Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Storytelling: Woolgathering 1.1 - Listen first

Storytelling: Woolgathering 

by Norah Dooley
Theory and Practice for Storytelling as a 21st Century Skill

Think&Do 1.1 Listen first

Storytelling is as common as rain and often almost as invisible. It is not like reading or film or theater or song yet all these art forms require story and can  tell stories. For our study, storytelling is a live performance of a narrative by one or more performers who work without scripts, illusions, costume, makeup or props. There is no “fourth wall”. The storyteller and the listeners create images and emotions, together. The audience is a active participant and without the audience – the story is not alive. The adoption of radio, television, and video almost eclipsed storytelling BUT people yearn for more personal contact, and realizing that television and other media cannot take the place of a storyteller sharing a story in person.

Listening to our friends experiences as they create stories, informally or otherwise is a gift to them and to you as a listener. A great blog post on Active Listening here says we retain about 25% -50% of what we hear. Listening is about awareness and feeds our wells.

Exercise: Think&Do 1.1  Active listening  

1. Listen to a story - live is best but recorded is fine - just listen however you can. Remember (in silence) how you pictured an image or several images. Verbally share images with one or more listening partners. You may also wish to write about the image after telling.

2. Listen in the dark or with your eyes closed. Make up images an story to make sense of the sounds.Verbally share the sounds and images with one or more listening partners. You may also wish to write about the image after telling.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Meeting a Storyteller and Mentor

It is nice to know that Peggy Melanson and I both remember the moment when the light bulb went on for me the same way. I can still feel the excitement as I was listening to Peggy tell me the stories of the books she wanted to publish and I realized what a master storyteller she was.  Her first  public story performance knocked the socks off many people. She is one of my favorite storytellers. It is hard to pick favorites but a story about a crystal bowl from her  Buddha on The Bus©  collection is a tale that stuck with me and one of the first stories I heard.  Here she is a guest blogger.  I really hope  she comes out east and we get to hear her soon.  - Norah Dooley

Meeting a Storyteller and Mentor   

by Peggy Melanson

   I’ve discovered that quite a few people visualize “Storytelling” as a child sitting on a parent’s lap while Mom or Dad read stories from children’s books.  For a long time, I was one of these people.

            Until I met Norah Dooley -

Peggy Melanson
     While sitting in the waiting room of a new primary physician’s office, I noticed several large posters on the wall.  One particular poster caught my eye. It was a pastel watercolor painting of a lovely neighborhood with the title, “EverybodyBakes Bread, by Norah Dooley.  It was one of many children’s stories that the author had written. Looking closely at the poster, I noticed that she lived in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

     Since I lived in Somerville, the next town to Cambridge, I thought to look her up. At the time, I had no idea how brazen that idea was.

     When I arrived home, I called information and was surprised to find that Norah was listed.  Assuming that she would have a secretary, I planned to leave a message. I was very surprised when she answered the phone personally.

      I told her about noticing the poster and asked if she might advise me on how to get my brother’s Christmas Wishing Apple story published. I did not know that the process was very difficult.

     Many well-meaning non-writers say things like, “That’s a wonderful story, and you should get it published! Or, you should send that to Reader’s Digest.”  They have no idea what it entails.  Most people think all you have to do is call a publisher and they’ll rush to your door.

    I was astounded when she invited me to meet her for coffee at a local Cambridge coffee house.  We sat and talked for two hours.  It was wonderful to be with someone who understood my stories.

Love to mentor but really I just "connected" Peggy and she did the rest -NAD
 Suddenly Norah sat back in her chair and looked at me with a very serious expression and said, “My god, you are a storyteller.”  Visions of children on laps danced in my mind. “I responded, “What do you mean?”  Instead of explaining, she asked me what I was doing the following Tuesday evening. And, suggested we go to Foozles Book Store in Porter Square Cambridge to see Master Storyteller, Brother Blue. I was dubious about attending a children’s storytelling event. I was in for a very big surprise.

