A few months ago, leading up to South Carolina's primary elections, I shared my not-so-humble thoughts about the elections. One of my biggest issues then (and now) is people whose primary platform "anti-Common Core."
I promised that I would explain this more in detail, and here we go. Ready or not . . . .
Anti- Anti-Common CoreSince I live in the south, and since most of my friends (and social media connections) are "conservatives," I hear a lot of rage against the Common Core State Standards Initiative. But whatever one's worldview, I think most of the complaints can be centered around these five issues:
- General myths and misunderstandings
- Struggle with change
- Standardized Testing
Myths and MisunderstandingsThe biggest misunderstanding I hear about Common Core is about what exactly it is. Many people think that Common Core is a new nationally-mandated curriculum. But Common Core is a set of standards (which we've had for years in education) of what's expected for students to learn.
For everyone who has complained, and shared their complaints with friends and the internet, how many have actually looked at the Common Core website? If you are guilty of this, a good place to start would be the Myths vs Facts page.
Common Core is a tool. It levels the playing field of what children are expected to know. As it is now, every state has different standards, which is not too big of a deal unless a child moves, or unless your child lives in a state which merely calls for a minimally-adequate education system.
As a tool, Common Core can be used, or misused. A hammer can be used to put a nail in wall to hang a picture, or it can put a big hole in your sheetrock. But if you mistakenly do the latter, don't blame the hammer.
Struggle With ChangeAh . . . our favorite defense mechanism, "That's not how we did it in our day, and we turned out fine." But at some point, even what we did was a change from the previous.
There are growing pains with adjusting to a new system. This should be expected. But let us not live in the dreamland of thinking that the standards of 30 years ago are just as relevant as today.
And I don't get the viral complaints about how children are being taught math. Again, we have to understand that there is a difference between standards and curriculum.
(And to be honest, that examples of how to do that type of addition makes sense to me. I'd be happy to explain why the often-complained-about way of doing math is a good thing. Just ask me....)
But even if that was a terrible standard, let's keep it in perspective. That is one standard out of four core subjects, out of an entire year of education, out of thirteen years of schooling. If only 1 or 2 percent of Common Core (or any other educational tool) was terrible, I'd be content.
It's funny (to me) to hear people in South Carolina fight to "keep Common Core out of our schools." It's already in the schools! And I've talked with many administrators and teachers who love it. As one principal told me, "We love it! Our teachers now have the freedom to create their own curriculum. It's helping us do project-centered lessons." This doesn't sound like the "one-world, government mandate" that so many are afraid of.
(That's not an isolated example. For example, read about some successes in Kentucky).
And speaking of which government and politics . . .
PoliticsI think most "conservatives" are against Common Core because of the President that this was enacted under. They may even claim that this is part of Obama's plan to bring about a one-world government.
I'm not going to touch this conspiracy theory. Besides, Common Core was originally supported by the National Governor's Association.
FundingAnother issue I hear is that teachers don't know how to use it. And I get this. I know a teacher from another state who complains that teachers are being told to use this tool, but the state is not providing the resources to train them how to implement it.
But the issue here isn't with Common Core. The issue is politics and funding.
Standardized TestingBesides the issue of funding, there are numerous other side issues that Common Core is being blamed for. The biggest of these may be the heavy emphasis on standardized testing (which takes up at least 20% of a student's school year)?
But standardized testing is not specifically a Common Core issue. We can better lay the blame on No Child Left Behind (which, by the way, was enacted under a Republican president).
There is a lot in our education system that I disagree with, but let's make sure we assign the correct blame.
Is Common Core perfect? By no means. Should we debate its effectiveness? Absolutely. But let's make sure we are debating facts, not emotional and irrational responses.