Lin-Manuel Miranda or Common Core: Pick One

Lin-Manuel Miranda’s and the Common Core’s kind of class could not be more different. Which class do you think  best helps kids to excel as learners and thinkers?

Choice One: Lin-Manuel Miranda

Just two days before his final performance in Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda, a former high school teacher, spoke to 200 high school teachers and described what he thought learning should look like.

He used his experience in the theater to talk about the classroom. He advocated that teachers engage students in questioning  and connecting with what they are studying. He explained how students become stronger thinkers by listening to the ideas and questions of their classmates. In Miranda’s kind of classroom, the teacher does not give students the one right answer but rather expects them to have their own individual, well-referenced interpretations and their own evaluations of  ideas. The teacher creates a classroom community in which diversity of thought is valued and in which the students explore ideas by engaging in intellectual endeavors together. The teacher knows that students benefit from being aware of their own learning and thinking processes so engages them in considering how they go about learning something and how their minds work. The teacher brings his or her own joy and purpose to the classroom and delights in the students finding joy and purpose of their own as they read, write, and think together through the school year.

Read Miranda’s own words here:

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Choice Two: Common Core

The accompanying 15-minute video shows you what a Common Core English class is like. David Coleman, the chief author of the Common Core Standards for English Language Arts, is the speaker.  The lesson is for a 7th grade class ; the topic is Martin Luther King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail”.  View here.  In this lesson, the teacher has all the answers. The  meaning of King’s letter is, as the Common Core insists,  found “within the four corners of the page” and must be dug out. The students are not allowed to personally connect with the letter, ask their own questions, choose a line of significance to them, or explore the historical background of what King wrote. They do not analyze how the actions of  society in King’s time or theirs connects to King’s advocacy for justice. Students, instead, are asked to figure out King’s intent in writing the letter by analyzing the word choice and rhetorical structure he uses.

In the beginning of the lesson, David Coleman says that his lesson will debunk the three “popular” ways of teaching literature, but, little does he know, those ways are not popular at all. He wrongly says those three “popular” ways are: the teacher summarizing for students what they are going to read before they read it, the teacher asking students to predict what will happen before they read it, and the teacher using what they read to teach a concept like main idea or cause and effect.  He doesn’t mention at all what is really the reason we teach literature: to engage students with provocative ideas and provide them with opportunities to  construct their own meaning about those ideas.

Decision Time: Pick One of the Above

It is one or the other.  Lin-Manuel Miranda or  Common Core . You can’t have both because the two approaches are philosophically and pedagogically opposed to each other. Both require close reading. Both require students to use text evidence. The difference is in whether you see education as pouring information into the empty heads of passive students or see education as inspiring students to be all they can be.

Choose wisely.

 

 

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