Finding Common Ground on Common Core

In his song, In This Love Together, Michael Bernard Beckwith urges us to:

See with the eye behind the eye
Hear with the ear behind the ear
Feel with the heart behind the heart
So we can
See the invisible
Hear the inaudible
Do the impossible.

We live in interesting times where cynics  would have us believe that people are separate from each other and that we must identify ourselves as “us” vs. “them.” Frequently this division translates into the perception that in order for our views to be right, the other side’s must be wrong. Nowhere in education is this more evident than the swirling controversy surrounding the adoption and implementation of the Common Core State Standards.

What if it weren’t true that one side must be right and the other side must be wrong? What if there was a place where both sides could be right? What then?

I would suggest that this is absolutely possible, and that there is a third position, one where everyone is seen, heard, and understood. This is a place where everyone is right. Through discovering and embracing this third way, we can finally move beyond the status quo and engage in real transformation of our education system on behalf of all students and their future.

Over the last several days I listened to many hours of panel discussions, legislative testimony, and hallway conversations from both supporters and detractors of all things having to do with the Common Core State Standards. At first glance, you might believe that this is an either/or proposition; that you either support CCSS or you don’t. But what was most striking to me about these interactions was that everyone, regardless of what “side” of the issue they aligned with, had a lot more in common than not. 

As I thought about Michael Bernard Beckwith’s song and  the stories from both sides that resonated with me,

Here is what I saw with the “eye behind the eye:”

  • Parents and community members who love their children and want what is best for them.
  • Teachers who have had the love of teaching sucked out of them by over-testing and being held accountable for things over which they have little or no control.

Here is what I heard with the “ear behind the ear:”

  • Frustration that school experiences have been narrowed to the point where there are few, if any, opportunities to engage students in music, art, and physical education since those subjects are not tested.
  • A desire to do what is best for students and advocate for more support and resources like time, materials, and technology.

Here is what I felt with the “heart behind the heart:”

  • The pain of one mother whose child became sick over high stakes testing and another whose child has an individualized education plan yet does not receive individual treatment because of the over-emphasis on accountability.
  • A desire to prepare kids to be successful adults by engaging them in authentic learning experiences where they can apply their learning in a real-world context.

When the Common Core debate is framed this way, there is no right or wrong; there is no “us” vs. “them.” There are only parents, teachers, and community members who want our kids to be happy, healthy, and well prepared for what life has to offer them.

I, for one, am ready to become a warrior for the human spirit and work towards solutions based on common ground around the Common Core. Anyone interested in joining me in doing the “impossible”?

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