Top Ten Things Parents Hate About the Common Core

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It’s the first school year most par­ents have heard about Com­mon Core. And they don’t like it one bit.

This is the year new nation­al Com­mon Core tests kick in, replac­ing state tests in most locales, cour­tesy of an eager Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion and the future generation’s tax dol­lars. It’s also the first year a major­i­ty of peo­ple inter­viewed tell poll­sters they’ve actu­al­ly heard of Com­mon Core, four years after bureau­crats signed our kids onto this com­plete over­haul of U.S. edu­ca­tion.

Com­mon Core has impressed every­one from Bill Gates to U.S. Edu­ca­tion Sec­re­tary Arne Dun­can. So why do 62 per­cent of par­ents think it’s a bad idea? For one, they can count. But their kids can’t.

1. The Senseless, Infuriating Math

Com­mon Core math, how do we hate thee? We would count the ways, if Com­mon Core hadn’t deformed even the most ele­men­tary of our math abil­i­ties so that sim­ple addi­tion now takes dots, dash­es, box­es, hash­marks, and foam cubes, plus an inor­di­nate amount of time, to not get the right answer.

There are so many exam­ples of this, it’s hard to pick, but a recent one boomerang­ing the Inter­net has a teacher show­ing how to solve 9 + 6 the Com­mon Core way. Yes, it takes near­ly a minute. 

Despite claims to the con­trary, Com­mon Core does require bad math like this. The Brook­ings Institution’s Tom Love­less says the cur­ricu­lum man­dates con­tain “dog whis­tles” for fuzzy math pro­po­nents, the peo­ple who keep push­ing inef­fec­tive, dev­as­tat­ing, and research-dec­i­mat­ed math instruc­tion on U.S. kids for ide­o­log­i­cal rea­sons. The man­dates also explic­it­ly require kids to learn the least effi­cient ways of solv­ing basic prob­lems one, two, and even three grade lev­els before they are to learn the tra­di­tion­al, effi­cient ways. There are ways for teach­ers to fill in the gaps and fix this, but this means a kid’s abil­i­ty to get good math instruc­tion depends on the luck of hav­ing an extra-savvy teacher. That’s espe­cial­ly a down­er for poor and minor­i­ty kids, who already get the green­est and low­est-qual­i­ty teach­ers.

2. The Lies

The Amer­i­can Enter­prise Institute’s Rick Hess recent­ly wrote about Com­mon Core’s “half-truths,” which Greg Forster point­ed­ly demon­strat­ed he should have called “lies.” These include talk­ing points essen­tial to sell­ing gov­er­nors and oth­er state lead­ers on the project, such as that Com­mon Core is: “inter­na­tion­al­ly bench­marked” (“well, we sor­ta looked at what oth­er nations do but that didn’t nec­es­sar­i­ly change any­thing we did”); “evi­dence based” (“we know there is not enough research to under­gird any stan­dards, so we just polled some peo­ple and that’s our evi­dence“); “col­lege- and career-ready” (“only if you mean com­mu­ni­ty-col­lege ready“); “rig­or­ous” (as long as rig­or­ous indi­cates “rigid”); and “high-per­form­ing nations nation­al­ize edu­ca­tion” (so do low-per­form­ing nations).

3. Obliterating Parent Rights

Com­mon Core has revealed the con­tempt pub­lic “ser­vants” have for the peo­ple they are sup­pos­ed­ly ruled by—that’d be you and me. Indi­ana fire­brand Heather Crossin, a mom whose encounter with Com­mon Core math turned her into a nation­al­ly known activist, went with oth­er par­ents to their pri­vate-school prin­ci­pal in an attempt to get their school’s new Com­mon Core text­books replaced. “Our prin­ci­pal in frus­tra­tion threw up his hands and said, ‘Look, I know par­ents don’t like this type of math because none of us were taught this way, but we have to teach it this way because this is how it’s going to be on the new [stan­dard­ized] assess­ment,” she says. “And that was the moment when I real­ized con­trol of what was being taught in my child’s class­room — in a parochial Catholic school  —  had not only left the build­ing, it had left the state of Indi­ana.”

A Mary­land dad who stood up to com­plain that Com­mon Core dumb­ed down his kids’ instruc­tion was arrest­ed and thrown out of a pub­lic meet­ing. See the video. 

