School Deform

Salvo31I am delighted to announce that the Winter 2014 edition of Salvo is now hot off the press. My own contribution to the magazine comes in the form of a devastating critique of the Common Core curriculum. Condensing some of the observations I made in my earlier series of blog posts, I have tried to present a very succinct summary of the primary objections I have to the new curriculum.

Most of the articles for Salvo can only be accessed by people who purchase the physical magazine (click here to subscribe), but because we know that not everyone can afford a subscription (even at the phenomenal price of $25.99 for a whole year), we have made my article on Common Core available online for free.

My article, titled ‘School Deform: How 31phillipsCommon Core Promotes Cultural Engineering by Killing the Imagination’ argues that Common Core is essentially a neo-Skinnerist conspiracy to control the next generation through squeezing us into a pragmatic cast that kills the imagination in the process. To read my article, click on the link below:

School Deform: How Common Core Promotes Cultural Engineering by Killing the Imagination


Instrumentalizing the Liberal Arts (Common Core, Part 4)

This is the fourth and final article in my ongoing series on the problems with Common Core. To read the earlier installments click on the following links:

In this final article I want to suggest that the philosophy of reading behind the new Common Core Initiatives is fundamentally dehumanizing.

In the classical understanding of education, we acquire language skills so that we can read great texts, and we read great texts so that we can become richer and deeper people. By contrast, for Common Core the purpose of reading texts is to acquire language skills, and the purpose of language skills is to better compete in the 21st century global economy. As such, the value of the liberal arts is entirely instrumentalized to pragmatic ends. Accordingly, if it were possible to achieve these same goals independently of reading texts, then reading would become superfluous.

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Killing the Imagination (Common Core, Part 3)

In the past the man has been first, in the future the system must be first.” Frederick Winslow Taylor

This August children throughout America returned to school. Few of these students were aware of the monumental shifts that had just occurred in their schools. You see, the 2014-15 school year is when American public schools began implementation of the new Common Core State Standards Initiative – the controversial educational reforms introduced by President Obama.

President Obama used $4.35 billion of stimulus money to effectively “pay” states to join Common Core, which imposes new standards on what students should know at the end of each grade for English language arts and mathematics. By controlling national testing standards, Common Core creates the infrastructure for federal control of school curriculum.

In my earlier posts in this series on Common Core,I suggested that the ideological underpinings of Common Core can be found, in part, by being attentive to the hyper-pragmatism of men like Frederick Winslow Taylor (1856-1915) and B.F. Skinner (1904-1990). In this post I will be continuing that discussion by showing how the purely pragmatic principles of Common Core kill the imagination of our children.

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Treating Children as Lab Rats (Common Core, Part 2)

The philosophy behind Common Core goes back to one of the greatest educational reformers of the twentieth-century, the pragmatic psychologist B.F. Skinner (1904-1990). Skinner took the factory mindset of American pragmatism and applied it to school children, dehumanizing them in the process. Skinner was to the classroom what Frederick Winslow Taylor had been to the factory.

Skinner boxSkinner is famous for inventing the prototype of the Skinner Box, an operant conditioning chamber to study animal behavior. But Skinner didn’t stop at rats and mice: he wanted to take what he learned from rodents and apply it to the education of American school children. (Skinner acknowledged no ultimate distinction between men and animals, having declared “To man qua man we readily say good riddance.”) He wanted, in his own words, to bring “the results of an experimental science…to bear upon the practical problems of education.”

In his 1984 essay ‘The Shame of American Education,’ Skinner delighted that “with teaching machines and programmed instruction one could teach what is now taught in American schools in half the time with half the effort.” (Like Frederick Taylor, Skinner seems to have also been haunted with the idea of a time deficit.)

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The Triumph of American Pragmatism (Common Core, Part 1)

In 1912, the United States Congress began holding a series of hearings into workplace practices introduced by Frederick Winslow Taylor (1856-1915).

Taylor had revolutionized American factories, increasing productivity by staggering amounts. Through removing “rule of thumb” practices from the workplace and regimenting production according to the principles of “scientific management”, Taylor enabled managers to run their factories like giant machines.

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