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Putting the Common in Common Core

May 14th, 2015 Posted by Susan's Musings 10 comments

By the time a child graduates high school he or she has experienced hundreds of teachers. It would be unrealistic to expect every educator to be outstanding. However, it is reasonable to expect basic competence. It is not only reasonable, but essential, to expect a teacher to desire student success. 

My aunt taught science for decades, retiring as she neared ninety only due to concerns about driving in icy road conditions. Her principal gladly smudged her birthdate on official paperwork enabling him to keep using her talents. Towards the end of her career, she was hospitalized for what turned out to be a mistaken lab result. While in the hospital, the head of cardiology entered her room, helped her into a wheel chair and escorted her to his office. Unusual behavior, indeed. Once she was there, he took down a volume from his shelf and handed it to her, saying, “That woman is the reason I am here today.” The volume was his junior high yearbook with the page open to my aunt’s picture. 

Contrast that with a Kentucky teacher commenting favorably on using Common Core standards in her eighth grade classroom. The Wall Street Journal quotes her as saying, “We focus more on primary sources, like graphics, pictures and quotes…I always tell my students that I’m horrible with memorizing dates, and I am not going to ask for them.” Leave aside whether she is confused as to what a primary source is and its usefulness, why would a teacher want to limit students by her own preferences and/or inadequacies?  

Over in Australia, admittedly not an area touched by Common Core, the same embrace of low expectations can be found. An Australian news outlet covered a report by philosophers Adam Swift and Harry Brighouse worrying that parents who read aloud to their children gift those children with an unfair advantage. 

While the pull quote questioning whether parents should feel guilty for reading their children bedtime stories received attention, this quote should be noticed as well, “One way philosophers might think about solving the social justice problem would be by simply abolishing the family. If the family is this source of unfairness in society then it looks plausible to think that if we abolished the family there would be a more level playing field.“

While he acknowledges that most people think having all children raised by the state is a bad idea, he encourages moving towards equality by reducing  parents’ freedom to make choices for their children. For example, Swift argues against allowing parents to send their children to private schools. 

As equality becomes the mantra of society (naturally the Great Leaders, say those with the last name Clinton or Obama will never have to live by that mantra) ideas such as these can swiftly move towards mass acceptance. Those of us who watch in abhorrence feel almost ridiculous stating an opposing view. It seems rather like arguing the con side of a debate titled, “Resolved:  Children should be dropped off to play in the middle of the highway.” Is this really necessary? I’m afraid as our universities discourage reasoning, our electronic gadgets reduce our abilities to think deeply and too many politicians require electoral illiteracy in order to win, it is, amazingly, very necessary to fight this fight. At the risk of stating the obvious, here are two ideas I’d like to propose. 1) Teachers should not limit students based on their own limitations, but rather encourage students to excel. 2) We should aim for all children to achieve economic, physical, mental and spiritual success even if that means acknowledging that the ‘advanced and enlightened’ policies of the last few decades regarding families, education and economics, have moved us backwards from that goal. 

When Winston Churchill said that socialism’s “inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery,” intelligent people understood that to be a put down of socialism. Our befuddled society is moving in the direction of thinking that to be a worthwhile goal.

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10 comments

Karen Boswell says:

More insights as to the blight upon our educational system –
Appreciate what you and your husband do!!!

Karen, I don’t like posting links I haven’t checked and when I went to the one you sent, it was blocked unless I clicked on something, so I’m just not comfortable giving it out. Can you summarize the point?

James says:

Those who have experienced Common Core report that it supports fuzzy, smudgy answers and vague and subjective non-sequitur logic. But when the space shuttle loses its auto-pilot mechanism and the desperate astronaut must calculate and navigate trajectories to get back to Earth, fuzzy and subjective answers just will not suffice.
If it’s roses you seek, you will find them. If you look for the thorns, you will find those, too. Similarly, if you help a student aim for excellence, you might get it. Yet if you allow your students to achieve the lowest common denominator, to languish in the gutter, you certainly will get that, too. And he who does aim for the stars will be disenfranchised, alienated and maybe even insolently mocked for his uppity cheek. The system will discourage him for coming up with exact, elegant or creative answers that do not fit the mold.
The problem is the tin god of Government and too much socialism that enthrones ‘equality.’ The federal blackmailers ain’t got no place in education at all, at all. Nope. Throw the bums out! Send ‘em back to Papertown!

James, another problem is that while teachers used to be the educated class in society, one can become a teacher today while being barely literate. Less educated parents can encourage children to exceed their level; teachers who think they are intelligent and knowledgable but who aren’t, waste the minds entrusted to them. Obviously, there are wonderful teachers out there, but there are too many who should not be in the classroom.

