Are The Common Core Standards Going To Make MN Better?
By Jason Bradley
A short time ago I wrote about a new set of national education standards called Common Core. I laid out the basics of the program: that 45 states have adopted Common Core and taken millions of dollars from the Federal Government, per the stimulus bill, in return for adoption of standards that no one had seen yet. That really doesn’t seem like a good deal to me (to take a favor in return for a favor to be named later), but now we are starting to see what some of the standards are, and I must say that it is a fundamental shift not only in what our children are taught, but how they are taught.
Attempts to develop national curricula have always failed in the past because they go after history first, and there has been such an uprising by parents and teachers over skewed and incorrect lessons, that the campaigns have, ultimately, failed. Now whether the standards are amazing or riddled with errors, the biggest issue is that local control over the education of our children is removed. As we discussed in an earlier article, Common Core will affect standardized tests, as well. This means that whether we like it or not, even private and home schoolers will be impacted by these standards.
Let’s say we’re at a point, as a citizenry, where we’re okay with the loss of control and individual freedom. We finally recognize the altruism of the State, and that we trust them to make all of these decisions for us (I know, a stretch, but play along anyway). Let’s look at what we know about the math and English standards to see if they pass muster.
First, let’s take math. Now, if I ask you to add 525 and 347, you would say easy! 5 and 7 are 12, carry the one plus 2 plus 4 are 7, and 5 plus 3 are 8… so that’s 872. Now, Common core teaches it this way, you need to group the numbers differently. You take 500 plus 300, 20 plus 40, and then 5 plus 7. So that gives you 800, 60, and 12. 800 plus 60 is 860, plus 12 is 872. That’s a long way around to get to the answer. It’s taking the scenic route, rather than the expressway. It’s called “regrouping”. This is how common core teaches math. It eventually teaches students to add in columns, but only when they have learned how to efficiently regroup. If you have a list of numbers to add (i.e. 1,345+456+612=3,154+14+753), you are really doing seven math problems by regrouping, instead of 4 (by adding in columns). It slows down the process. Imagine a math assignment with thirty-five problems. That’s a lot more time consuming. In fact, some say it delays moving forward by a year or two, because as the child learns multiple ways to solve a math problem, it can not only bring confusion, the child will have a hard time getting back on track, making up those couple of years to learn trigonometry and calculus before high school graduation. That is a real problem. We need to make sure our children have the opportunity to get the best education possible, which includes the opportunity to learn advanced mathematics. This will cost students more in tuition, as they are forced to take remedial math classes to get ready for college-level math courses.
Let’s look at what Common Core’s English standards say. They say that 70% of everything that high school students read needs to be informational texts. That leaves 30% of a student’s reading for the classics, poetry, short stories, or a new popular book. What are considered informational texts? Government speeches, EPA manuals, biographies, etc are all acceptable. Again, teachers have to teach to the standardized tests. Rather than learn about the literature, they can learn about the people that wrote it. Now, I prefer non-fiction, personally. I believe that people don’t read enough history, political bills, historical documents, etc, and I believe that the value of those things are understated in our schools, but 70/30 seems far out of balance to me. Students also have to read Edgar Allen Poe, Romeo and Juliet, A Tale of Two Cities, and such to have an appreciation for the great literature of our time. Again, private and home schoolers will have to follow suit in order to pass the standardized tests.
As you can see, this is quite a change in the way that our children are taught. What happens in science and history is anybody’s guess. This is your child’s education, we’re discussing. You’re going to have to make a decision to get on board or stand up, but you’re going to have to make that choice. That is why I’m going through these changes here. I’ve told you what Common Core is and told you what they teach. My next Common Core article will deal with all of the data collection it will require of your child. Before you can make a decision for or against, you need to know the facts. That’s why I am trying to give them to you with as little editorializing as possible. Remember that staying silent is a voice in favor of. If you’re in favor of, then fine. If you’re against, then you have to say something for your child’s sake, and not only to your local teacher, school, and school board. You need to let your state legislators know. Only they can get us out of Common Core. Take the time to research this on your own. I can only fit so much into one article. Do the work and take a stand for or against.