          When we arrived, I was astounded to see about twenty grownups and no kids in the bookstore. We got there early so that she could show me the process.  Brother Blue’s wife, Ruth Hill was in charge of the timing for people telling stories.  People wishing to tell a story, placed their name on a piece of paper that was placed in a basket. Names were randomly chosen and each teller had five minutes to tell any kind of story.  A featured teller was allowed thirty minutes at the end of the group performances.  When tellers reached about four minutes, Ruth would nod her head at the speakers to remind them they had only one minute left.  At five minutes, Ruth rang a ceramic bell to end the performance.  Later, I realized that those rules would be substantial in the timing of my stories, told and written.

                                                My First “Told” story

 I cannot find the exact words to describe that first experience.  “Stunned, mesmerized and enchanted to be in the presence of this wonderful couple.” Later I discovered that the group was (and still is) called, The League for New England Storytelling” L.A.N.E.S. I’m still a member today

        For some reason, I felt absolutely comfortable standing up to tell the true story, “Teenage Buddha.” As I will mention later, Brother Blue and Ruth made me feel that my story was the most important in the world.  The people that attended congratulated me.  And, Norah, kept saying, “I told you that you are a storyteller. “Now, do you know what I mean?”  It took a while for it to sink in.

         Soon after that evening, Foozles bookstore closed and “Storytelling Night” would be held for many years every Tuesday evening at Sherrill Hall Library at Harvard University.  I attended every event and it was wonderful getting to know other people with like minds. And, Norah still helps me with advise

        In early 2000, Robert Smyth, Publisher of Yellow Moon Press sent out a call for stories about Brother Blue and Ruth.  I was honored to have my story, “Seeds of the Universe,” chosen and it was published as, “Brother Blue-Golden Comet in 2001.

My first “Fantasy style” Story follows:

                                                Seeds of The Universe

   While driving alone, just before the rain, down a dark and winding road in Arlington, Massachusetts, a falling star caught my attention. Shooting across the heavens, it seemed to come straight at me.  A little bit frightened and filled with awe, I drove faster to get out of its path.  When I turned to look back, I saw a jagged burst of lightning pierce the night sky.  The brilliant flash of light streaked low and over the tall trees behind me. It was then, that I remembered who Brother Blue was and how we were connected.

         Pulling my car over to the side of the road, I wrote this story on odd bits of paper found in the car, while the rain pummeled the roof and the thunder and lightning crashed around me.

         It was a millennium ago while slumbering in my ancient soul that a golden comet streaking through the heavens awakened me. The splendid brilliance raced through earth’s atmosphere, weaving and dancing amidst a stand of trees.  As if searching, it moved and then suddenly struck a colossal tree, setting it ablaze. Glowing and split in half, though still attached at the roots, the tree thundered to the ground. Sparks from one half of the burning wood flew like fireflies, imbedding themselves within the tall timber of the surrounding forest.  Deep, deep, deep they burrowed, to slumber within the wood, waiting to be awakened when the time was right. Thus Brother Blue was born to seed the world with stories.

         Spiraling shafts of light from the other half of the felled tree sprang up and raced to spin protectively and embrace the trees that the sparks had entered.

         It was then that Ruth was released to preserve and shield Blue’s brilliant seeds. Born together out of the unity of the universe and brought to earth from the light of life, Brother Blue and Ruth prepared the world for their children - stories!

         Many years passed before fire was discovered and wood was used as its fuel.  As people came to sit around the fires, Blue’s sparkling stories awoke from within the pieces of burning timber. They began to snap and touch the cave dwellers who sat for warmth.  Slowly at first, with hesitancy and care, the act of sharing stories gave birth to other sparks that entered other people and stories spread throughout the centuries.

         My primordial soul came to life again, one day when a storyteller, Norah Dooley walked me into a cave of books where Ruth and Blue’s children lived.

         I saw my ancient Father and Mother and my brothers and sisters in all the pages made from the wood of those spark filled trees.

        Many people were there, drawn to Brother Blue’s light and Ruth’s glowing kindness because fireflies of memory danced in their minds.

