By Marianne Rogowski
Every child down in Schoolville liked learning a lot,
But the Polcorps, who sat high on their horses, did not.
They hated education more than most people do.
But don’t ask them why, for they hate questions, too.
It could be that ignorance gave them more power.
It could be that illiterate people will cower,
But it seems that the most likely grounds for rejection
Was to fool all the people and win re-election.
Whatever their motives, their jobs or their clout,
They sat on those horses and wandered about,
Staring down at those teachers, who want kinds to think,
Who want to bring at-risk kids back from the brink,
For they knew every teacher was busy that day
Trying to teach every child in some unique way.
“And they’ll teach them to write, to think, and to read!
If those kids learn too much, they might notice our greed!”
Then, from lined pockets, hands came out, rubbing together.
“We must convince everyone that we Polcorps know better!”
For these children, they knew, they would grow up some day,
And if they were smart, they would see through the play.
And then, all their money, money, money, money!
If there was one care they held above all, it was money!
“These kids don’t have money, but someday they’ll vote.”
And people vote! They would vote!
And they’d vote, vote, vote, vote!
They’d pick up their pens and put down the remote!
“They will come for our jobs! They will come rock the boat!”
“And then,” they thought, startled, “they even, just might
Look into our past and then seek to indict!
Every child down in Schoolville, the goths and the jocks
Would stand close together. They wouldn’t need rocks,
For their knowledge will empower, and they will protest!
They will come and demand that we clean up our mess!
“And they’ll read! And they’ll speak! And they’ll write, write, write, write!
And the more Polcorps thought, the more filled up with dread
They became, and then suddenly one of them said,
“Why, for half my career, I have had to kowtow
To those citizens, and I want their silence right now!
Their teachers and books fill them up with ideas–
Teachers must be stopped, and their students appeased!
“But I have an idea! A perfect idea!
I’ve thought of a perfectly destructive idea!
I will go on TV! I will brilliantly say,
‘It is clear that our children grow dumber each day.
Please don’t blame their teachers; they’re doing their best,
But our children – they’re falling behind all the rest.
‘All we need is a way to ensure they are learning,
To keep the noble fires of thought ever-burning.'”
Then he’d invite a few teachers and honor his guests,
Acknowledging their roles in his own success.
Then he’d wonder aloud, as you might have guessed,
“If only we could validate your worth through some test.”
He called up some experts and CEO friends
With his ramshackle plan, which he knew they’d defend,
So they packaged it up and paid congress to sign it
Into law without asking if there was research behind it.
Meanwhile, the schoolrooms were buzzing.
Learning’s hum filled the air,
And the teachers were teaching their students with care
When the Pols, with their weapon, emerged from their lair.
“This is the law now! It’s called Common Core.
There will be no room for fun things anymore.”
“But the research!” teachers cried as they worked through their lunches.
“Gah! Who needs research! We have based this on hunches!
It’s much better than research, we’re sure you’ll agree,
To move, although blind, with complete certainty!”
They saw paintings, heard music, and it moved the kids so
That “The arts,” they announced, “are the first thing to go!”
Then they slunk systematically throughout each school room
Sweeping away, as if with a broom
Creativity! Free thought! Conversation and fun!
Games they played! Singing! They took every one!
Then they brought in assessments kids were destined to fail,
Looking forward to the sounds of the teachers’ dire wail.
Then they slunk through each district doing more of the same
Smiling bright as lemons at the teachers they’d blame.
They stripped the schools clean with self-aggrandizing groans
Of all that the teachers and students had known.
Then they stuffed the curriculum with what the businessmen said
So that children could learn to face each day with dread.
And they prepared to go back to their houses on hills,
Collecting their paychecks and passing more bills
When they heard a small voice, so young and benign,
Which belonged to a student, no older than nine.
They’d not seen one up close, a public school child.
All they had was their data, neatly numbered and filed.
He stared at them all, and with a voice like a sigh
He said, “Why are you ruining our love of school? Why?”
But you know those old Polcorps were so smart and so polished,
They would never allow their plan to be demolished.
“Why, Son, it’s important, this new common core.
To tell if you’re a one, two, three, or a four.
So we’re giving these tests that are too hard to pass,
Therefore proving your teacher isn’t fit to teach class.”
And the child accepted it, for he trusted the grown,
Since his parents and teachers were the ones he had known.
And so proud of their lie, the Polcorps thought with glee,
“Why, they’re almost as dumb as we need them to be!”
And the next call they made
Was to friends at TESTCO
Then they told them to make some more tests, the old pros.
In their schools, they’d leave nothing but sadness and woe,
And that voice in their heads that had once made them kind
Had been silenced, perhaps, but they didn’t much mind.
Business was booming! The test machine roared!
The children, they waited in vain for their scores.
Production was up, and the profits were soaring
And, before long, the students found school to be boring.
All that test prep they did! All that reading and math!
The booklets! The pencils! The numb teachers’ wrath!
A thousand miles north on the interstate highway,
They rode up with glee, singing, “They’ll do it our way!”
“Those poor teachers and students,” they were happily shouting.
“There is nothing they can do about the lies we are touting!
They’re just getting to school, and we know all the rest!
They will fill in their bubbles on standardized tests!
Then all of those parents who thought the teachers knew best…
“That’s a thought,” thought the Polcorps, “that will force teachers out,
And we’ll hire cheap labor – it’s what business is about!”
Then! Through darkening skies, the wind started blowing,
At first, just quick lightning, but then thunder was growing.
But it wasn’t a storm! Not of hailstones and rain,
But of teachers, all showing that they would remain
Silent no longer, and the parents! Them too! And they trembled.
What was happening? What would they do?
Every teacher and leader, parent and child
was awakening together; it was Polcorps they reviled!
They hadn’t stopped children from learning! They knew!
And the parents and teachers, well, they all knew too!
And the Polcorps with their money just about in the bank
Sat on horses, puzzling, “How could they break rank?”
But they did! With their letters! They called on the phone!
They protested outside of their offices and homes!
And the Polcorps just stared till their jaws hit the floor
Upon realizing that the people would believe them no more.
“Perhaps learning,” they thought, “can’t be measured by score.
Maybe learning,” they thought, means just a smidge more.
And who taught them that? Well, in Schoolville they think
The citizens brought the Polcorps back from the brink
And they hoped that the minute they realized that gift
They would throw that old test machine right off a cliff,
So they’re waiting, eyes open, the fight in them woken
For the Pols to acknowledge that the people have spoken.