Guest Blog, Jane Remer: A Paradox, A Paradox, A Most Ingenious Paradox –The Common Core of State Standards and The Untamable Core of the American Class System

Jane Remer’s CliffNotes: September 29, 2011

“A Paradox, A Paradox, a Most Ingenious Paradox” (Pirates of Penzance/Gilbert and Sullivan)The Common Core of (Voluntary) State Standards and the Untamable Core of the American Class System.

The 21st Century is young, but it’s clearly becoming a paradox. The now developing Common Core meticulously charts the paths and spirals (but not the contents) for English Language Arts and Math, K-12. Many states are engaged in developing assessments (process and implementation, not content) aligned to the CC standards that are complex, rigorous and demanding. Those of us devoted to the arts as education are trying to figure out how to at least establish an arts presence as content so that our domain is not completely ignored.

The paradox, which is not new, but now ballooning across the country, is that the rigor, sophistication and complexity of the Common Core demands just about all the intellectual skills and capacities that so many of our students lack, and that relatively few teachers have mastered. I suspect that without vast amounts of coaching, professional development and money for our superintendents, principals and teachers and focused support for the less advantaged, the American paradox of class inequity will grow larger.

I doubt that there is the money or the determination to boost all those kids who drop out of school or otherwise disappear into the unemployment lines or the streets, ready for college, let alone work, in the 21st Century. And that is the goal of Common Core. I suspect the American paradox will become sharper and more brutal, given the socioeconomic and political conditions of today.

What is sad and part of the paradox, is that Common Core standards, when built on and integrated with local state standards offer a clear structure for good teaching and learning in all the disciplines, a framework that deserves study and serious adjustment. I am aware that New York and the city are hard at work with the alignment and assessment guides that can help educators clarify, sequence and illuminate learning in all major subjects (except the arts, as yet), and that is encouraging.

However. We are still a country of a few haves and many more have-nots and our schools, cities and rural areas reflect the chasms. Certainly, the “good” schools and the privileged classes will benefit from Common Core efforts. But I want to see us chip off some blocks from the paradox and get closer to top-notch education for all our children that of course includes the arts.

I’m sure W.S. Gilbert wouldn’t mind….he’d just add another stanza to the trio!


JANE REMER’S CLIFFNOTES We are at another rocky precipice in our history that threatens the survival of the arts in our social fabric and our school systems. The timing and magnitude of the challenges have prompted me to speak out about some of the most persistent issues in the arts education field during the last forty-plusyears. My credo is simple: The arts are a moral imperative. They are fundamental to the cognitive, affective, physical, and intellectual development of all our children and youth. They belong on a par with the 3 R’s, science, and social studies in all of our elementary and secondary schools. These schools will grow to treasure good quality instruction that develops curious, informed, resilient young citizens to participate fully in a democratic society that is in constant flux. I have chosen the title Cliff Notes for this forum. It serves as metaphor and double entendre: first, as short takes on long-standing and complicated issues, and second, as a verbal image of the perpetually perilous state of the arts as an essential part of general public education. I plan to focus on possible solutions and hope to stimulate thoughtful dialogue on-line or locally.

Jane Remer has worked nationally for over forty years as an author, educator, researcher, foundation director and consultant. She was an Associate Director of the John D. Rockefeller 3rd Fund’s Arts in Education Program and has taught at Teachers College, Columbia University and New York University. Ms. Remer works directly in and with the public schools and cultural organizations, spending significant time on curriculum, instruction and collaborative action research with administrators, teachers , students and artists. She directs Capezio/Ballet Makers Dance Foundation, and her publications include Changing Schools Through the Arts and Beyond Enrichment: Building Arts Partnerships with Schools and Your Community. She is currently writing Beyond Survival: Reflections On The Challenge to the Arts As General Education. A graduate of Oberlin College, she attended Yale Law School and earned a masters in education from Yale Graduate School.

2 responses to “Guest Blog, Jane Remer: A Paradox, A Paradox, A Most Ingenious Paradox –The Common Core of State Standards and The Untamable Core of the American Class System”

  1. Jane is right to worry about practicality. Even if adequate money becomes available for trainings around CCSS and students become creative, critical thinkers, will there be jobs?

  2. RE: developing arts content presence with the CCSS…I began developing my math/percussive dance integration program in 2003, based on the ‘big ideas’ set out by the NCTM Principles and Standards. At the core of this program is a very vigorous, creative exploration of patterns (using percussive dance), one of the cornerstones of mathematics. This past January my co-creator (an elementary math ed specialist) talked me through the new CCSS for mathematics and, much to my delight, I discovered that almost all the CCSS for Mathematical Practices (as well as much of the geometry content) were naturally embedded in the choreographic process and experience of Math in Your Feet. The reason? It is an arts-based program that draws connections between the creative process and math problem solving — they are essentially the same, albeit with slightly different content and results. Perhaps now the *process* and practices of math have equal value with content in the CCSS, more schools and teachers will see the value in an arts-based inquiry/program like mine.