Peter says:

Hi Susan:
The government schools (as Milton Friedman liked to refer to public schools) in America are part of a system that has adopted the Secular Fundamentalist faith, and there is no separation between their church and the state. As such, there is by necessity the promulgation of lies in order to support their materialist-atheist world view. What I love about what your husband and you do is that you speak the straightforward truth as opposed to the more comfortable clichés, half-truths, and euphemism that constitute today’s political correctness.
As Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn said, “Truth eludes us as soon as our concentration begins to flag, all the while leaving the illusion that we are continuing to pursue it. Also, truth is seldom sweet, it is almost invariably bitter”. Truth is especially bitter to those who have fallen victim to The Big Lie propaganda technique commonly used by totalitarian regimes. British psychiatrist and cultural commentator Theodore Dalrymple explains how communists employed it to corrupt their own people:
“In my study of communist societies, I came to the conclusion that the purpose of communist propaganda was not to persuade or convince, nor to inform, but to humiliate; and therefore, the less it corresponded to reality the better. When people are forced to remain silent when they are being told the most obvious lies, or even worse when they are forced to repeat the lies themselves, they lose once and for all their sense of probity. To assent to obvious lies is to co-operate with evil, and in some small way to become evil oneself…. I think if you examine political correctness, it has the same effect and is intended to.”
Consider this foundational lie promoted by our government schools: “Humans arrived on this planet by a process of unaided, materialistic evolution. It follows that humans are no more than sophisticated animals” (a quote borrowed from my wonderful rabbi).
Here’s another one: “Poverty is the cause of failure in life”. Contrast that with the truth which is that “Poverty is the RESULT of failure in life”.
And just one more: “Poverty causes crime” instead of the truth that “Crime causes poverty”.
At the end of the day, we need to continue to speak the truth. This is why the Founding Fathers of America insisted on including a Bill of Rights with our U.S. Constitution and then placed the First Amendment first. To do other than not only speak but to TEACH the straightforward truth is to tolerate evil, co-operate with evil, and as Dr. Dalrymple has so cogently articulated, in some small way to become evil oneself.

Dr. Dalrymple’s writing are very worth reading. If we want to see where nationalized medicine will lead, his writings are essential from his perspective as a British doctor.

Jean says:

That quote from the KY teacher isn’t surprising – KY has always been a very “progressive” state. Many years ago, I worked for an educational publisher and was one of several hundred people charged with scoring the essay portions of standardized tests given by each state. The criteria for scoring is set by the state’s Department of Education. In Kentucky, every tenth grader is supposed to author a four-page essay on a specific topic. As scorers, we were to grade students on intention, but we were specifically told to overlook spelling and grammar in order to be “culturally sensitive.” In other words, if a student wrote “These here friends of mine were fixin to go down the hill to the store..” that was considered “A” work because it got the point across. I couldn’t help but think that perhaps this person would be marketable in Kentucky, but relocate him or her anywhere above the Mason-Dixon and they would be pretty low on the spectrum. I contrast that with the education my mother – a first generation American taught in a classroom filled with immigrants’ children – received. She and her classmates could read, write and speak standard American English, even understanding many of the grammatical nuances that I have to regularly research in the Chicago Manual of Style. Her grasp of world and US history was astounding, and yes, she even remembered much of her high school Latin. There was some politician who once spoke of the abysmal education that minority children receive in public schools as “the soft bigotry of low expectations.” And as progressive ideology loves “equality,” it appears that rather than confining low expectations to minorities, they now pervade all public educational facilities so everyone can be equally ignorant but feel good about it because they’re given a participation trophy and a diploma.

Jean, that is a shocking story about Kentucky standards. Your mother’s recollection of how immigrants used to be helped to acclimate and succeed in America by having high demands made of them underscores how much damage has been done by ‘sensitivity’ that keeps immigrants illiterate and out of the mainstream economy. So, yes, if we spread illiteracy all over that would make things more equal.

Lora says:

This floors me. I hadn’t heard about many of these more extreme ‘philosophies’, and I have kids in the educational trenches myself. The screaming irony is that in one reading last year in high school English, a science-fiction story told of how they weighed down the limbs of ballerinas to make them less exceptional, and caused brain damage to their best thinkers so that others wouldn’t feel dumb around them. I can’t remember the author- Vonnegut, maybe?- but the message was clear. And it is the same system encouraging such heavy handed destruction that assigned this reading in the first place.
Heaven help us.

That sounds like a great story. We have to do our best to make sure that it stays science fiction.

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