Common Core: A Firestorm That Never Ends

Stop Common Core

It is hard to believe that I haven’t written anything about Common Core in almost four months, but the summer months have rejuvenated me for new classes and more battles. It is time to re-enter the fray.

“Common Core won’t solve our problems, but it has the potential to cause irrevocable harm as we experiment with our students’ lives.”

I recently visited the Texas Renaissance Festival where Captain Liam was conducting his regular four o’clock pirate auction, and a visitor had just successfully bid on a sword for $100. The Captain promptly told the winner that the lucky soul would not be paying $100, but that the price would be cut in half.

Liam then said with a mischievous grin, “That’s right! You’ll pay 486 dollars and 35 cents. We use Common Core math!”

The crowd roared with laughter, especially for a state that never even adopted Common Core.

Every so often, it helps to reiterate the substantive objections to the reform-de-jure Common Core. Rarely has such a reform movement polarized so many people, creating a toxic us-versus-them mentality.

Common Core supporters deride opponents as uninformed, bigoted idiots incapable of understanding the program’s vast goodness, despite its never having been tested. Opponents look upon supporters as gullible soothsayers who specialize in polemics but not in reality.

My objection to Common Core is straightforward: I object anytime two dozen people who weren’t teachers and who had little experience writing standards try to create a set of standards for real teachers to use.

I would never presume to tell a doctor how to do his/her job, but apparently anyone is qualified to rewrite educational standards, especially when gifted with Bill Gates’ money.

Common Core authors hailed from ACT, Achieve, the College Board, and Student Achievement Partners, and their creation has ignited a firestorm of criticism from both the left and the right.

Every state can design their own curricula to match the standards. One of the first, Engage New York curricula—often deridingly referred to as Enrage New York—is so poorly designed that St. Tammany Parish, an A-level parish, made headlines with its decision to phase it out by next year.

Reforms imposed from the top down on the souls in the trenches—the teachers—have rarely succeeded, and the oppositional chorus is still swelling. What will become of this chaos is anyone’s guess.

For my part, I will continue to teach my students with care and compassion, something sorely lacking in this test-driven state which cares more about numbers than people, which exalts quantity over quality, and sacrifices human character for a measurable outcome. No other country has such a fanatical focus on data as the panacea for all our woes. Common Core won’t solve our problems, but it has the potential to cause irrevocable harm as we experiment with our students’ lives.

In the meantime, we can at least roar with laughter. It would be so funny if it weren’t so tragic.

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