Common Core: More Federal Government Involvement in Education

Common Core

Anyone who follows education on any level has probably heard the phrase “Common Core” regarding curriculum in their home state.  They’ve probably also heard that there is some push back against it, though most don’t really understand what the issue really is.

It would be easy to assume that Common Core requires such controversial topics as anthropogenic global warming and gun control to be taught.  Well, that doesn’t appear to be the case.  Oh, it’s happening, but it doesn’t seem to be the fault of the cirriculum.

That’s not to say there aren’t problems.

The idea behind Common Core is a national standard for education.  Basically, it’s an attempt to create a single, challenging standard that would raise the educational value of public school.

Whoops.

Common Core does create a single standard.  It does appear to be genuinely challenging as well.  So, what’s the problem?

Well, first, Common Core is really just a continuation of one of the biggest problems with traditional education, and that is the fact that it treats all students as identical.  Even the name, Common Core, alludes to this fact.

Republican Tom McMillin, a Michigan lawmaker introduced a bill to repeal that’s state’s use of Common Core, said, “We don’t want our kids to be common. We want our kids in Michigan to be exceptional.”  Since my home state of Georgia uses this standard, I can understand the sentiment.

Common Core also places and emphasis on how answers are acheived, rather than just getting it right.  The argument appears to be that the process matters more in our technologically advanced world for whatever reason.  I get the gist of the concept.  I really do.  Unfortunately, this continues to make the same assumption that all kids are the same.

For example, I spoke with a friend who recently began homeschooling her grandson that she has custody of.  She had pulled him out in the middle of the school year to homeschool.  Why?  Because her grandson has a brain that’s wired differently than most folks.  He doesn’t look at the world quite the same way.  As a result, he would find his own way to solve math problems.

Those answers were thrown out because he didn’t follow their steps to get the answer.

I’m sorry, but that looks like an emphasis on compliance versus learning how to think critically.  In fact, one of the knocks on Common Core - and an extremely valid one, in my opinion - is that it’s about teaching facts versus teaching understanding.  Being able to regurgitate tidbits about the War of 1812 is a far cry from being able to understand what lead to the war in the first place.

In addition, many English teachers are disgruntled with Common Core and it’s focus on “informational reading.”  While I have no issues with students reading The Federalist Papers - a Common Core approved work - it comes at the expense of things liek Brave New World, 1984, or any number of other literary works.

David Chura, over at The Huffington Post, said this:

t’s hard reading about the lockstep curriculum set out by Common Core with its emphasis on “informational readings,” and seeing all the hoops students and teachers have to jump through to meet its standards. Quite frankly, it makes me sad. “Why sad?” you might wonder. Frustrated, maybe, or for that matter, mad. But sad? Usually when the topic is education reform frustrated and mad come easily to me. But this is different. I’m a romantic (as I think many English teachers are) and I see literature — poetry, drama, fiction — and its power to change people’s lives as the heart of an English teacher’s job.

But the designers of Common Core don’t see it that way. They assert that students have been raised on an easy-read curriculum and because of this they are unable to analyze complex reports, studies and government documents. The administration’s solution is to have informational texts make up 50 percent of elementary school readings and 70 percent of 12th grade readings by 2014. Unfortunately, the burden of this solution will fall mostly on English teachers, leaving them little time to teach real literature. Instead they will somehow have to figure out ways to get kids interested in such texts as “Fed Views” by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco (2009) or “Executive Order 13423: Strengthening Federal Environmental Energy, and Transportation Management” published by the General Services Administration.

Man makes a good point.  Books engage a part of the human experience that “informational reading” just never will.  That’s not to say there’s no place for informational reading…but at the expense of the classics we all read? Color me skeptical.

Much of the criticism of Common Core comes from the right, who want to emphasize a less centralized approach.  Common Core’s proponents generally seem to respond with ridicule, as if the idea of a centralized cirriculum is the most natural thing and that opponents are arguing something akin to voluntarily removing body parts in an effort to become smarter.

The problem is, they are ardently supporting a curriculum that is untested.  There’s no scientific basis for believing that this curriculum is any better than what came before it.  I’ve looked, and I haven’t found any.

So, we have a curriculum with no basis in science that punishes kids for thinking outside the box, but we can’t change it because to do so is ridiculous?

The primary victim in this is clearly the children.  However, another significant vctim is creativity in the classroom.  As Huffington Post’s Nicholas Tampio said:

In February, my son’s class was selected to pilot a reading program designed to satisfy the Common Core criteria. The teacher started dedicating two hours a day to packaged lesson plans. Rather than giving the students free work choice, in which they build with blocks or paint, the students must sit on the floor while the teacher lectures at them. Rather than tailoring the curriculum to each child, she hands students books from a narrow, predetermined list. Parent volunteers now have a smaller role to play in the classroom, and the school district is about to cut funding for kindergarten aides.

The class, in short, has gone from one where teachers, aides, parents, and students work hard to create a rewarding educational experience, to one where the teachers and students use materials designed by a major publishing house.

Seriously?  This is a good idea? And note that there are two anti-Common Core posts for Huffington Post.  Even the left is starting to question the wisdom of this curriculum.  Right and Left, standing together?  Cat’s and dogs living together, mass hysteria!

Luckily, it can be changed.  The only reason states put this in place was because of the 2009 stimulus plan held out money like a carrot, with Common Core as the string.  Several states have bills before their respective legislatures to repeal Common Core, though who knows if it’ll happen or not.

However, some things to think about if you support a national standard.

If there should be a universal standard for education in this country, why does it have to be this standard?  Why is a decreased emphasis on Chaucer, Shakespeare, Dickens, Orwell, Hemmingway, Steinbeck among others a good thing?  Why is the mathematical technique used to arrive at an answer more important than the answer?

Folks, regardless of where you stand on a national curriculum - and I’m dead set against it - Common Core has to go.  The children of this nation deserve better.  Maybe the best way to do this is to let 50 different laboratories - most folks call them “states” - experiment and find curriculums that work, and let free market principles figure it out?  It sure can’t work worse than Common Core does.

 
 


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