In the last few weeks, a bunch of students in a high needs secondary school in Jamaica, New York had the audacity to put into practice New York State’s Common Core Standards. They used Bloom’s highest thinking skills–synthesis and evaluation. By creating a play critical of ideas that are affecting their very lives, these young men and women showed they were combining information to form a unique product requiring creativity and originality (synthesis) and that they were also creating a viewpoint that required a deep understanding of different values (evaluation). According to Bloom, when someone can think and perform at such a level, they are more than ready for higher education. You know, for such high level thinking to be taking place in a school that is slated to be closed down, maybe some really positive learning is taking place in this very challenged environment.
However, instead of having pride in the theatrical, literary and artistic achievements of these students, the administration of this school is in terror. They are afraid that if they allow the least bit of criticism against Emperor Mike and his cohorts, something terrible might happen. Well, Mr. Principal, it already has! Your school is being closed down, so who cares what this naked Monarch thinks. The First Amendment has not been repealed yet. The real purpose of education is to foster free thought and creativity, not the censorship of a totalitarian state. By preventing this play, the Principal and the cabinet of this school are no better then those Germans terrorized into silence by the Nazis during the last century. These administrators have completely surrendered their values as educators.
And here is the essence of a culture clash, which is the heart of the issue. There is an unbridgeable chasm between corporate values and educational values. The corporate creed has a bottom line while educators believe that kids have limitless potential that we must try in every which way to foster. Educators have the duty to help develop citizens that are always critical and suspicious of any government authority. You would think that those in power want the same thing when they developed these supposed Common Core Standards that are supposed to enable “all” students to be able to handle college level material. Well, this incident in Jamaica High School shows the true values of those who developed these standards. In reality, these high standards were developed as a set up. These standards were set up to doom most public schools to failure by creating standards that are all but impossible to achieve.
Of course, those in powers would say that I am one of those people who are trying to hold back students because I have low expectations for some kids. On the other hand, I and most educators have high expectations, but realistic expectations. And who would agree with me, but Mr. Bloom himself. I have recently reread Bloom and he himself states that most students up to 8th grade should be expected to gain knowledge and comprehension in order to apply and analyze this information by the end of high school. According to Bloom, it is in college and graduate school where most students will learn to synthesize and evaluate. Of course, if a younger child has higher cognitive ability, an educator will encourage higher level thinking skills at a younger age. But to expect a second grade student to synthesize and evaluate information when they have no knowledge base is totally ridiculous. Unfortunately, many elementary high needs students do not have the foundation skills of knowledge and comprehension to develop such higher level skills. Thus, educators must in such schools work extra hard to develop such skills against the many life challenges that these students have. Of course, now, if a teacher in a high needs elementary schools would primarily focus upon building knowledge and comprehension, his or her lesson will be rated as unsatisfactory. Instead, higher level questions must be asked regardless. Recently, a third grade teacher told me that during an observation, she asked her students to contrast the themes within a fable they were reading to themes usually found in folk tales. At that point, a student raised his hand and asked, “What is the difference between a fable and folk tale?”
It is a miracle that these Jamaica High School students have developed such critical thinking skills in this present learning environment in which we now have a curriculum whose purpose is to teach students to pass invalid and unreliable tests. If the cabinet of this school and Bloomberg/Klein feel that these students have crossed the line, then they forgot what happened in the early 70s when I recall another generation of students in Queens taking over classrooms to have teach-ins to protest certain government policy’s concerning the Vietnam War. Interestingly, many administrators and teachers encouraged their students to use Bloom Taxonomy to evaluate America’s political policies at that time. Silence kills freedom, but legitimate criticism makes freedom stronger. If we remain silent, it will be public education that is killed, but if we speak our mind and encourage all stakeholders to remain critical, there is still hope. I think the administration of the school should allow this play to go on. Let Chancellor Black stop the play and then publicly state why she did so! Let this magazine publisher be a censor and a true hypocrite.