Riddle Me This: Veneer finishes in education?!

Riddle Me This Sunday

Not knowing who’s a furniture maker, interior designer or not, I wanted to use the word pictures of veneer finishes vs. solid wood for education. Why? Well, because it’s a great analogy. In the world of furniture building you have different kinds of veneers. Cheaper furniture has a layer of  ‘wood’ 3mm or less thick overlapping the materials used to construct the furniture. Mid range furniture will use a thin layer of real wood. Expensive furniture doesn’t usually have veneer finishes. The end result of furniture is to get you to buy it because it looks nice, serves a purpose, and fits your choice of decor.

The finish matters, just not as much as you think

So, how does this relate to education? Well, imagine a piece of furniture. This represents your child’s education. We know from all the research that’s going on, much is being uncovered as to the agendas for education and how your student is taught. Imagine the agendas as the nails, staples or glue holding the piece of furniture (child’s education) together. After the basic structure is crafted and held together, it can begin to receive its ‘adornment’ . Enter the first coat of veneer. This could also be paint or another material used in the process that in the end will make the piece look really good. Imagine this as all the money private, public partnerships have invested into your child’s education. Then, that veneer finish. This is what most folks will see the very first time they look at your furniture. Now, again, think of this in the context of your child’s education. For this example I’m imagining the thinnest fake wood veneer known to mankind. As far as how this connects to your child’s education, the veneer….THAT is Common Core Standards! Isn’t that the main thing we are noticing now? CCSS is here, it’s there, it’s the main thing we notice when we walk in the room. It’s that tacky, veneer finished end table. 

The nails hold it together

Wait!! I thought Common Core Standards is the agenda!?! According to my research, no. It is merely a vehicle to distract our attention look enough to have our heads turned so we aren’t as focused on the true agenda as we need to be. Think back to the furniture..what holds the piece together? THE NAILS! Now, I’m not the first person to reveal this fact, nor will I be the last. It is important, as good furniture buyers to inspect the piece you are considering purchasing, right? Put this through the context of your child’s education. Let me stop right here and state, this is not assuming we are not being diligent. I’m a attempting to draw a picture with words to illustrate the agenda is there, hiding in plain sight. So, what’s IS the agenda?! 

Nails are produced, but by which companies?

For this post, one of our ‘nail companies’, is the report I’m sharing with you.  ReflectionSTEMblueSky What’s unique about this particular ‘brand’ of ‘nail’ is the fact there is no date as to when this report was published. It only refers to specific dates in the past, say 2009, 2010..about the same time Common Core Standards were being introduced.  (refer to my PCAST, STEM and Common Core Standards post to learn more about the connections between STEM , CCSS and your child’s education as well as the hidden agenda therein) Building upon the visions for future STEM educational environments described in the first Workshop, participants identified high priority work (research and development) needed to capitalize on technological advances and produce/deliver/use the next generation of curriculum and instructional tools and environments for advancing STEM learning in formal (school) and informal (museums,community centers, etc.) settings (and across settings).”

The committees meeting to plot the STEM agenda, also had this to say, ‘The task for the Working Group was to give some definition to this thin core—not to specify it, but to make the thinking concrete enough to suggest possible directions in which research and/or development might proceed. The initial discussions focused on the implications of a “thin core” – is it a viable idea? How thin can it be? (page 9)  

A long nail does more than a shorter nail
“Vigorous discussions about this issue are taking place in the 21st Century Skills, Quantitative Literacy, Computational
Thinking, and Career and Technical Education arenas. The demands for broad STEM education of all students are accompanied by an expectation that today’s learning institutions will provide enhanced STEM education to students from
very diverse cultural, linguistic, and socioeconomic backgrounds. These demands are a significant challenge for developers of curricula and instructional materials. New instructional designs must be developed in ways that broaden access and increase rich learning opportunities for all students. They must also connect with and take advantage of the interests and extracurricular experiences of students growing up as cyber-savvy digital natives.” (see page 5)

From Page 10, “Should the focus be on a ‘thin core’ or on an ‘essential core’? This was partly a question about focus, and came up multiple times in different contexts. Race To the Top funding requires that states make Common Core State Standards (CCSS) 85% of their program, but are “free” to use the other 15% as they like. But assessment, especially if it is connected to accountability, drives many school decisions. Unless schools must add variety in the other 15%—which is to say, unless the tests reward them for doing so and punish them for not doing so—their entire curriculum will consist of the “thin core.” What criteria should be drawn upon for deciding, within a discipline, what should or should not be in the essential (thin) core? One consideration is with regard to the purpose of acquiring knowledge – for citizenship, career, and/or scholarship? We agreed that the core should be coherent, regardless of its thinness or thickness. What’s important is to identify a set of conceptual models that are “good enough” for students to use to think about phenomena at a particular grade range.”

Loose ends to also look for

When you read this entire report, look for how the teachers are described (‘learning guides’), notice how long the National Science Foundation has been funding schools curriculum, since the 1990s. (hey, isn’t there a law about that?). Look for the “Universal Design for Learning”, observe the “Cultural Commons” (aka 21st  Century Community Learning Centers). On page 14, look for the ‘intelligence agents’, too.

Finished product..now for sale!

Well, hopefully, the image of furniture has served you well in this post. The bottom line: some of the same progressive thinkers for CCSS were involved in STEM and have built a ‘fine piece of furniture’. We know the original designer, is at the federal level. (see the PCAST post). We also know that STEM is embedded in Common Core Standards. We know that Common Core Standards are not a fine piece of furniture. At best, they are fodder for the wood pile. There will be much more about this in future posts.



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