The Common Core of Football?

Yesterday, on my way home from a day of teaching middle school, I listened to Movin the Chains – an NFL talk show on Sirius.

I know! I wasn’t car-dancing to Katy Perry for once!

The guys, along with callers, heatedly debated whether or not plays and other vernacular of the game ought to be standardized.

The pro-standardization guys said that there is a lot of player mobility in the league. Say a WR plays in Baltimore for the first 2 years of his career. He learns his routes, and is used to the play-calling by number. He’s memorized his route tree, using the poetic

Odds go inside,
evens go out.
The higher the number,
The deeper the route.

But then he gets traded to Green Bay. They don’t number the routes the same way. He’s confused, and spends an inordinate amount of time re-learning WR basics. Wouldn’t it be easier for all involved, if route trees were standardized?

But the anti-standardization guys reminded listeners of some very important points:

– Play-calling isn’t just short-hand, it’s also covert. Teams need to be able to trick the opponent with their plays.
– Each coach has a different “style,” and killing their ability to put their own flavor on the individual team’s vernacular kills an essence of team unity.
– Diminishing autonomy prevents innovation – coaches and players couldn’t authentically think “outside of the box,” instead solely relying on innovators of the past and never progressing the game forward.

Ultimately, winning is the real standard. How a coach chooses to get his team to that standard relies on his skill, style, and innovation.

Because I’m a teacher, my lens is clouded with the muck of the standardization debate in the education field. I couldn’t help but hear the similarities between this debate and the daily one at the school, district, state, and federal level.

Wouldn’t it be great – I’ve been asked – if any kid from any state could walk into any classroom on any given day, and learn the exact same thing? Kids wouldn’t be lost if they move, or have to hope for a “good” teacher. It would be more equitable a system.

Okay, but …

Killing the style of a teacher kills her* classroom energy and unity and her buy-in to the curriculum. Killing her freedom kills her ability to innovate, improvise, and differentiate for different learners. Setting the bar too high sets students up for failure, while setting it too low compromises the pushing of academic boundaries.

Ultimately, well-educated citizens are the standard. How a teacher chooses to get her class to that standard relies on her skill, style, and innovation.

The Common Core – a corporate-made model du jour – sets standards of learning. In itself, not horrible. But its implementation is becoming the lock-step, creativity-free, totally anesthetized masses reminiscent of dystopian novels.

We wouldn’t stand for it in our sports. And we certainly shouldn’t stand for it in our schools.

Coaches – keep innovating! Keep putting your stamp on your team! You know your guys, you know your sport, and you are creative and skilled.

The same goes for teachers.

Hugs and loves!

*I used masculine pronouns for coaches and feminine pronouns for teachers. I know! Well, coaches are men (for now!). And I’m a teacher, and a woman. So there ya go.

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