There is a new parlor game among the cognoscenti called “Albert Shanker Said This 20 or 30 Years Ago So It Must Be Right.”
Last fall, I had a tiff with New Jersey Commissioner Chris Cerf, who invoked Shanker’s name to support the Christie administration’s push for charters. I patiently explained that Al Shanker was indeed a founding father of the charter movement in 1988, but became a vehement critic of charters in 1993. He decided that charters and vouchers were the same thing, and both would be used to “smash” public education. This is not a matter of speculation. It is on the record.
Now the Shanker blog has an article by Lisa Hansel, former editor of the AFT’s “American Educator” magazine and now an employee of the Core Knowledge Foundation, asserting that Shanker would endorse Common Core if he were alive today. (The Core Knowledge English Language Arts program is now licensed to Amplify, which is run by Joel Klein and owned by Rupert Murdoch.)
Hansel also quotes Shanker as a great admirer of “A Nation at Risk.”
But here is the problem. Hansel speculates about what Shanker would say if he were alive today. She doesn’t know.
Would he join with Jeb Bush to endorse the Common Core? We don’t know.
Would he be as enthusiastic about “A Nation at Risk” in 2013 as he was in 1983, now that it has become the Bible of the privatization movement? We don’t know.
However, I can speculate too. Al Shanker cared passionately about a content-rich curriculum. So do I. Would his love for a content-rich curriculum have caused him to join with those who want to destroy public education? I don’t think so.
Would he have come to realize that “A Nation at Risk” would become not a document for reform but an indictment against public education? If he had, he would have turned against it.
Would he have felt good about Common Core if he knew that it had never been field tested? Would he have been thrilled with the prospect that scores will plummet across the nation, giving fodder to the privatizers? I think not.
Would he have been concerned that the primary writers of the Common Core were the original members of the board of Michelle Rhee’s union-busting StudentsFirst? Absolutely.
Would he have allied himself and his union with those who want to destroy the union and privatize public education? No.
Where would Albert Shanker stand on the Common Core if he were alive today?
I don’t know, and neither does anyone else.