         Blue stood before them, dressed in a rainbow of butterflies, arms raised, eyes cast towards the heavens, perhaps seeing his own comet’s light and pronouncing wonders.  When he took my hand and proclaimed that my first told story was perfect and wonderful...I believed him.  When I saw the smile and flash of agreement in Ruth’s eyes, I felt the rolling of the old thunder.

         On that day, the world hesitated in it’s turning to allow my ancient soul to be awakened once more by the power of Brother Blue’s ageless, universal spirit. My own spark was set free to fly around the campfires of the world, telling, telling, and telling. And I’m home again!
SIDEBAR:” Teaching and inspiring others" won Peggy Melanson the opportunity to be a Torchbearer for the 2002 Olympics. She was also awarded "Cool Woman of America" by American Movie Classics Television Network and selected, “Ms Congeniality” by the Golden Girls Pageant. Peggy is a writer and storyteller, Mixed media and Zentangle She also is a” One Woman Comedy show” presenter. As a freelance writer she has written columns for several New England magazines and newspapers. Peggy is presently working on "Dancing on the Roof,” a Memoir.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

NEW Feature- Storytelling: Think&Do 1.0

Storytelling: Think&Do
by  Norah Dooley
Theory and Practice for Storytelling as a 21st Century Skill

I intend to make my reflections on the art of storytelling and an exercise a weekly feature here.  And I welcome comments and lively discussion. Please join in!

Think&Do 1.0  "Time+tragedy=comedy. Or does it?

I  loved this bromide since I first heard it from Laura Love, a singer-songwriter in her introduction to Voices, a beautiful song about her mother's mental illness. Time+tragedy = comedy. Is this more cliché than true? Or is comedy the surest indicator that we are on the other side of tragedy? I just finished a workshop for a nonprofit group that wants to work with victims of domestic violence. This workshop naturally raised the issue that often comes up at our story slams. Can I tell a sad story?  Can I tell my sad story? Yes! Does my story need to be funny? No. Do you need to have distance from your pain? Yes.  And, have  you gained something from the experience that you choose to share that makes it worth listening to? Oh, yes. 

In many situations it is wonderful and healing to work through our stories together but as an art or as paid entertainment it is a huge no-no. In fact anywhere your listener has not agreed to the role of a caring and patient listener, this kind of storytelling is discouraged.

In a story slam situation I ask the storyteller ‘Do you bring something to the audience or are you asking them for something?’  People get paid big bucks to listen to you ramble – they are trained therapists. But an audience expects a work of art and should never be asked to try to make sense out of your life.  That is your job. As human beings we make sense of our experience through story. An artist/storyteller does this work BEFORE they take the stage. Often, with each telling our own understanding and insight into our experience deepens. This is the beauty of any true art for…the practitioner gains as well as the recipient.

Writer Judith Barrington acknowledges this experience in the quote below. Judith teaches memoir writing and her Lifesaving: A Memoir, is an award wining book. In it she reflects on the accidental death of both her parents when she was 19 years old and how as a young woman she dealt with sudden loss and coming of age. When asked how she worked through difficult emotions on the page Judith Barrington said:

“ I didn’t work through the emotions on the page; I worked through them before I started to write the book. It took years for me to be ready. I don’t believe that writing in any genre is a substitute for therapy (or deep thought or journaling or however you deal with life’s blows)—even though you may get new insights into your experience in the process of writing the memoir.”

For her readers and for Judith the resulting work of art was worth the wait.

Exercise: Think&Do 1.0  The 5 Whys  

State what your story is about in one or two sentences. Ask yourself or have a friend ask you why (are you telling me this?) The WHYS should come in rapid succession – speak your thoughts. You will answer with the 1st thing that comes into to your head, 5 times.  You may also try this as a writing exercise. Once you have done this a few times, it will be easier to know if you are ready to tell your story.

Adapted from from The Five Whys Technique by Olivier Serrat “ three key elements to effective use of the Five Whys technique: (i) accurate and complete statements of problems,5 (ii) complete honesty in answering the questions, (iii) the determination to get to the bottom of problems and resolve them. The technique was developed by Sakichi Toyoda for the Toyota Industries Corporation.”

