Nonsense, Nonsense, Every Where

I just got back from an overseas vacation, and I had hoped that while I was gone the political discourse in America had become more dignified. Alas:

Cruz coined new punchlines attacking Trump, calling him ... a master illusionist like Houdini ... a man who campaigns like Mick Jagger parachuting into a rock concert concert ... someone who should consider writing "The Art of The Betrayal" ... Cruz energized a crowd of supporters by calling Trump "crazy Donald" and a "phony Donald."

So much for that!

Unfortunately, the blathering doesn't stop at our presidential politics, as the Pioneer Institute continues its peculiar crusade against high standards in Massachusetts. In what is becoming a predictable trope, Jamie Gass stormed the op-ed page of Milford's newspaper this weekend to declare that the state should repeal its internationally competitive standards. His reasoning? A ridiculous, and false, claim that the state no longer caters to his own personal literary preferences, in this case, Samuel Taylor Coleridge's "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner":

When we allow policymakers to cut off schoolchildren’s access to timeless poetry, we deprive students of far more than just some old book. British Romantic poets awaken us to the intellectual mission of education through spiritually uplifting words that can elevate young lives.

Gass erects an epic strawman, suggesting that Massachusetts's adoption of the Common Core precludes schools from teaching one of his favorite poems (untrue). This is Gass's preferred scare tactic, as he warned readers in Salem this February that the standards might prevent their children from reading one of his favorite novels (also false).

The truth is that the current standards augmented an already strong focus on fiction (including Gass's favorite poem), with an emphasis on both literary nonfiction (increasingly important in, you know, the 21st century) and non-British literature (ditto). While Gass might pine for Coleridge, I spent a childhood steeped in writers as diverse as Ralph Ellison and Ralph Waldo Emerson, Maya Angelou and Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Chinua Achebe and Zora Neale Hurston. I happen to think Ulysses is the greatest work of modern literature, but it would be ludicrous to suggest that the state should bend to my individual (albeit, accurate) perspective. (Wink.)

For some reason Gass and the Pioneer Institute think the state should spend hundreds of millions of dollars replacing our entire education curriculum to cater to their personal favorites, an odd perspective for a think tank based on "free market principles, individual liberty." The state's current standards move us forward, not backwards, and one man's preference for the old-fashioned way of doing things shouldn't become our Commonwealth's educational albatross.