With our whole intersection with Americans for the Arts this week and the discussions surrounding Common Core and the Arts, it has been a joy for me to begin analyzing the Common Core from the “other” side. You see, in my role, I have to find the connections. I have to be able to say “see? this is where WE fit with Common Core” and help others to translate that into their own practices. And as I stated in my post over on the ARTSblog, I truly believe that the Arts are at the heart of Common Core. I believe that Common Core has been developed based on a framework of practices and habits of mind and that the Arts are the foundations of those practices and habits. And yet, there is another side to the coin.
Several weeks ago, I read an article summarizing the ISTE conference from 2012 and one of the keynotes was regarding Common Core from Dr. Yong Zhao. The question was simple: is there a Common Core for Lady Gaga? The answer: not so simple. Lady Gaga, whether you love her or hate her, is a true artist. She tries to make sense of the world for herself and then share her interpretations with the world in whatever way she can. Can we really layer a set of standards on her? If not practical, is it even possible? And if not, what does that say about the Arts and the development of a set of standards by which to teach and assess their value? My solution: process like an artist.
Imagine that Lady Gaga was sitting in your classroom. How would you reach and teach her? For me, the skills and practices of Common Core are separate but inextricably linked. They are like Peanut Butter and Jelly: good alone but great together. If I can teach the skills through the processes so that any child can make a personalized meaning of the material and then foster an environment that allows all of the students to share their interpretations and together create something new, I think that’s a good start. This is the potential for Common Core. It strips away the “dabbling” in everything under the sun and makes concerted efforts to narrow the focus so that our students can build mastery of the skills because they have the time to develop the processes.
When that question about Lady Gaga and the Common Core was posed, I’m not sure this was the interpretation that Dr. Zhao expected. I’ve seen too many assertions that Common Core is just the next “magic pill” and that it’s really snake oil for education simply because it’s got “standards” within the title. What’s being glossed over is the underlying structure from which Common Core was built and what these standards hope to accomplish: students who are creative and collaborative, connecting their knowledge through personal meaning and who own their learning. These are the same elements of any great artist – even Lady Gaga. Is there a Common Core for Lady Gaga? Yes. A core of developing passion and perceptions of the world and then an understanding of common skills that can be manipulated and broken to share those interpretations with the world. Just Dance.