Great  50 minute live set of Laura Love Band here:

Thanks to  Annette’s Paper Trail blog at for the Judith Barrington material

Friday, August 10, 2012

"a person who could use... a little help"

Thanks to Paula for this graphic
As we approach our 4th birthday at and start our third year as a nonprofit I can't help but wonder. Just sometimes, I wonder but my family wonders about this often - am I actually a person who "could use... a little help"  because, as the article below states pretty clearly "... starting a business is, on its face, a little nuts." Will  massmouth,inc. be the place where storytelling meets entrepreneurship and get "rediscovered" by the dominant culture? Or is this a group delusion and I am a main perp?  In October of 2010, my family asked me to see a therapist for my condition. It was fine, nice even to have someone who had no "dog in the fight" to talk to every 10 days or so. I could express my doubts and joys without worrying about how it would make my therapist feel. But I have to be circumspect about enthusiasms and frustrations with my family. Many of my blood relations think I am as soft as a sneaker full of...mashed bananas.  I think I am not deluded - but what deluded person doesn't? Yet I have evidence  that we are creating the connections and a space where storytellers can make a living while practicing our art form.  But the "crazy" label  does not get put away that easily. This is why I read with great pleasure what the NY Times had to say about the phenomenon of the crazed entrepreneur.  I like to revisit  this article at various low points in my non remunerative journey...

Just Manic Enough: Seeking Perfect Entrepreneurs

"...this thought exercise hints at a truth: a thin line separates the temperament of a promising entrepreneur from a person who could use, as they say in psychiatry, a little help. Academics and hiring consultants say that many successful entrepreneurs have qualities and quirks that, if poured into their psyches in greater ratios, would qualify as full-on mental illness.

Which is not to suggest that entrepreneurs ...are crazy. It would be more accurate to describe them as just crazy enough.

“It’s about degrees,” says John D. Gartner, a psychologist and author of “The Hypomanic Edge.” “If you’re manic, you think you’re Jesus. If you’re hypomanic, you think you are God’s gift to technology investing.”

The attributes that make great entrepreneurs, the experts say, are common in certain manias, though in milder forms and harnessed in ways that are hugely productive. Instead of recklessness, the entrepreneur loves risk. Instead of delusions, the entrepreneur imagines a product that sounds so compelling that it inspires people to bet their careers, or a lot of money, on something that doesn’t exist and may never sell.

"...people will tell you that what you’re doing can’t be done, and if it could be done, someone would have done it already."

So venture capitalists spend a lot of time plumbing the psyches of the people in whom they might invest. It’s not so much about separating the loonies from the slightly manic. It’s more about determining which hypomanics are too arrogant and obnoxious — traits common to the type — and which have some humanity and interpersonal skills, always helpful for recruiting talent and raising money.

"...because starting a business is, on its face, a little nuts."

Some V.C.’s have personality tests to help them weed out the former. Others emphasize their toleration of mild forms of mania, if only because starting a business is, on its face, a little nuts.

“You need to suspend disbelief to start a company, because so many people will tell you that what you’re doing can’t be done, and if it could be done, someone would have done it already,” says Paul Maeder, a general partner at Highland Capital. “There are six billion human beings on this planet, we’ve been around for hundreds of thousands of years, we’re a couple hundred years into the industrial revolution — and nobody has done what you want to do? It’s kind of crazy.”

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

"I never met an idea I didn't like."

" I never met an idea (a man) I didn't like."

Will Rogers ( above left ) said it  and Mae West ( right) said lots of things, but not " I never met a man I didn't like."
"I never met a man I didn't like." Will Rogers actually said it but I hear it in Mae West's voice when I reflect on my shameless, wanton behavior with ideas. In my mind I have confused and then recombined Will Rogers, Mr. Nice Guy, humorist and political commentator and the grandmother of "A Bad Reputation Is a Good Thing," Mae West. Although, like Mae West, I love to talk in double entendres, in actual fact my sexual exploits would put me in the same class with a femme fatale of the Mother Theresa caliber.  Many say I share her fashion sense as well. Unlike Mother T, I am not celibate but monogamous. Thirty-five years with the same guy. Really? Like an albatross, or a wolf I have mated for life.  Apparently, an albatross will always return to the same place and the same partner.  Some pairs bond for a lifetime, cemented through the use of goofy but affectionate ritual dances. Hah, my guy and I even do the dance! But still, where's the drama in that ?

