Can you explain yourselves as human beings?

August 10, 2013


An open letter to all the policy makers, business leaders and think tankers responsible for the horror show that is the Common Core in New York State,

Yesterday, I attended a social gathering of NYC teachers, which I thought was going to be an afternoon of catching-up, gossip and reality show bashing over Italian heroes and cookies. In the presence of wise, common sense veteran teachers, I shouldn’t have been surprised when our get-together instead turned into a damning critique of NYC’s new Common Core (CCSS) curricula and, of course, the new CCSS state assessments.

We bemoaned what’s being forced on us by our state and city; material that we don’t believe in as conscientious whole child educators. Like broken records, we concurred with regards to what we’ve long believed our particular group of students really needs in order to be successful learners, none of which carry the Common Core trademark.

With this in mind (and I appeal to your human side), please consider these questions:

How can you – in good conscience – think these tests and curricula are remotely appropriate for our elementary students? Have you even seen the materials?

Are you just repeating the “rigorous, college and career ready” mantra because that’s what’s expected of you at work?

Do you ever feel like a fraud at work?

Is your goal at work to make money and/or to please shareholders and higher ups?

Like so many teachers, do you go home at night and tell your loved ones, “I can’t believe what I’m doing at work. What a waste of time and money! This makes no sense whatsoever.”

If you are unmoved by these questions, we are left to consider the possibility that you may possess some sociopathic tendencies.


Katie Lapham, Brooklyn


3 thoughts on “Can you explain yourselves as human beings?

  1. Dear Katie,

    My name is Beniko Mason. I am an English teacher in Japan. From many messages that I receive on my facebook page , I can see that US teachers are very upset about being told how to teach and about being forced to give tests to children and students all the time. I do not understand why US is going to start such a thing now.

    That is what has been going on in Japan for the last 50 years. I am sure it is the same in Korea too. Japanese children from K to 12 have been tested all the time. Teacher’s job is to help her/his students score high on tests. As the result Japanese students are not happy in school. When they don’t feel worthy of themselves in school, they will look for somewhere else to feel that way. Most of them find fun somewhere else outside of school.

    Young Japanese people like to buy the designer brand clothes and bags, dye their black hair yellow, shave their eyebrows to change the original shape, pierce their lips, and tattoo their body. Some of them work at night and become a prostitute to buy things. These young people are children from middle class families. These are by-products of wrong school education. Test centered education has been going on for 50 years. This kind of education has damaged two generations in Japan.

    Many children still spend many hours a day at school. Not all of them. Those whose parents can afford the high tuition of cram schools. With the current ways of teaching in Japan, only a few % of the students are winners. The rest are losers. Even when they spend money and time at a cram school, they don’t achieve the score they need. Most children are educated to feel stupid and are forced to follow. Children are told that they are stupid. Their parents are told that their kids are stupid. They are threatened and have fear. So, they follow.

    There were severe violence in classes at one time and they used to say that classes/schools have collapsed. Many students commit suicide because of poor grades. Parents began to criticize teachers. Those parents who complained and voiced their opinions were/are called monster parents. Some sneaky parents took this trend to their advantage and used it to maneuver the situation and teachers to get their way – such as good grades or passing grades for their children. Sometimes those monster parents try to fire teachers whom they don’t like. Teachers sometimes physically abuse their students. 12th graders bully the 10th graders. There is little respect for teachers from parents and students. Everyone has to work off their frustrations.

    I am surprised to hear that the US is trying to do something that is proven to be wrong in Japan. Japanese teachers are forced to give lessons to prepare for tests. Students are forced to do hundreds of mechanical drills endlessly so that they can automatically write correct answers on tests (mid term test, final test, proficiency tests, practice tests, entrance exam, and daily tests).

    There are cram schools everywhere in Japan where they charge high tuition, and many children are forced to go to a cram school after school as late as 9PM or maybe 10PM. I see small children on a commuting train coming home from a cram school late in the evening. Parents must work overtime to pay for their cram school tuition. Many families can’t enjoy a summer vacation as cram schools offer summer intensive courses. The cram school teachers don’t get a vacation, either. Those cram schools hire college kids to teach some of the classes. The college kids don’t know how to teach, but they need money, so they teach according to his own method without any evidence of efficacy.

    It is a big mess. Those teachers who understand all this try to be compassionate and do as much as they can, but when they do a good job, the current system gets the credit.

    I hope you will not repeat this in America. USA is supposed to be a good example to the world.

    Beniko Mason

  2. I am a mother of a 12 yr. old in middle school in Brooklyn, NY, District 20. I am totally again these tests but allowed my son to take it for fear that he will not have the opportunity to pick the H.S. he wants because as I was told by his school that “good” high schools pick children based on common core scores. I don’t understand why NYC Department of Education refuse to listen to parents, teachers and students when we all say that these exams are a bunch of bull crap. It also makes me wonder if the department of education has monetary gain in all this and that’s why they refuse to change. Why can’t children’s grade be based on the tests they take during the school year as was done long time ago? I hate to see my son struggle with subjects he once enjoyed learning and frustrates me to think he will be considered a failure because he didn’t do well in these stupid tests. I’m beginning to think that our rights as parents are slowing being taken away. I wish we can get rid of the entire board of education and re-elect people who will put our children’s best interest first and not theirs. So sad to see that we used to be a power country and are now reduced to corrupt officials just like my country and many other third world countries. So sad.

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