On July 17th, over 500 citizens showed up to share their concerns about Common Core with legislators. Hundreds were unable to share their stories. This is one of them. Shana Osterloh shared this with us and we wanted to make sure people understood exactly what President Obama is talking about when he praises the German school-to-work education system. When the purpose of education becomes managing the needs of the economic workforce instead of educating all children to best meet their needs, interests, and capabilities, we destroy initiative and high achievement on a mass scale. Here is Shana’s talk.
Thank you for the opportunity to voice our concerns on Common Core. I have come across many people who do not know what Common Core is, and others who have felt alone in their fight against it. President Obama has been quoted praising the German education system in his discussion about education reform. I suppose that’s why I felt it was important for parents to hear from someone who has been through a Common Core system in Germany.
What follows is a letter from my husband regarding his experience in Germany. Some parts would need some cultural translation or further discussion, but I believe the overall message is very powerful.
As a German growing up in Germany, I always had my battles with common core standards. I was not one of the top students during my school years. I also was not part of the bottom, so I was placed into the path which freely translated we call “middle maturity”. On this path I was set up to pursue a vocational training career unless I could get my grades high enough to study at a Gymnasium (the path required for academics). I managed to skim by with my grades, making it barely into the Gymnasium. However, because my middle path of schooling was not dominantly designed to move up in educational paths I quickly fell behind, lost interest and ended up in a career that did not require academic education, just as predicted when assessed by common standards at grade 6 at the time. (The assessment is done at grade 4 nowadays.)
I pursued the career of a fitness trainer. I was the best student of the year, even the best student that institution has had until that date. I liked my job, but I always had a nudge in the back of my head how I could sustain a family making barely the average income that was usual for fitness trainers in Germany. I tried to calm myself by telling others that I would probably do this job only until about my fifties, and then move up somewhere into an office and work more on the administrative side. But I knew I was lying to myself. I probably would not have had the courage for a career change in my upper fifties.
Once I told my then girlfriend about my career “ambitions”. She was from Arizona and grew up with the American spirit that you can become anything you want. She declared me crazy for settling for so little. She told me that if I really was that smart to outperform my whole training institution till that date, I could also study at a college and secure a better lifestyle.
I told her that in Germany, once you leave Gymnasium, there is no easy return. The Gymnasium I attended previously already had told me that there is no return for me once I left. There is such a thing as night classes, but those are mostly seen as a “second dive for failure”, or “not good/ smart enough for the normal path” by many Germans. So there is no telling once I would have completed such night classes that a university in Germany would have ever accepted me thereafter.
Luckily my then girlfriend did not get off my back hearing these excuses. She encouraged me to go to America and study whatever I want. She believed that I could do it.
A year later I met my wife, who is originally from California. She also told me the same thing; that I could become and do anything I wanted. I still was hesitant and with my German common core depressed upbringing I wondered if I was even good enough for a community college.
As of Fall 2012 I am enrolled in a Utah college and am on my way to change my future working on an associate’s degree in business and accounting with ambitions to rise up to a doctorate level.
I am grateful for the American spirit these two women introduced into my life, freeing me from the shackles of educational depression that was put on me by a common standard. Each person is unique. Who is the government to tell children at age 10 what they can or cannot become in life? What interest does the federal government have in common core standard testing that destroys our children’s vision and imagination for their future? The federal government should not be interested in such as it is to serve its people.
One can argue that Germany makes good products, brings forth good engineers and many other good things. Sadly Germans are also one of the most unpatriotic and job-insecure people you will ever meet. How does that fit together? People feel they always have to compete against the rest of the world while being told “you are not good enough.” Common education standards equalize – not raise – education standards at the expense of people losing their identity.
My brother, by the way is a baker, having been tested by government computers at age 14 that this is what he could become. He still thinks he is not good enough for anything else, or even to start up his own bakery.
I have seen the effects of common core in my own life and had a hard time to break out of this rut. In Germany common core has already broken the hope, vision, and imagination of many people. I am not willing to see another country make the same mistakes. Do not hand over more control to the government. Parents, let us be responsible!