When it comes to ideas? Oh sister, get out of my way.  Mae West, move over!  Even when I was very young and very single I never played with men-folk the way I absolutely slut around with ideas.  I am easy.  Just cannot get enough of 'em.  I love 'em and leave 'em.  I am totally promiscuous with ideas.  As Mae West would say, "I feel like a million! But not all at once." 

Ideas come and go. Like buses, there is another idea every 5 minutes. But like buses, especially in Boston, the next bus or idea usually is not one you should get on and often is not the one you were waiting for...When I see any new idea I go weak at the knees.  I can be quite naughty.  Not one to wait to be asked, oh no. Hussying right up to an idea I say,  “Look at you! Mmmmm, mmm.  Such a big, strong, handsome idea! Let me sit in your metaphorical lap and run my fingers through your hair. Now, you whisper into my little ear and tell me what you are going to do to me. Did you say sleepless nights? O, you devil! Loss of money? Tarnished reputation? Relationships shot to hell?  - Wait, you are not any run of the mill idea, are you? I think *pant* you might just be *pant* a *pant* a lost cause!  Take me.  Now!"

Is playing with ideas always a bad thing? A very short google search on "playing with ideas" yielded this top website  American Journal of Play  which among other things, "includes material that... illuminates the important role of play in learning and human development throughout the life cycle..."   In a Dec 2011 article,  Playing with Ideas, The Affective Dynamics of Creative Play, by Pat Power,  I found loads of information to explain and put a more healthy spin my licentious behavior with ideas. Power says that "Playfulness is the essence of adaptability..." So, that is a good thing, no? He also notes that playfulness evolved in mammals because it works and has many benefits. I also liked this part a lot:

When adults are in a playful mood, they internalize the high jinks kids enjoy.
Adults play with the boundaries of their own thoughts and perceptions and withthose of others—dynamically exploring possible worlds in fantasies or creative writing; mixing and blending conceptual spaces through satirical imitation or playfuldesign; stretching and breaking established schemas by engaging with art or beingabsurd; and bouncing round otherwise solid and well-defended psychic structuresusing self-deprecating humor or teasing others.
Yeah, we do a lot of "dynamically exploring possible worlds in fantasies or creative writing; mixing and blending conceptual spaces through satirical imitation or playful design" at the massmouth office. By this definition, we play a lot while we work at massmouth,inc.! And our play seems to be, er, um... working?  Power also offers a few somber nuances to the discussion.  For example, here is one that resonated:

It is easy to idealize playfulness because it seems on first analysis to have
overwhelmingly positive attributes. But playfulness is environmentally situatedwith contextual constraints, and even young mammals with a strong propensityto play need to learn these limitations quickly if they are to survive. Anyone whohas experienced inapt playful antics knows how annoying, disruptive, or evenpotentially lethal they can be. Playfulness is not always creative, and in play, as instories, “destruction is a way of causing maximum impact for minimum effort.”
And this:
But it is worth remembering that creativity produces useful ideas and artifacts;
play creates possibilities.
But none of these small reality checks could harsh my mellow.  After reading the positive conclusions of Power's article,  I say it strong and say it loud,  "I am an idea slut and I am proud!"