Par­ents reg­u­lar­ly fill my inbox, frus­trat­ed that even when they do go to their local school boards, often all they get are dis­gust­ed looks and a bored thumb-twid­dling dur­ing their two-minute pub­lic com­ment allowance. A New Hamp­shire dad was also arrest­ed for going over his two-minute com­ment lim­it in a local school board meet­ing par­ents packed to com­plain about graph­ic-sex-filled lit­er­a­ture assign­ments. The way the board treats him and his fel­low par­ents is repul­sive. 

The bot­tom line is, par­ents have no choice about whether their kids will learn Com­mon Core, no mat­ter what school they put them in, if they want them to go to col­lege, because the SAT and ACT are being redesigned to fit the new nation­al pro­gram for edu­ca­tion. Elect­ed school boards pay par­ents no heed, and nei­ther do state depart­ments of edu­ca­tion, because the feds delib­er­ate­ly use our tax dol­lars to put them­selves in the edu­ca­tion driver’s seat, at our expense. So much for “by the peo­ple, for the peo­ple, of the peo­ple.”

4. Dirty Reading Assignments

A red-haired moth­er of four kids read to our Indi­ana leg­is­la­ture selec­tions from a Com­mon Core-rec­om­mend­ed book called “The Bluest Eyes,” by Toni Mor­ri­son. I’m a grown, mar­ried woman who enjoys sex just fine, thank you, but I sin­cere­ly wish I hadn’t heard her read those pas­sages. I guess some peo­ple don’t find sym­pa­thet­i­cal­ly por­trayed rape scenes offen­sive, but I do. So I won’t quote them at you. If you have a perv-wish, Google will fill you in. Oth­er objec­tion­able books on the Com­mon Core-rec­om­mend­ed list include “Make Lemon­ade” by Vir­ginia Euw­er Wolff, “Black Swan Green” by David Mitchell, and “Dream­ing in Cuban” by Cristi­na Gar­cia.

There are so many excel­lent, clas­sic works of lit­er­a­ture avail­able for chil­dren and young adults that schools can’t pos­si­bly fit all the good ones into their cur­ricu­lum. So why did Com­mon Core’s cre­ators feel the need to rec­om­mend trash? Either they want kids to read trash or they don’t think these are trash, and both are dis­turb­ing.

5. Turning Kids Into Corporate Cogs

The work­force-prep men­tal­i­ty of Com­mon Core is writ­ten into its DNA. Start with its slo­gan, which is now writ­ten into fed­er­al man­dates on state edu­ca­tion sys­tems: “Col­lege and career readi­ness.” That is the entire Com­mon Core con­cep­tion of education’s pur­pose: Careers. Job train­ing. Work­force skills. There’s not a word about the rea­sons our state con­sti­tu­tions give for estab­lish­ing pub­lic edu­ca­tion, in which eco­nom­ic advance­ment is large­ly con­sid­ered a person’s per­son­al affair. (Mil­ton Fried­man takes the same tack, by the way.) State con­sti­tu­tions typ­i­cal­ly mim­ic the North­west Ordinance’s vision for pub­lic edu­ca­tion (the ordi­nance was the first U.S. law to dis­cuss edu­ca­tion): “Reli­gion, moral­i­ty, and knowl­edge, being nec­es­sary to good gov­ern­ment and the hap­pi­ness of mankind, schools and the means of edu­ca­tion shall for­ev­er be encour­aged.”

Com­mon Core makes no promis­es about ful­fill­ing pub­lic education’s pur­pose of pro­duc­ing cit­i­zens capa­ble of self-gov­ern­ment. Instead, it focus­es entire­ly on the mate­ri­al­is­tic ben­e­fits of edu­ca­tion, although human civ­i­liza­tion has instead long con­sid­ered edu­ca­tion a part of accul­tur­at­ing chil­dren and pass­ing down a people’s knowl­edge, her­itage, and morals. The work­force talk cer­tain­ly tick­les the ears of Com­mon Core’s cor­po­rate sup­port­ers. Maybe that was the intent all along. But in what world do cor­po­ra­tions get to dic­tate what kids learn, instead of the par­ents and kids them­selves? Ours, appar­ent­ly.

