by Linda Szugyi
I covered the first two points last week. On to Fordham Institute’s point and rebuttal number three:
3. “ASSERTION: ‘THE COMMON CORE DISINCENTIVIZES PARENT INVOLVEMENT. IT STOPS PARENTS FROM A DEEP AND ABIDING INTEREST IN THEIR CHILD’S EDUCATION.’ FACT: WITH STANDARDS, PARENTS CAN CLEARLY ASSESS IF THEIR CHILD IS BEING CHALLENGED TO GAIN THE SKILLS AND KNOWLEDGE NEEDED TO SUCCEED IN COLLEGE OR CAREER.”
The problem here is the assumption that all standards are helpful. Of course, generally speaking, people can better track their progress in anything–education, building a house, or cooking a stew, as examples–if they have some instructions to follow and some checkpoints to compare.
But come on. Which is going to be the easier stew recipe to follow? The plain-written one, or the one that carries on ad nauseam about the level of seasoning complexity, the integration of tubers and nightshades, and the importance of having diverse ingredients?
In order for standards to be helpful to parents, they first have to be readable. Yet, the Common Core Standards are phrased in as verbose and convoluted a manner as possible. Have a look at them, if you haven’t yet. Even simple things like listening and holding a conversation are expressed in complex, high-sounding terminology.
Phony claptrap may intimidate some parents, but it shouldn’t. It should be derided as just another from of legalese. We can call it “expertese.” As a culture, we’ve been ceding authority to the self-appointed experts of child-rearing and education for far too long. Our experts have turned into naked emperors.
The unnamed author of the Fact Sheet feebly attempts to support the dubious FACT #3 (parents can clearly assess their children with Common Core Standards), by reminding us that states had their own standards before Common Core, and parents didn’t complain about them.
“What’s the big deal? Standards are standards,” seems to be the implicit argument. I’m reminded of that old Wendy’s ad about the competitors’ chicken sandwich: Parts is parts!
In this one regard, the Fact Sheet is correct. We should have been complaining about our ridiculously unhelpful state standards. It took the foisting of a national set of unhelpful standards for us to sit up and take notice. As I’ve said before, Common Core doesn’t invent the lousy education, it just nationally standardizes it.
The most interesting part of the Fact Sheet’s argument in #3 is an off-hand use of the word “knowledge”:
“The existence of standards enables parents to clearly track if their child is gaining the necessary knowledge and skills to be ready for college or career.”
Gaining the necessary knowledge? I have noticed that the Common Core Standards don’t cover knowledge; they only cover skills. Therein lies the basis for the oft-repeated claim that Common Core does not influence the curricula, i.e., the substance of the information taught in the classroom. Therein also lies their pointless nature, for the skills they purport to assess are skills that humans tend to naturally acquire in the process of attaining knowledge.
Whether the knowledge is gained from experience or books, the skill to apply that knowledge is an innate part of the human experience. The question then becomes, what bodies of knowledge will best hone the natural human tendency to apply knowledge by creating, by making decisions, and by communicating with others?
To answer this question, Common Core has suggested texts in Appendix B. Analyzation of these suggestions is best left for another time, and in fact has already been done by Terrence O. Moore. You really should buy his book. It’s called “The Story-Killers” for a reason. Suffice it to say that the folks who publish “Common Core-aligned” textbooks think it’s more important for high schoolers to read a Saturday Night Live parody of Frankenstein than it is to actually, you know, read the classic novel itself.
Wow. Class is over already, and I covered only #3 of the thirteen “assertions and facts” in the Fordham Institute’s “Fact Sheet.” I’ll have to pick up with #4 next week. Just remember, learning is an innate part of being human, but the traditional school experience has a tendency to crush it.
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