Editorial: Unpopular Opinion – I Don’t Want to Torch Common Core

I’m going to get lynched for this, just watch.

Nothing (other than Syria, Obamacare, or the government shutdown) gets people riled up more than Common Core these days and anyone who doesn’t automatically assume that the Common Core standards are the governments plan to brainwash our children is usually met with suspicion and some very unkind words.

Let’s get this part out of the way right now.

Are there problems with Common Core?

Yes, of course there are. I’ve gone to school in just about every type of school there is (private, public, charter, home school, community college, 4 year university) and I’ve never seen a perfect a curriculum. I believe that it’s 99.99% likely that there will never be a perfect standard curriculum, only decent attempts at ensuring a certain level of education is accomplished by all schools.

There are a number of regular complaints that I see about Common Core and I’d like to address them here, some of them may overlap. If you disagree, please share your view in the comments. Please do so factually and politely. I’m as conservative as you are I don’t take kindly to being called a communist or fascist or a brainwasher.

1. It’s infringing on state’s rights!

No, it really isn’t.

I have no doubt that the federal Department of Education would like (and will try) to stick their nose into Common Core, but the standards themselves were not written by the federal government and states are not required to comply to them. There are federal incentives for getting on board, but that is in no way the same as infringing on the rights of the states.

2. It encourages a “teach to the test” mentality!

This one really annoys me, because it pretends that education standards exist in a vacuum that is completely unaffected by teachers, unions, or schools.

Any set of standards, implemented by lazy teachers or bad schools, can encourage a “teach to the test” mentality.

The problem is that without standards of any sort, bad teachers don’t even have a responsibility (or accountability) to even teach to the test.

I’ve had both good teachers and bad. A bad teacher will always be bad, with or without a set of standards. The only thing a set of common core standards does to a bad teacher is ensure that students get at least a certain level of education. With Common Core that basic level has been raised slightly for students with bad teachers.

Good teachers, in my experience, do not “teach to the test”. They go above and beyond as a matter of course and find a way to teach everything in the standards, plus everything else they think is important. No set of standards is going to convince them to teach the bare minimum.

Now here’s where the issue of school choice and unions comes in.

The teacher’s unions make it nigh unto impossible to fire bad teachers. So you end up with a huge number of teachers who are happy to just teach the bare minimum either because they are lazy or because they just don’t know how to do anything else. Make it possible for bad teachers to be let go and you’ll get less of that “teach to the test” mentality.

School choice is another issue that would make “teaching to the test” a thing of the past in most schools. Give people the opportunity to leave a school where the curriculum or the teachers are not what they want for their student and the free market will deal with the schools and teachers who are happy being lazy with their education.

Fixing these two issues of unions and school choice are ultimately a much more useful way to spend our time than complaining about Common Core standards. Somehow I feel like the anti-Common Core crowd have forgotten that.

3. Common Core is brainwashing my children!

The other day a story went all over the net and everyone freaked out about it.

A school in Arkansas had a lesson for 6th graders that involved editing the Bill of Rights and creating new amendments.

I completely understand that we are all a bit defensive about our Bill of Rights and constitution right now, but I really doubt (about 99.9%) that this was an attempt to brainwash our kids into destroying our civil liberties.

Even if it was, the curriculum was Common Core “compliant” not created by the Common Core standards. The reason it was considered Common Core compliant was because it was emphasizing critical thinking and analysis.

I hate to break it too you, but this sort of assignment was used in schools long before Common Core came about. I wasn’t very interested in politics in junior high, but I do remember spending time on group projects in civics class where we came up with our own Bill of Rights and Constitution based on the real thing and, yes, that did involved editing and voting on amendments and constitutional powers and explaining our choices and opinions.

It’s actually a pretty good way to get students to think about the content of the Bill of Rights and realize why they were so important. Which is just what the school says they were trying to do.

“The whole point is that students can read the text that is worth reading. They can make sense of that, they can understand it, and they can understand the claim and make an argument for the counterclaim,” she said of the Bill of Rights assignment, adding that critical thinking skills are part of the Common Core state standards (as adopted by the Arkansas State Board of Education).

When TheBlaze pressed her on why the teacher would have students remove two amendments from the Bill of Rights given each one’s importance, Bruick-Jones said there was a purpose.

“We would never undermine the Bill of Rights. The goal was to have students appreciate each one,” she added. “I think that assignment in itself makes you really think which one you could do without. … If you can make your case for each and every one, and you determine you can’t do without any of them, you can still get an A on the assignment.”

The Blaze

What’s wrong with getting students to critically think about how our government works and the importance of our rights? I admit that, having read the content of the handout, the assignment was poorly worded, but that can’t be blamed on the standards.

4. Common Core has crappy curriculum.

No, Common Core has 0 curriculum. It’s a set of standards. Any crappy curriculum (of which there is a lot, I fully admit) can be titled “Common Core compliant” but the poor way it’s constructed is not the fault of the standards (the standards have some pacing issues admittedly) but of the curriculum writers. Take it up with them or with the schools that are selecting badly written curriculum, don’t take on the standards and try to destroy them.

Better yet, with school choice, find schools that don’t rely so much on pre-written curriculum and textbooks. In the best schools I went too we usually used original sources and teacher’s chose any secondary sources that they thought were good quality. Textbooks entered into the education process very, very rarely in any class that wasn’t math.

This was, unsurprisingly, a much more common practice in charter schools and private schools.

So we’re right back to focusing on school choice again.

_________

tl;dr

1. Common Core standards are not forced on states by the federal government, in fact they weren’t devised by the federal government.

2. “Teach to the test” isn’t a problem created by standards, it’s a problem that is created by bad teachers, bad schools, and bad unions.

3. Common core can’t brainwash anyone, since it’s not a set of curriculum. Any “brainwashing” curriculum is being created by idiots, but not Common Core itself.

4. Common Core isn’t responsible for the all crappy curriculum that has “Common core Compliant” stamped on it.

5. I get that a lot of top conservative pundits are calling Common Core an evil, progressive attempt to brainwash your children, but maybe you should actually look at the standards and not judge the actual standards on poor implementation.

6. I get that we’re all a bit wary of “change” these days, but paranoia paired with lack of fact checking is very unattractive.

__________

Now understand that, even with the Common Core standards, I don’t intend to let my kids anywhere near a public school. Home school and private schooling are much more my style. Despite that fact, I realize that a common set of standards are a good first step to implementing large scale school choice and moving us toward better education in our country.

So please keep calm, think critically, and analyse what you are told.

 

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Categorised in: America, Conservative, Education, Politics, Schools

2 Responses »

  1. Well, before the lynching begins, let me just say that you are 100% correct in your evaluation.

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