Complicating the Simple

By Leslye Joy Allen                                                                                                     Historian, Educator, Theatre and Jazz Advocate & Consultant, Ph.D. Candidate

Copyright © 2014 by Leslye Joy Allen. All Rights Reserved.

"Weary - Self Portrait" by Copyright © 2013 by Leslye Joy Allen.  All rights reserved.

“Weary – Self Portrait” by Copyright © 2013 by Leslye Joy Allen. All rights reserved.

I am not going to take up too much space here rambling about the disaster that was and remains the unfunded educational program known as “No Child Left Behind” or the more recent pros and cons surrounding “Common Core” standards that were put in place in classrooms in at least 45 states. I can only say this…

In the last five plus years, I have witnessed perfectly intelligent college students who are unable to make “simple” statements about particular areas or events in history or the world they live in. I have witnessed them struggle to understand what I mean when I say, “Keep it simple.” Usually, after a few weeks, they understand or at least become comfortable with the idea that my classroom is a place where a free exchange of ideas is a requirement.

Please understand that in most colleges, History is not the regurgitation of facts, and it has not been for quite some time. It is, rather the deep analysis and questioning of why and how certain things happen; and/or why some people (or peoples) have had a history of success, failure, oppression, or any mixture of all of the above…Someone told me a few years ago that all historians were radicals. That is not true of all of us, but I did understand that person’s logic.

History on the college level has long since ceased to be “big man/big woman/exceptional man/exceptional woman history.” However, when students are unable to state the obvious, then something else is at work. I would not take anything for the beautiful efforts that my students make in order to grasp and engage the material that we study, and to pass my class. Yet, so many of them yearn for answers that are not that hard to find if one bothers to look.

Too often, students think that every question is a trick question and that every answer is hidden somewhere under a rock; or worse, that there really is a SINGLE answer to every question. Too often, I run into students who cannot answer a simple “Yes” or “No” question because somewhere along the line someone told them that to simply answer in the affirmative or negative was not enough information. An answer is always complicated, so many of them seem to think.

Too often, I encounter students who are afraid to trust their own instincts and their own common sense and personal interests. This is where both Ms. Allens (Mama and I) come in and say, “What do you think and tell me why you think it?”

There are no easy answers to this dilemma; and I do not know how much this is the result of “No Child Left Behind” or the relatively recent “Common Core” standards. Yet, we must start encouraging young students to capitalize on their personal and academic strengths and to speak their minds even if we do not like what they have to say. After all, none of us can fix anything that is broken until we learn where and how it is broken.

For more information about Common Core standards, visit this hyperlink:

Leslye Joy Allen is a perpetual and proud supporter of the good work of Clean Green Nation. Visit the website to learn more about it: Gregory at Clean Green Nation!

Copyright © 2014 by Leslye Joy Allen. All Rights Reserved.

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