Next week the Fordham Institute is supposed to release a report that will attempt to explain their support for a nationalized set of standards, curriculum, and assessments while also embracing local control and federalism. If past is prologue, I expect that they will attempt to reconcile the irreconcilable with a variety of oxymorons and otherwise empty phrases.
As a public service, I will try to ease the pain of reading this sort of DC edu-babble by suggesting a drinking game. Every time you see one of the phrases below in the forthcoming Fordham report, just follow the instructions:
Tight-Loose — The Fordham folks will say that they favor being tight on the ends of education, but loose on the means. Never mind that dictating the ends with a national set of standards, curriculum, and assessments will necessarily dictate much of the means. My instruction for the drinking game is that every time you see the phrase “tight-loose” you can take a shot of your choice. We are loose about the means but tight on the requirement that you numb yourself to this edu-babble.
Smart-[Blank] — Every time you read a phrase beginning with the word “smart” such as “smart regulation,” “smart options,” or “smart accountability” (all phrases that have actually been used by Fordham) you will need to consume a Smartini, which is 1 part vodka, 1 part vermouth, and a splash of ginseng and gingko biloba. The smart drink ingredients, ginseng and gingko biloba, don’t really make you smarter, but then again neither do empty slogans in think tank reports.
Common Core — Common sounds so nice and co-operative, as if all states happened to have the same standards in common by an amazing and voluntary set of circumstances. In keeping with the true nature of the Common Core, down whatever drink the U.S. Department of Education and the Gates Foundation financially coerce you to consume while declaring “I do this of my own free will.”
Race to the Bottom — Fordham imagines that states and localities only “race to the bottom,” while we all know the national government guarantees that everyone is equally close to the bottom. Every time you read this phrase “shotgun” a Pabst Blue Ribbon, which is as darn near the bottom as you can get.
Race to the Top — If only titles made things true, Race to the Top would be the opposite of racing to the bottom and would ensure the very best. To remember the Orwellian manipulation of phrases like Race to the Top, drink a Milwaukee’s Best every time you see RttT. It says it is the best, just like RttT says it is the top.
Marble Cake — This well-worn metaphor for the blurred responsibilities between federal, state, and local levels of government is likely to make an appearance in next week’s report. Just to remind yourself that the Constitution does not contain such a blurred description of state and federal responsibilities, have a black and tan. Yum.
Since we only suggest that you get loose without getting too tight, you may have to be lax in following the rules of this drinking game. Remember, drink and make education policy responsibly.
In the comment section please give me your over/under on how many times each of these phrases will appear. Nothing goes with drinking like some gambling.