Standing and blocking the movie house door; grab a can and duck academic excellence

Three news stories, I think make a serious case for the national implementation of a Common Core Curriculum of high academic standards. Now I know there are some very legitimate concerns about the Common Core Curriculum; by some very smart and thoughtful educators (many of them friends and former colleagues) from around the country; but please hear me out here…
It is almost as if a negative public relations firm was hired to present a picture of: “we are not serious about education here”. This is an example of education not even staying in modern pace and place, but rather marching backwards. First, there was the story about the school that was collecting food cans to store in middle school classrooms so that students can throw the cans at a potential intruder (who is assumed to also be armed with only a can, and not a gun). I had to run the risk of sounding naive (or hopefully optimistic?) when I suggested to some of my former students that when I first heard this story on local news (delivered in a straight non Jon Stewart format); I actually thought that this was an extremely creative and cleaver way to promote a school’s food drive collection campaign. I did not believe for one moment that a group of educators from anywhere, would come up with such a crazy and dangerous idea. Putting aside the fact that encouraging middle school students (who need very little encouragement in this area) to throw anything was extremely risky; and more importantly there are so many studies and articles by very smart educators, many of whom experienced a type of intruder(s) incident, and also by school safety and security experts; and so why the need to “invent” silly stuff. And why institute such an ill-informed (lacking research data), ineffective and potentially dangerous practice? Then there was the Superintendent of DeKalb County; who in honor of Dr. King’s birthday thought it would be a nice tribute to reenact “Governor’s Wallace standing in the door of Black student educational opportunity” routine; by not allowing high school students to see the film “Selma”. His rational (and I am being generous here by offering a word: “rational”.) The movie contained “F-words and racial slurs”. First of all, I would like anybody who has spent 3 days working in a high school, and who believes that the students are not aware of the “F-word”; please raise your hand; but also please raise that hand in the privacy of your home; because by raising your hand you are admitting that you received government funds for sleeping and not working for three days; do the right thing and return the money! Secondly the real racial slur here is from the mouth of the superintendent. This weak and flimsy excuse does not come close to hiding his true thoughts and intentions: He is on the philosophical other (wrong) side of the civil rights movement; and the greatest tragedy is that he holds the future of Black students in his racially tainted and discriminate hands. Has he thought about the fact that Black Alabamians might say: “Hey, if he does not want us to see the film, maybe we should……” And White Alabamians should know better than anyone else in this country; that you can’t hold back the literal “march”, or the march of history! The final story; and again I held out optimistically (foolishly?) for this not to become true. The college faculty at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), actually voted no confidence in the university’s president because after some very sound and sensible financial analysis, he decided to shut down the varsity football program. This “no confidence” action was not a vote for something trivial like: greater student racial and economic diversity on campus; academic freedom; faculty professional development and research resources; the upgrading of student social/living facilities, athletic/exercise programs that could include a larger percentage of the student body, expansion of libraries, research and study centers, state of the art science labs, reducing tuition-expanding scholarship offerings; more college engagement with the young citizens and the poor of Birmingham… You know the stuff that should really matter at a first class institution. For a moment I thought that the faculty would actually provide leadership here; but vote “no confidence” they did; without the slightest hint as to what effect that act would have on the image of the university for those (i.e. future students, foundations) outside of her campus. These three examples of a terrible unreality show titled: “Bad educators of Alabama”. All have a similar theme running through them. There is a need for a common core of decency, thoughtfulness and vision; that is badly missing here.