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Harry Chapin and Common Core

If you are asking who Harry Chapin is, I don’t think we can be friends anymore. And don’t you dare give me this “It was before my time” thing because so was George Washington, but I bet you know all about him, right? Chapin, a folk singer and (in my opinion) one of the best lyricists to grace us with his words, wrote many songs we should all be familiar with. If you aren’t, go back to listening to One Direction and Justin Bieber and do your parents know that you’re visiting this site? I digress, but honestly, you all have iTunes at this point. Use it.

There is one song that doesn’t get as much recognition, but right now it should, considering the discussion and rolling-out of the common core curriculum. It’s called “Flowers Are Red” and here are some of the lyrics:

The little boy went first day of school
He got some crayons and started to draw
He put colors all over the paper
For colors was what he saw
And the teacher said.. What you doin’ young man
I’m paintin’ flowers he said
She said… It’s not the time for art young man
And anyway flowers are green and red
There’s a time for everything young man
And a way it should be done
You’ve got to show concern for everyone else
For you’re not the only one

This little boy is expressing himself. He sees things a bit different. The teacher is not happy about this, however.

And she said
Flowers are red young man
Green leaves are green
There’s no need to see flowers any other way
Than the way they always have been seen

But the little boy said
There are so many colors in the rainbow
So many colors in the morning sun
So many colors in the flower and I see every one

The child is determined to express himself. He resists the teacher for another verse (time is weird in songs) before, in a very beaten down tone, he agrees with the teacher’s view.

The teacher nowadays does not have time to teach all the colors of the flower, so to speak. In a world where the tests must be passed at any cost, there is no room for deviation. Flowers are red, let’s move on to math. And then science. And then reading (which, under common core, is supposed to be 70% nonfiction). Soon, there is so much that has to be taught that the flowers are pushed aside completely. There is no “time for art, young man.” Instead, you have the rhythmic recitation of what the teacher says, regurgitated for testing.

Harry Chapin saw the monotony of education, even in 1978 (a decade before I was born so, again, none of this “before my time” nonsense). He realized that the push for everyone to be the same, to perform at the same level was dangerous. That push has now become one to get children only to the point where they pass a test.

When it was first written, common core should have at the very least taken thirteen years to roll out. Year one, you add kindergarten; year two, first grade. So on and so forth. But the government gave us three years, then subtracted one. At a time when teachers are already struggling to teach what the children need to know for the end of the year exams. It’s about to get worse.

In the live version of “Flowers Are Red,” Chapin would usually say “There still must be a way to have our children say…” and he’d sing the child’s piece about many colors again. There still must be a way to encourage our children to learn, free of the restrictions of this oppressive system of education, which will not do enough for the average child. Soon, all flowers will be red, unless we can encourage a change.

 

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