forgive the persuadument.