...This human neoteny enables us to extend a level of playfulness into later years and is likely to help stimulate neurogenesis in healthy adults and similarly forestalls mental decline in cases of dementia. However, cultural influences can sometimes
be constraining, and the often pervasive effect of the rhetoric of play as frivolity,which is an essentially puritanical attitude toward playfulness in adults, can havereal repercussions for adult play, creativity, and quality of life. And why shouldwe cease being playful when 'the joyfulness of infinite play, its laughter, lies inlearning to start something we cannot finish.'
From Journal of Play by Pat Power
I am buoyed by this reading.  As Geoffry Chaucer said, "A man may say full sooth [the truth] in game and play." And, as Shakespeare said in  King Lear, "Jesters do oft prove prophets."  It seems that ultimately, the way to truth, health and happiness is through play.  I do recommend the whole article which is available for free as a PDF.

Pat Power is Senior Lecturer of Digital Media and Design at London Metropolitan University.  A specialist in 3-D animation, he has worked widely in both industry and academia, including a position as Academic Manager for Multimedia and Animation at the Digital Academy. His interdisciplinary research encompasses animation, emotion, play, narrative, and the synthesis of science and the arts. In articles published in Animation: An Interdisciplinary Journal, he has examined expressive style in 3-D computer graphic narrative and the creative nature of character conception. Power also serves as an External Examiner at Oxford Brookes University.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Common Core = rotten at the center

Update: Just relocated this video

People - I am getting really worried about education trends and you might be too. All kinds of crazy styles and fads run through education but when the "architect" of the national standards/Common Core (and now the head of the College Board, which develops and administers the SAT and AP tests) David Coleman said that he believes in emphasizing so-called “informational texts” over literature and have the "the core standards for the first time demand that 50% of the text students encounter in kindergarten through 5th grade is informational text…" I said "what?"  But Mr. Coleman, was not quite done. He rocked on and added this beauty of a statement:

“[A]s you grow up in this world you realize people really don’t give a s%$* about what you feel or what you think.” - David Coleman
I was puzzled by his attitude. This man is an educator speaking to educators of young people at meeting about how to best educate young people. This is not Bart Simpson having a beer. This is David Coleman who founded the Grow Network ‐ acquired by McGraw‐Hill in 2005 ‐ which has become the nation’s leader in assessment reporting and customized instructional materials. Mr. Coleman was a lecturer at the University of London before going to work in the pro bono education area  ( what is that one wonders - is pro bono code for sales or marketing?) of McKinsey & Company. He is a Rhodes Scholar and a graduate of Yale University, Oxford University and Cambridge University. Here are two things he is not; a classroom teacher and pretty clearly he is not a very mature human being.

Common Core "architect" David Coleman
From his impressive credentials you may believe he knows a lot about education. But  actually he seems to only know a lot about education policy, specifically  education reform.   His statement about stories was so inane and mean spirited that it really was frightening. This person is in charge of policy for young learners?  We have a real problem when hot shot policy people can trash talk literature and are not pelted with virtual tomatoes and booed off the stage. But my shock is way overdue. This  CCSSI and the denigration of the study of literature is all part of a wider, long term plan. Susan Ohanian said in her recent blog: 

"Educating Students to Fill Most In-Demand Jobs

And so corporate courtier Arne Duncan tells a group of education reporters that unemployment is caused more by a 'skills crisis' than a 'jobs crisis,' and that we aren't educating students to fill the most in-demand jobs.

Downgrading the importance of fiction in our schools, saying that children gain information about the world only through nonfiction, is the Common Core's role in "educating students' to fill those most in-demand jobs.

