Uncommon Core

Associated School: 

One of the biggest ongoing stories in education today is the debate over the Common Core, a set of K-12 standards dictating what students should learn and which has been adopted by 45 states.  Objections to the rollout of the Common Core have been numerous and vocal, but one in particular was highlighted for me at our Gift Sale on Saturday: having a "common" curriculum built around intensive testing is an attack on creativity.  That is, by working to ensure that students' minds are not on "the wrong path", the Common Core actively seeks to thwart their creative potential.  It does seem inevitable that we would end up with a Common Core, given the history of our education system, which was powerfully influenced by the Prussian military machine that was so good at efficiently turning out effective and cooperative soldiers.   Many people have anecdotal evidence, and now there have been recent studies that show that teachers already overwhelmingly discriminate against creative students.  This is not a knock on teachers, either - the system compels them to act this way, and many of them find brilliant ways of subverting it.  Not surprising, then, that the system seeks to further standardize itself.  It is an irony, though (maybe someone can explain it to me?), because business leaders today increasingly claim they want to hire creative people with fresh ideas and problem-solving skills.  The anti-creativity effects go beyond making a living, though, because creativity is also essential to making a life - it's skill that goes far beyond the arts, which it's relegated to in common discourse.  Perhaps fear of uncertainty is what's driving a lot of decisions about our education system.  We want to ensure "success," and so new and creative ideas, which are inherently uncertain, and difficult to measure, are banished.  At HVSS, we offer a kind of Uncommon Core: an opportunity for creativity to flourish.  It's going on all the time at school, but Saturday offered a clear look at it because the full trajectory of some projects became visible.

The seventh annual HVSS Gift Sale was a success in many ways.  The school was filled with beautiful hand-made crafts, there was a good turnout, scores of gifts were bought for People's Place of Kingston, and the Sale was anchored by six student vendors, the youngest of whom is five years old.  All the student vendors went through a multistep process to develop their products, design logos, price items, and display them in a professional manner.  They made hundreds of dollars and donated 10% to the school.  All of their own accord, of course.  Their products were unique, too - duct tape bow ties, heart-shaped rainbow crayons, "Brutal Bookmarks," etc. I got a tiny stuffed ghost and a brochure describing how to properly feed, love, and put it to sleep.  I couldn't decide which Brutal Bookmark to get, so I got two.  I want to be totally clear about this: I didn't buy these things out of sentimentality or affection.  I wanted them, because they were high quality, charming, and creative.  Many shoppers at the Sale remarked on the student vendors' confidence, poise, and professionalism.  One of the student vendors said, "just wait until next year when we're more experienced!"

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Contact Us

Hudson Valley Sudbury School

84 Zena Road
Kingston, NY 12401
Phone: 845-679-1002
Fax: 845-679-3874