Daniel Coleman (of the Common Core State Standards), Glen Mereno (Chairman of Pearson), met in an undisclosed location recently. You’re not supposed to know where as to know would mean unlocking all of the secrets of educational reform.
Okay. It was in Hawaii. But, that is all I can tell you.
Okay. It was at a Holiday Inn Express on Honolulu. Wow. You readers are really good at pressing writers into telling all they know. But all of this is important to the story. And setting the story in Honolulu will make it very easy to build in a pineapple when the moment calls for it.
It seems that Coleman and Moreno had been meeting like this for some time. It might be an I-HOP this week, a Golden Corral the next, but always someplace where they knew they could get fried cheese and drinks with a souvenir cup. Coleman seemed to favor the rocket cup, but a bad experience with chili cheese fries during an earlier meeting scratched Denny’s off the meeting places.
But I digress.
Stories like the one I am spinning for you this morning do require some set up. I hope that you will indulge me just a bit.
So, this pineapple is being laid out upon a cutting board to be made into Mai Tais for the retired couple at Table #14 (he of the independent hardware business for forty years, she made crocheted pot holders for the local mushroom festival each spring), when Daniel calls out to the bartender, “Barkeep, would it be okay if we spoke to that pineapple for just a moment?”
The bartender looked up with an expression that seemed to say, “Great. Saturday afternoon.” The pineapple sat with virtually no expression whatsoever (in keeping with a sense of reality that might be expected from readers here–we can build in some anthropomorphism a little later in the story, but I don’t want you to think I’ve gone all Fruit of the Loom on you this early in the story). So the pineapple sat there. On the board. Crown up. Motionless.
The bartender brought the pineapple to the table and sat it down between Coleman and Moreno. Coleman broke the ice while Moreno crossed his fingers in a sort of “pineapple upsets my stomach” kind of quiet sentiment.
“I’ll bet you’ll want to know why we called you over here, Mr. Pineapple.”
“Peter;” the pineapple thought to himself, “my friends call me Peter” (building slowly into the moment wherein the pineapple might actually speak–interior monologue is a nice way to ease you into this talking piece of fruit which will undoubtedly fuel your nightmares brought on by the typical Elmo’s World installment).
“We’re designing a test, Mr. Pineapple. A test that will gauge whether or not students are learning. And ultimately whether teachers are teaching. And when I saw you sitting regally upon that cutting board behind the bar, I knew you were the man we wanted to bring on board.”
The pineapple now spoke.
“Wow. That’s great. This will be my crowning achievement as a pineapple. Wait until the other pineapples hear about this.” (I hope you are still with us now that the pineapple is talking. I cannot promise that the dialogue will get any better as I am trying to build a sense of MY DINNER WITH ENT-ANDRE here, friends).
“Yes,” Coleman said, “You’ll be the conversation around dinner tables as children talk about your inclusion within our new test banks. Why, you’ll literally be on the tips of the tongues of a whole nation.”
Moreno looked through narrow eyes at Coleman as if to say that the fruit jokes might be going a little much. Even for an extended metaphor.
Coleman continued, “Yes. About that crown. It will look great on the cover of the test booklets. We’ve gotten a lot of mileage from a cousin of yours who appears in one of our better tests right now. Your cousin has created a sense of confusion that is rattling young people to the core (clears throat) and causing them to question their own ability to think critically. Now if you don’t mind we would like your lovely green crown to appear above the title page of our new testing booklet.”
It was then that Moreno drew a large knife from under the booth and deftly cut off the top of Peter, holding the green crown in a scene reminiscent of the end of Conan the Barbarian where Arnold holds the head of James Earl Jones high above the crowd gathered at the temple (go rent this. . .it’s a beautiful Hero’s Journey type story and Jones turns into a snake at one point).
“Wowza!” exclaimed Peter. “That was really unexpected. I’m not sure I want to hang about with you fellows anymore. I don’t care what you are promising.”
“But wait, Peter,” interrupted Coleman, putting his large hands around the pineapple to keep it from falling off of the table (which would look like a type of escape, but I am not sure how much of this you would really believe if the pineapple just started to slowly slink away from this gathering). “Let’s talk about this skin of yours. So rough. So spiky. Why, Peter; you’re simply rigorous. You’re just what we are looking for, friend. Please stay.”
Peter thought to himself, “Why my skin is golden and tight. And it is quite spiky. I am quite the specimen among the pineapple set.”
It was then that Moreno quickly–as if with months of training playing Fruit Ninja–skinned Peter leaving four slabs of skin lying like sickeningly-sweet scabs upon the table. A nearby fly looked on with interest. Moreno drew the blade across his bottom lip following it with his tongue to capture any stray juices.
Peter sensed real trouble now, but what could he do. Being a pineapple and all. The capability of free thought and intelligent speech were not enough to afford escape, so he sat, naked. . .exposed. . .fruit and all.
It was then that Coleman spoke most ominously. “Now, Peter. Let’s get to the heart of the matter, shall we?”
And with a few quick slices, Moreno had Peter fleshed-out into four neat pineapple boats, leaving nothing but a core behind on the table.
“Beautiful,” whispered Coleman. “It’s simply beautiful. Have you ever seen a core like this? Glen. Stripped of its own sense of prowess and achievement, removed from its glossy outer coverings that might read like some kind of natural accolade, and it’s fruit only given to softness and sweetness and nurture. Ahhh. . .the core.”
It was uncomfortable for Moreno and the pineapple to hear Coleman speaking this way, but probably more so for the pineapple, having been through the Mereno Mouli.
Peter, resolved to all that had happened to him in the past few minutes, was still hopeful about the opportunity to work with powerful men like Coleman and Moreno. He quietly asked Coleman (avoiding any kind of contact with Moreno–as much as one might avoid contact will sitting perfectly still). He quietly asked, “I’ve given all I can give here, fellas, but I would still like to be a part of your test. I’ll do whatever I can. All I ask is that we would be splitting the benefits evenly. . .right? Fellas? Right?”
“Oh, but Peter,” Coleman said,”What should we pay you for simply sitting still and doing nothing really but sitting upon the page, an obscure character in some story that wouldn’t make sense to anyone but those sitting right here at this table? I cannot think of any reason to “cut” (giggle) you into our deal.”
“But isn’t that what you do? Mr. Coleman? Mr. Moreno? Simply sit there watching the crowning achievements the wonderful educators ripped away along with the tough, rigid resolve of educators to educate students, moving on to slice through the very fruit of excellent instruction that happens every day in learning communities across the country, leaving them nothing but some hard, starchy core that looks, feels, and smell a lot like me?”
It was a very thoughtful question. For a pineapple. Given his current condition.
“Mr. Pineapple,” Coleman glared. “There will be no deal between us other than the one that has been laid out before us (giggle and wink). You see? That is the difference between you and people like Mr. Moreno and me.”
Moreno left the table, walking toward the bartender, motioning behind the bar for a small box.
“And that is?” asked Peter.
“Well, you see, Mr. Pineapple,” said Coleman condescendingly, “We are architects.”
Moreno returned with a small box of little red and blue plastic swords.
“And you, Mr. Pineapple. . .” Coleman continued.
“Are simply artifact.”
A blender whirred in the background as the feast began.
The smell of pineapple lingered about the bar.