• Just Visiting

    A blog by John Warner, author of the story collection Tough Day for the Army, and a novel, The Funny Man, on teaching, writing and never knowing when you’re going to be asked to leave.


Grade Schoolers Should Be Paid to Go to School

We might have to unionize grade school students.

March 27, 2014

The recent ruling by the Chicago office of the National Labor Relations Board granting Northwestern University football players the right to unionize begins the process of peeling back the convenient fiction that Division I football players are “student athletes,” and are instead, something more like employees.

The core of the ruling is that Northwestern players perform work (training for and playing football) for pay, which means they should have the right to unionize and bargain collectively.

My question is when is this going to cross over to 4th graders?

Let me explain.

As Peter Greene makes clear at his blog, Curmudgucation, the raison d’etre of the Common Core State Standards is to generate data. As he says, “The standards aren't just about defining what should be taught. They're about cataloging what students have done.”

This is why when you look at something like the writing standards for 4th grade, each individual criteria is not just listed, but tagged, so students learning how to, “Use a variety of transitional words and phrases to manage the sequence of events,” is labeled, “CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.4.3.C.”

The standardization is not necessary because we’re concerned about all students being taught the same things, but because if the labeling is standardized we can generate comparable data, data for the ed tech and testing companies to use, package, and sell.

Under Common Core, our children will be spending most of their days generating product for places like Pearson, MacMillan and Knewton. These corporations will be profiting, probably handsomely, off of student labor.

Just as Northwestern and other Division I football programs are seeing monetary benefit off their athletes, these corporations will be seeing monetary benefit off the labor of students.

It’s happening already. As reported by Valerie Strauss in the Washington Post, four million students in 36 states are currently field testing Common Core-aligned exams, taking up school time to “help” testing companies “validate” their tests.

There’s more than enough reason to object to the implementation of CCSS on their face. As Greene argues, “The CCSS are lousy standards precisely because they are too specific in some areas, too vague in others, and completely missing other aspects of teaching entirely. We all know how the aligning works-- you take what you already do and find a standard that it more or less fits with and tag it.”

But how about the fact that our elementary and secondary school students are about to start spending the bulk of their days generating revenue-producing data for corporations?

Let me be the first to suggest that they should organize and demand representation and compensation. Think how much more secure their retirements will be if they start paying into Social Security starting in Kindergarten.

Think how much more secure my retirement will be if the next generation of students starts paying into Social Security starting in Kindergarten.

Or why don't we really open up the market and make the testing corporations truly compete for our data generators. Rather than paying the corporations to administer the tests, they should be paying school districts for generating so much valuable data. At the very least, tests should be provided for free. Google, the great data god of the internet, doesn't charge a dime for using their searches. We just have to allow them to snoop our email. Why should we be paying Pearson for the privilege of providing data they're going to turn around and sell to someone else?

Why are we squandering the precious resource of our children's ability to fill in bubbles for so little?

If CCSS is inevitable, let’s make sure everyone gets their slice of the pie, starting with those 4th graders.


You know who else makes its money off of data? Twitter.




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