6. The Data Collection and Populace Management

Speak­ing of cor­po­rate crony­ism, let’s talk about how Com­mon Core enables the con­tin­ued theft of kids’ and teach­ers’ infor­ma­tion at the behest of gov­ern­ments and busi­ness­es, fur­ther­ing their bot­tom lines and pop­u­lace-con­trol fan­tasies at the expense of pri­vate prop­er­ty and self-determination.Well, I coau­thored a 400-foot­note paper on this very top­ic. I’ll just sum­ma­rize the list of direct con­nec­tions between intru­sive data-min­ing and Com­mon Core from my favorite pas­sage (in the sec­tion start­ing on page 52):

  1. The doc­u­ments that ‘cre­at­ed the (dubi­ous) autho­riza­tion for Com­mon Core define the ini­ta­tive as cur­ricu­lum man­dates plus tests. The tests are the key instru­ment of data col­lec­tion.
  2. Com­mon Core archi­tect David Cole­man has con­firmed that spe­cial-inter­ests delib­er­ate­ly pack­aged data min­ing into Com­mon Core.
  3. Com­mon Core cre­ates an enor­mous sys­tem of data clas­si­fi­ca­tion for edu­ca­tion. It’s prob­a­bly eas­i­est to think of it as an enor­mous fil­ing sys­tem, like the equiv­a­lent of the Dewey Dec­i­mal Sys­tem for lessons, text­books, apps, and every­thing else kids learn. That’s by design.
  4. States using the nation­al, fed­er­al­ly fund­ed Com­mon Core tests have essen­tial­ly turned over con­trol of what data they col­lect on chil­dren to pri­vate orga­ni­za­tions that are over­seen by no elect­ed offi­cials. Those orga­ni­za­tions have promised com­plete access to kids’ data to the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment.
  5. Com­mon Core and data vac­u­um­ing are philo­soph­i­cal­ly aligned—they both jus­ti­fy them­selves as tech­no­crat­ic, pro­gres­sive solu­tions to human prob­lems. The ulti­mate goal is using data to “seam­less­ly inte­grate” edu­ca­tion and the econ­o­my. In oth­er words, we learned noth­ing from the USSR.

7. Distancing Parents and Children

A recent study found that the Com­mon Core mod­el of edu­ca­tion results in par­ents who are less engaged in their kids’ edu­ca­tion and express more neg­a­tive atti­tudes about schools and gov­ern­ment. Does it need to be not­ed that kids des­per­ate­ly need their pre-exist­ing, nat­ur­al bond with their par­ents to get a good start in life, and any­thing that attacks this is bad for both the kids and soci­ety?

In addi­tion, math even high­ly edu­cat­ed engi­neers and math pro­fes­sors can’t under­stand obvi­ous­ly has the effect of plac­ing a teacher and school between a child and his par­ent. Par­ents are rife with sto­ries about how they tried to teach their kids “nor­mal” math, but it put pres­sure on the tots because teacher demand­ed one thing and mom demand­ed anoth­er, which end­ed up in frus­tra­tion, con­fu­sion, and resent­ment. That won’t make a kid hate school, right?

8. Making Little Kids Cry

It’s one thing to teach a child to endure life’s inevitable suf­fer­ing for a high­er pur­pose. It’s anoth­er thing to inflict chil­dren with need­less suf­fer­ing because you’ve got a soci­ety to remake, and “it takes a few bro­ken eggs to make an omelet.” One is per­haps the essence of char­ac­ter. The oth­er is per­haps the essence of cru­el­ty.

There have been reports nation­wide from both teach­ers and a litany of child psy­chol­o­gists that Com­mon Core inflicts poor­ly designed instruc­tion on chil­dren, thus stress­ing them out and turn­ing them off academics.The video below, cour­tesy of Truth in Amer­i­can Edu­ca­tion and a Louisiana moth­er, shows a sec­ond grad­er cry­ing over her math home­work. A SECOND GRADER. You know, when the lit­tle peo­ple are still learn­ing addi­tion?

Below, find a pic­ture from a New York moth­er and pho­tog­ra­ph­er Kel­ly Poyn­ter. This is her sec­ond-grade daugh­ter, utter­ly frus­trat­ed at her math home­work. The lit­tle girl is a can­cer sur­vivor, Poyn­ter explains, so she doesn’t lack per­sis­tence or a fight­ing spir­it. Incom­pre­hen­si­ble math prob­lems downed a child that can­cer couldn’t.Common-Core-tears

9. The Arrogance

So imag­ine you’re a mom or dad whose small child is sob­bing at the table try­ing to add two-dig­it num­bers. Then you hear your elect­ed rep­re­sen­ta­tives talk­ing about Com­mon Core. And it’s not to offer relief. It’s to ridicule your pain—no, worse. It’s to ridicule your child’s pain.

