Thursday, December 12, 2013

Why I DON'T Believe in Common Core . . .

In the NY Daily News a couple days ago was an article "Why I Believe in the Common Core" by Brett Peiser, CEO of "Uncommon Schools."
"The parents of our students understand that, contrary to the criticisms levied by a small contingent of opponents of the Core, the new academic standards are about establishing and teaching the skills and knowledge our students need to be ready for college-level work - not about high-stakes testing. . . .

Our country ranks behind too many others in international rankings of math and reading proficiency. Our schools have simply not been preparing children for college well enough, and we all need to do better.

Common Core is part of that solution . . . Common Core challenges teachers and students to get to the "why" behind how things work. So, it's not just learning that 3 x 5 = 15, but how and why that is true. It's a chance for students to become deeper and more critical thinkers. . . .
What's wrong with asking a third grader to figure out multiple ways of solving 12 times 8 or 36 divided by 4? What's wrong with asking a seventh grader to write an essay comparing two similar newspaper articles and how each author approached the same topic? What's wrong with asking any student to cite the evidence behind their answer?"
Mr. Peiser has mastered word-smithing well. . . .  suggesting those in agreement have higher "understanding" while marginalizing the opposition as a "small contingent" focused on trivialities. . . . citing conditions and aspirations that no one disagrees with . . . and, with the reader hopefully roped-in, presenting Common Core as the salvation.

If you had to rely solely upon the contents of Mr. Peiser's "informational text" for data and had no independent knowledge to draw upon, you would probably think that you now know all you need to know about the issue and accept his position as true.  Of course, Mr. Peiser is banking on you being ignorant . . . and that should make you angry!  It would be easy to marginalize Mr. Peiser's article as a crock by someone in a position to gain financially . . . but that avoids the substance.

The bottom line is that we all want our students to be able to think critically . . . but can you have critical thinking without something to think critically about? 

In the past we equipped our students with a "storehouse of knowledge"  -- things most people could agree upon: math facts and basic skills, history of our country and the functions of its government, basic principles of science, geography, world history, etc. That "storehouse" is the substance of critical thinking -- but it is now dismissed by Common Core proponents as "rote learning."

Why teach 10 ways to do multiplication when one SIMPLE "tried and true" way works and, once mastered, comes up with the right answer every time? The end result of the new approach is that NO way is mastered -- and students don't know when they've come up with the wrong answer. How can there be "understanding" of math without that storehouse of knowledge including math facts?

If you know nothing, there is nothing to understand!

The evil here is Common Core's emphasis on performance rather than knowledge (The same was true for Outcome Based Education, the Regents' "higher" standards of the late 90s, and a bunch of other reforms). By depriving our students of that "storehouse of knowledge" held in common with each other and with older generations, communications with the older generation becomes difficult, communications among different disciplines becomes difficult. . . . And this makes it easy to reprogram students, and eventually a population, using "informational texts" for whatever is the ideology of the day.

Example: If you knew nothing about the ice ages, multiple advances and retreats of ice, geologic changes in sea levels, the Vikings farming of Greenland, etc., you would be less likely to be a skeptic, and more likely to accept the "consensus" than humans are causing climate change. Which scenario (the acceptance, or being a skeptic) best represents "critical thinking?"

What does Common Core fill student's heads with besides mindless exercises in processing information?
At our schools, we inspired our students to "show what you know" on test day. Our students discussed Michael Jordan's career and how often he failed on his road to success, and that he was never deterred. Our students loved coming to school in Michael Jordan T-shirts during the exams. As the week wore on, one of our third graders wrote in a reflection about the challenging questions: "I just knew I wasn't going to give up."

Michael Jordan's career might be inspirational and give students something to talk or write about, but it is trivial in the larger scheme of things and spending a week on it is a waste of time.  It is not the "knowledge" the students will need to succeed in the future . . . and not the knowledge that society needs to maintain itself and help it to evolve in the future as new challenges arise.  

"Critical thinking" is "wisdom" . . . which comes with age and cannot be taught.  Common Core teaches the mimicry of wisdom while withholding the substance of it: knowledge.  

If you care about the next generation and the well-being of the nation, you will fight implementation of Common Core.


Dave said...

I found the following article to contain enough for both sides of the argument to chew on.

Five myths about the Common Core

By Valerie Strauss, Published: December 13

Valerie Strauss is an education columnist for The Washington Post.

"The Common Core State Standards, which spell out what K-12 students should learn in school, are at the center of a heated debate:
Who should control public education? What do students really need to know?

Let’s separate fact from fiction to figure out what’s at stake."

Those are two important questions, above. They are at ... or should be at ... the center of the argument.

Dave said...

And here's a thoughtful article against Common Core.