Jay Rifenbary

Jay Rifenbary's Blog

Common Core Standards - An Educational Concern

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Allow me to preface my following comments on the state of our local educational systems. The stand on which I am about to take is not an attack on those who teach and do their best to educate and support our children each day. I, like many of you have witnessed the dedication, commitment and perseverance of teachers, administrators, civil service employees and support staff doing the best they can to collectively provide a quality education and educational environment for our children. The stand I am taking is one where that dedication and commitment by so many that educationally care is being significantly compromised by federal government involvement into our local educational practices.


The passion to teach, inspire students, provide the fundamentals for learning, and the belief in a bright educational future for our children is being dismantled by federal programs, mandates, and their dictated curriculum. As a former member of your board of education, I witnessed the amount of time, effort, resources, and funding to comply with federal statutes. From "No Child Left Behind", to "Race To The Top", to the present installment of "Common Core Standards", these initiatives are basically political campaign slogans, pats on the back banter, and an attempt to create a one size fits all in regard to what should be taught and what your children’s educational priorities should be. Regardless of your political affiliation, do you actually believe the federal government and their political appointees know what is best for every student? Do you really believe they know what is best for your child?


With all these initiatives, have our international rankings for educational excellence, national test scores, or graduations rates significantly improved? From a language arts-perspective, how is the use of the spoken and written word advancing among our youth? Teaching the skill of cursive is being withdrawn from school curriculum at a rapid pace. How are the uses of proper spelling, or an understanding and appreciation of a proper vocabulary, and effective grammar being valued? Common Core Standards are detrimental to the very fabric of what it means to learn. This government mandate will stifle creativity, independent thought, problem solving, innovation, and the ability to be a unique human being with unique abilities, talents and skills, because students are being forced to basically all be the same.


Should all students be mandated to be in the same environment, with the same standards, and same expectations of performance? What kind of governmental structure are we trending toward? Not being realistic, and not taking into consideration socioeconomic and cultural differences is just one part of how this education equation is ludicrous. Not everyone is the same, not every child, not every adult, or every human being. Is it really anyone's dream or desire to make everyone like everyone else? Not every student is meant to go to college, nor get a degree, nor become what the government wants them to become. I am not talking about human rights, which should be consistent for all, and the right to an education is one of them. Rather, there should be a place for individual liberty and autonomy to capitalize on ones own talents, skills and dreams, which everyone should have a right to aspire to and work toward.

 

True, meaningful education should support and encourage the ideals of individual uniqueness.  If there is any parent who wants their child to think, behave, and be like every other child then you are limiting your child's expectation of themselves, possibly to a standard less then their potential. Common Core Standards are not far from creating a non-democratic form of education, since its dictated by those in positions of political power with their own political agendas. To have students only learn what the federal powers dictate, with the potential to distort the truth of human history and human thought for the purpose of controlling what is learned by the masses will be an educational disaster. Control how people think and learn, and you control how people live and how they believe what the world should be. You cannot get further from an optimal democratic learning environment than that type of educational structure.



A Little Consideration - Makes a Big Difference

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To be considerate of another is to be respectful of humanity. As a society, are we becoming less considerate? With technology dominating so much of our time and attention, and the continued trend toward greater face-to-smartphone interaction rather than face-to-face interaction, what do you believe the answer to be? Considerate is defined as, "showing kindly awareness or regard for another's feelings, circumstances, etc." How considerate is it to cyberbully? How considerate is it to be ill mannered? How considerate is it to be judgmental, bigoted and cynical? How considerate is it to use profanity and be verbally abusive? How considerate is it to be self-centered, egotistical and narcissistic? I firmly believe the less we interact face-to-face the less cognizant we are of the destructive nature of these behaviors, and therefor more inconsiderate of one another. How can one be empathetic when one is less understanding of the complexities of human emotion, and the hurt associated with inconsideration?

Terms associated with being considerate are kind, thoughtful, respectful, amiable, polite, sympathetic and unselfish to name a few. Is the constant use of technology heightening or lowering the understanding of the importance of such positive behaviors. When was the last time you discussed those behaviors with your children, or made a concerted effort to have them break away from their smartphone for a second and be considerate of what you or someone else is saying and/or doing? To be considerate is to initiate what it means to enjoy being human. The acknowledgement of another with a smile or a warm greeting, the respect demonstrated to another by being polite, or a genuine friendship being enhanced by talking, listening, feeling and sharing are all examples of uplifting the human experience. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.”

Throughout my travels I constantly witness the impact of technology on consideration. There is no need to smile, be polite, talk, listen, feel or share anything when your head is buried in your isolated technological bubble of apps, computer games, social networking, etc. The ease at which many ignore others, or their surroundings, as they consume themselves in the digital world hinders the understanding of what a genuine and meaningful relationship involves. Technology is amazing, will continue to expand, and has created global awareness, but how much attention is being paid to add balance and ensure a belief in the beauty and importance of true human interaction? Emphasizing the value of relationships, family, community and service to others sustains a respectful and considerate society. Tragically, the more one removes them self from the human experience the easier it is to become less caring, and less sensitive to the needs of others.

As with any endeavor, including the building of human relationships, it takes effort. To be inconsiderate takes little effort and therefore generates little success in building successful relationships. It also reinforces another common trend of an acceptance of lowering the bar when it comes to expected behaviors, and breeds laziness, apathy and a lack of self-respect.

Eight steps to being more considerate are, * Set the example. * Remember to treat others as you wish to be treated. * Make an effort to engage another when appropriate, rather than ignore them. * Make it a habit to emphasize and execute a behavior that displays consideration. * Consistently mentor your children in the behaviors that exemplify being considerate. * Discuss with your children how being considerate relates to the core values of your family. * Make a commitment to take a break from technology, and enhance what it means to be human. * Instill manners in your children, as it is the foundation for demonstrating consideration. To display a character of consideration is to display a considerate spirit of love, compassion and empathy toward others.



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