Academic journal article English Education

The Knowledge Games: A Play in Two Acts

Academic journal article English Education

The Knowledge Games: A Play in Two Acts

Article excerpt

Cast of Characters

DeCross (pronounced Duh-Cross): President of City of Essa

Andrew: Proficient/District Equity

Jasmine: Proficient/District Equity

Ms. G: Proficient/District Transgress

Ms. Washington: Proficient/District Transgress

Octavia: Proficient/District Equity

Dana: Proficient/District Connect

Elizabeth: Proficient/District Connect

Curriculum Developers (24): Escorts/Bodyguards


SETTING/CONTEXT: The City of Essa. It was a young city, invented in response to the 1983 diagnosis of teachers and students as underachieving by every measure, at least as reported in A Nation at Risk. Teachers were not to be trusted; students must do better; standards must be higher; school administrators must select curriculum with which to intervene. "Professional development" was the term school administrators hissed at their teachers in the city's surrounding districts.

Most teachers faithfully-albeit begrudgingly-attended their "professional development" sessions, if only to stop their administrators from hissing.

Attendance. No hissing. This was the closest the city's teachers and administrators had come to shared professional goals.

The City of Essa hosted the annual Knowledge Games. The Games, as it was called, was the city's response to a rumored uprising in District Equity. One witness, ANDREW, reported that teachers expressed such dissatisfaction with the model of professional development foisted on them that "all of the first-year teachers . . . were allowed out of their contract . . . with most of them going into traditional public schools."

The President of Essa and its surrounding districts-a wealthy, ashen, scowling woman known only as DECROSS-did not take kindly to such rebellion; the Knowledge Games were born soon thereafter. And the revolting teachers from District Equity were never heard from again.

The rules for the Games are simple. In punishment for District Equity's teacher-revolt, each of Essa's surrounding districts must require its most community-oriented and equity-minded teachers to submit their names for participation, as such teachers are considered a threat to the larger purposes and educational goals identified by their administrators. The chosen teachers, called Proficients, will be imprisoned in a vast, windowless conference room beneath the city. The room could be decorated with anything from reminders of their students' most recent test scores, to student work samples with perplexing titles like "Hamburger Journey," to posters that portray schools' abysmal "AYP" scores.

One year, the Proficients were greeted to nothing other than posters displaying the term "College and Career Readiness" and a looped recording of the words: Text complexity . . . Text complexity. . . Text complexity.

Over a period of several weeks, the Proficients must compete to memorize a 66-page document called the Common Core English Language Arts Standards-a long list of ambiguous rules and requirements about literacy teaching and learning to which teachers and students must sacrifice their own communities, personal interests, expertise, and in more severe cases, their sanity. There is no way to prepare for this test in advance-the rules and standards change on a yearly basis (and sometimes twice or thrice yearly), and always right in time for the Knowledge Games.

One year, a teacher found-and circulated-a copy of what he believed to be the test that had been developed for that year's version of the Games. As it turned out, it was a fake planted by DECROSS, an effort to keep tabs on the teachers by identifying who she had long referred to as "no good infidels."

The teacher who circulated the phony test was never heard from again. His public school was shut down and the surrounding land razed. Now, a monument of a school voucher, the design of which is slightly reminiscent of a movie theater ticket and as tall as a skyscraper, stands where the school once stood; a reminder that such a stunt must never be repeated. …

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