by Tammy de Leeuw
Head Nope Dealer
Many years ago there was an Emperor named Educratis. Now Educratis was so exceedingly fond of shiny new things and fluffy, important-sounding words, that he spent all the taxpayer’s money on the very shiniest, most complicated gadgets and the longest, most intelligent words.
He cared nothing about educating the people, or about being careful with their money, or even about communicating with them at all except to show off all the impressive ways he had found to place roadblocks in their paths to success and make everything much harder than it needed to be.
Educratis loved rules, regulations, and tests.
He made up a new test for every hour of the day, and instead of saying, as one might, about any other ruler, "The Emperor is in council," here they always said. "The Emperor's reading a book that will help him change his testing paradigms.”
In the great city where he lived, life had been, in spite of Educratis’ rule, generally happy and parents tried to make only the best decisions for their children. This bothered Educratis greatly because he worried that if the subjects began to think for themselves, they might reject his call for rigor, a fun word which he had only recently discovered.
“Rigor, we need more rigor in the kingdom, by Jove!” he would rant to his minions. “And progressive learning, qualitative evaluation, and enabling objectives as well. Yes, yes, I need to change everything about the education system…right now.”
And so it came to pass that Educratis and his counselors of dubious wisdom put forth an invitation far and wide for someone to help them achieve these quantifiable goals in education reform and devise tests that would frustrate the most finely-tuned minds.
For a long time, nothing much happened to make Educratis’ vision become reality.
But then one day, many strangers came to the town. They were called “Pearsonites” and they let it be known that they were education reformers. They met with the Emperor straight away and told him they could deliver exactly what he wanted- an extensive overhaul of the Empire’s education system that would provide rigor along with copious amounts of high-stakes testing.
“We can do this without alerting the people,” the reformers bragged. “So stealthily shall we move that the people will not understand what has been foisted upon them until far too late,”
“However, they continued, “Your majesty should know the cost is very high for such magnificent innovation.”
The Emperor was so excited at their words that he did not care about the cost. Immediately, he called the treasurer to bring him all the gold and silver in the exchequer. When he saw that was not enough to satisfy the Pearsonites, he instructed the mint to add tiny amounts of lead to all the coins being distributed throughout the Empire.
“The people will never notice that a shilling isn’t exactly a shilling anymore, “he reasoned. “And besides, I am doing all this for their sakes.”
The Pearsonites, along with members of the lesser nobility, began to work. They wove and spun report after report and multiple peer-reviewed studies. Each of these confirmed the Emperor’s worst suspicions: the ordinary people and their ordinary teachers were too smart to be safe. Indeed they were possessed of much wisdom and common sense. It made Educratis shudder that his control of the Empire might be in danger.
After many months, and after exhausting the funds of the treasury, the Pearsonites, led by Minister Duncan, went in to see the Emperor.
“Majesty, let us present to you the “Book of Common Core.” This magical book, bound in dragon hide, written in ink made of the blood of unicorns, and decorated with rare jewels snatched from the belly of a live volcano, is the answer to controlling the currency of information in the Kingdom. As you can clearly see, it is the grail that Your Majesty has sought and which we have gloriously delivered.”
But the Emperor did not see. He strained and strained, but he could see nothing before him except an empty wooden stand.
Minister Duncan, coughing, said “I am sure that your Majesty knows well that a book of such power as this cannot be seen by any save the wisest, most intelligent in the kingdom.
Sensing the Emperor’s hesitation, Lord Duncan continued.
“Why, the peasants cannot appreciate something of such great worth and value. However, when you present this to them, they will all bow before you and give many thanks for giving them this holy tome. Except, perhaps, those pale wenches on the outskirts of town who drive oxen carts and take their children to archery practice. Those women will surely fret over this. But I would not worry Majesty, they will have no choice but to accept your wise decision.”
Slowly, the Emperor looked down and to his amazement, he began to see the glory of the Book of Common Core, its' shiny dragon leather glistening, the rare jewels flashing sparks of raw energy and power.
It…was…the most incredibly beautiful thing upon which he had ever laid his eyes.
“Yes... oh yes, I see it now. It truly is a thing of preposterous beauty. Let us command the people to assemble in the square so that they may bask in the reflected glory of the Core.”
The Emperor’s counselors, although they could also see no book, purposed in their hearts to pretend in order to satisfy Educratis. They feared admitting the truth would be risking their public servant perks and pensions and exposing themselves to the Emperor’s wrath.
“ We cannot prove ourselves unfit to be the bureaucrats. It would never do to let on that we see nothing.”
So, the counselors silently moved the wooden stand into the courtyard before the crowds of people
"Don't hesitate to tell us what you think of it," said Lord Gates, who had consorted with the Pearsonites and was quite devoted to them.
"Oh, it's splendid, just splendid,” said the Chief Counselor. "Such intricate patterns and colorful jewels. I'll be sure to tell the Emperor how delighted I am with it."
In the square, the people, who had been trained since childhood to regard their Emperor as flawless and infallible, were chatting excitedly about the splendor of the new Core, although inwardly they struggled with the fact that the book seemed invisible.
“What rigor! Such awesomely shifted paradigms! This is indeed the work of a blessedly talented Reformer!” they cried.
The Emperor’s retinue hoisted the stand onto a large wagon and began to parade it through the entire town and the outlying areas of the Empire. The Emperor rode alongside on horseback and proclaimed the glory of the book to all.
"This Book of Common Core is remarkable, is it not? He cried.
So off went the Emperor in procession with his splendid book Everyone in the streets and the windows said,
"Oh, how fine is our new Common Core. Will this not lift our children to perfection and ensure college readiness?
Nobody would confess that he or she couldn't see anything on the stand for that would prove him either unfit, a fool , or a pale wench. No reform the Emperor had attempted before had been such a confusing success.
"But, there is nothing there," a little child said. “The stand is totally empty!”
"Did you ever hear such nonsense?" said one of the ministers. Why should you listen to one silly child whose entire life will be impacted by this reform?
But the crowd began to murmur about what the child had said. "There isn’t anything on the wooden stand,” they whispered.
The Emperor was filled with self-loathing, for he suspected they were right.
But he thought, " I have already spent all the empire’s money so this procession has got to go on."
So he walked more proudly than ever, as his noblemen held high the book that wasn't there at all.