Schoolteachers who have gloried in reading
Rotten Ralph, The Just-So Stories, The Trumpet of the Swan, The Great Gilly Hopkins, Incident at Hawk's Hill, The Acorn People, and hundreds of other titles with their students are late in getting to this corporate party. In Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle Chris Hedges points out that universities have already accepted their corporate role, and "As universities become glorified vocational schools for corporations they adopt values and operating techniques of the corporations they serve.
"An oft-repeated assertion of self-proclaimed Common Core architect David Coleman is that non-fiction is where students get information about the world and that's why schools must stop teaching so much fiction. In this assertion, Coleman is echoing the corporate world which he is hired to serve." Read more here
My complaints are largely and argumentum ad hominum.  Let's talk about what David Coleman is actually doing. His credentials and connections  have allowed him and his gravy train-enthused allies, to foist a huge dose of snake oil on the Massachusetts public schools. His snake oil Rx - the Common Core National Standards CCSSI exist to fix a system that is not broken.  Read an informational text below that is full of data. It will show you, if you haven't already been besotted with wasteful and wanton reading of fiction, that following the Massachusetts ELA frameworks in the classroom was, as documented fact, doing a great job of educating students. The excerpt below was written by Jamie Gass May 08, 2012  He is director of the Center for School Reform at Pioneer Institute, a Massachusetts think tank ( all emphasises are mine).
"Architects of the landmark 1993 education reform law understood and appreciated our literary heritage; that's why Massachusetts public school students were reading much of the work produced by these and other ancient and modern poets. The results of our students' grounding in poetry, literature and higher-level vocabulary have been outstanding. In 2005, the commonwealth's fourth- and eighth-graders came out tops in the reading component of the National Assessment of Educational Progress, known as the nation's report card.
In 2007, 2009 and 2011, each time the test was administered, they repeated that feat. But recently, our students started learning 60 percent less about the many great Massachusetts poets and literary figures. That's because the commonwealth ditched its nation-leading English standards for inferior national standards that will have students reading far less poetry and literature, particularly in high school. Now, via these national education standards, Massachusetts has exactly the same literary expectations as they do in low-performing states like Louisiana, West Virginia and Mississippi." More 

This movement for "reform" and hue and cry of danger! began in the Dark Ages of President Ronald Regan Reign. It was he who initiated the study with an introduction so over the top it now sounds like it was written by Stephen Colbert:
from "A Nation at Risk,   1983

"Our Nation is at risk. Our once unchallenged preeminence in commerce, industry, science and technological innovation is being overtaken by competitors throughout the world. This report is concerned with only one of the many causes and dimensions of the problem, but it is the one that undergirds American prosperity, security,and civility. We report to the American people that while we can take justifiable pride in what our schools and colleges have historically accomplished and contributed to the United States and the well-being of its people, the educational foundations of our society are presently being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future -as a Nation and a people. What was un-imaginable a generation ago has begun to occur. Others are matching and surpassing our educational attainments.

If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an  act of war.
As it stands, we have allowed this to happen to ourselves. We have even squandered the gains in Student achievement made in the wake of the Sputnik challenge. Moreover, we have dismantled essential support systems which helped make those gains possible. We have,in effect, been committing an act of unthinking. unilateral educational disarmament."
Phew - I was so worried after reading this I had to check the water and canned goods supplies in my apocalypse shelter.  But wait - maybe there is more to this story?
... Project Censored reports: "Six years later, [after A Nation at Risk] when state governors and President George Bush set national education goals after the 1989 education summit, the administration charged Sandia National Laboratories, a scientific research organization, with investigating the state of public education. In 1991, Sandia presented its first findings to the U.S. Department of Education and the National Science Foundation. While the response from these government agencies should have been one of some celebration, instead it was one of silence -- a silence compounded by the national media. The results did not reveal a seriously deficient educational system in dire need of profound changes such as a nationwide voucher program.
 And in Wikipedia we find this[below]. Apparently the "truth" about the education crisis was so strong, it was necessary to suppress or ignore any other findings.

"In 1990, Admiral James Watkins, the Secretary of Energy, commissioned the Sandia Laboratories in New Mexico to document the decline in the Nation at Risk report with actual data. When the systems scientists broke down the SAT test scores into subgroups they discovered contradictory data. While the overall average scores declined, the subgroups of students increased. In statistics this is known as Simpson's paradox. The 3 authors presented their report. David Kearns, Deputy Secretary of Education allegedly told the authors of the report,"You bury this or I'll bury you", though this quote is disputed by Diane Ravitch. Education Week published an article on the Sandia report in 1991. Unlike the Nation at Risk report, the Sandia Report critique received almost no attention."

The fact is that the Ed Reform people do not care what they deform or who they hurt with their policies. After all, this is the real world and they are grown ups. They know, "...people really don’t give a s%$* about what you feel or what you think.” - David Coleman
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