The words "State Standards" will be appearing frequently in this blog. If these two words make you nauseous, I apologize in advance -- but State Standards are a reality that all public school teachers must live, breathe, and sleep with. Relationships have been known to crumble over teacher devotion to these Standards. Spend an afternoon with the right kind of teacher, and it soon becomes clear that many of them having been sleeping around -- with their book of State Standards. It's not pretty. The State Standards are insidious. We can not ignore them, no matter how much we wish we could.
This brings me to one of the most disturbing trends I see in public education -- the consistent attempt to make meaningful things that, in essence, are not. Standards are to be written on the whiteboard at all times. Standards are to relate to the lesson being taught, and students should be made aware of the standards attached to their lessons. This is in case any government spies happen to come into the classroom (I'm not kidding), and in case they question any of your students and ask them the dreaded questions, "Does your teacher teach to the Standards." Your students must answer, "Yes." If they do not, terrible, unspecified things could happen to you.
Teachers live in fear of many things -- parents, principals, pink slips, reassignments, benefit cuts -- now, they also live in fear of being busted for not taking the Standards seriously. If you don't take the Standards seriously, then your students will not do well enough on the STAR test (you know, that infamous yearly spate of testing that makes elementary students pee their pants and barf, and destroys low income schools). If your students do not do well on the STAR test, then the government spies will take over your school and destroy it further, (I'm not kidding).
Depending on how badly the administration is breathing down your neck, many teachers actually opt to give their students packets that contain the Standards in their particular subject matter, (each subject has its own elaborate set of Standards). This packet of Standards is now seen as an automatic justification for what the students are being forced to learn. This is a wonderful tool for teachers, actually. No longer must they feel guilty for lulling their students to sleep with empty, boring content! They can just point to the Standard on the board and say, "This is why you need to know this! Because California thinks it's important!"
In my experience, this explanation means a whole heck of a lot to your average American teen. I once made my students read Romeo and Juliet backwards, then I had them attempt to translate the entire book into Polish using a shared English/Polish dictionary. Whenever they questioned me, I just pointed to the Standard on the board and they settled right back into the lesson with looks of almost sage contentment on their faces.
It's kind of a relief actually -- to be freed of responsibility for deciding what to teach. Not creative? No problem! Don't care about your subject matter? Who cares?! All you need to worry about is getting your students to do well on the STAR test, and you're path is paved with...well, maybe not gold, after all, our country has weapons to build, but at least stainless steel, or maybe aluminum. Something cheep, but shiny.