Flori­da Sen­ate Pres­i­dent Don Gaetz said of Com­mon Core: “You can’t dip [Com­mon Core man­dates] in milk and hold them over a can­dle and see the Unit­ed Nations flag or Barack Obama’s face. They’re not some fed­er­al con­spir­a­cy.” Ohio House Edu­ca­tion Chair­man Ger­ald Ste­bel­ton (R-Lan­cast­er) called Com­mon Core oppo­si­tion a “con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry.” Wis­con­sin state Sen. John Lehman (D-Racine) told a packed audi­ence state hear­ings on the top­ic were “crazy” and “a show.” Delaware Gov. Jack Markell (D) has called oppo­nents a “distract[ing]” “fringe move­ment.” Mis­souri Rep. Mike Lair put $8 into the state bud­get for tin­foil hats for Com­mon Core sup­port­ers.

Since when is it okay for law­mak­ers to ridicule their employ­ers? Aren’t they sup­posed to be “pub­lic ser­vants”? What part of “this math is from hell” sounds like “I think Barack Oba­ma wrote this math cur­ricu­lum”? Those law­mak­ers must have encoun­tered an ear­ly form of Com­mon Core in school, because they can’t com­pre­hend their way out of a paper bag.

It gets even worse. I thought racial slurs were wrong, but Edu­ca­tion Sec­re­tary Arne Dun­can has no prob­lems sling­ing those around in his dis­dain for peo­ple who dis­agree with him on Com­mon Core. You may recall that he dis­missed them as “white sub­ur­ban moms who—all of a sudden—their child isn’t as bril­liant as they thought they were.” So only white moms hate crap­py cur­ricu­lum?

And then par­ents have to endure a litany of pompous, sick­en­ing­ly well-paid experts all over the air­waves telling us it’s a) good for them that our babies are cry­ing at the kitchen table or b) not real­ly Com­mon Core’s fault or 3) they don’t real­ly get what’s going on because this new­fan­gled way of adding 8 + 6 is so far above the aver­age parent’s abil­i­ty to under­stand.

10. The Collectivism

It’s easy to see Com­mon Core appeals to those anal-reten­tive types who can­not func­tion unless U.S. edu­ca­tion has some sort of all-encom­pass­ing orga­niz­ing prin­ci­ple.

But there’s more. Com­mon Core sup­port­ers will admit that sev­er­al states had bet­ter cur­ricu­lum require­ments than Com­mon Core. Then they typ­i­cal­ly say it’s still bet­ter for those states to have low­ered their expec­ta­tions to Com­mon Core’s lev­el, because that way we have more cur­ric­u­lar uni­ty. That’s what the Ford­ham Institute’s Mike Petril­li told Indi­ana leg­is­la­tors when he came to our state to explain why, even though Ford­ham grad­ed Indiana’s for­mer cur­ricu­lum require­ments high­er than Com­mon Core, Indi­ana should remain a step below its pre­vi­ous lev­el. One main rea­son was that we’d be able to use all the cur­ricu­lum and les­son plans oth­er teach­ers in oth­er states were tai­lor­ing (to low­er aca­d­e­m­ic expec­ta­tions, natch). Yay, we get to be worse than we were, but it’s okay, because now we’re the same as every­one else!

Tech com­pa­nies are uber excit­ed about Com­mon Core because it facil­i­tates a nation­wide mar­ket for their prod­ucts. Basi­cal­ly every oth­er edu­ca­tion ven­dor feels the same way, except those who already had nation­wide mar­kets because they accessed pock­ets of the pop­u­la­tion not sub­ject to mind-numb­ing state reg­u­la­tions such as home and pri­vate schools. But the diver­si­ty of the unreg­u­lat­ed pri­vate mar­ket far, far out­strips that of the Com­mon Core mar­ket. There are, you know, actu­al nich­es, and edu­ca­tion styles, and vary­ing philoso­phies, rather than a flood of com­pa­nies all try­ing to pack­age the same prod­uct dif­fer­ent­ly. The vari­ety is one of sub­stance, not just brand­ing. In oth­er words, it’s true diver­si­ty, not fake diver­si­ty.

What would you rather have: Fake free­dom, where oth­ers choose your end goal and end prod­uct, but lets you decide some things about how to achieve some­one else’s vision for edu­ca­tion, which by the way has to be the same for every­one every­where; or gen­uine free­dom, where you both pick your goals and how to achieve them, and you’re the one respon­si­ble for the results? Whoops, that’s a trick ques­tion, moms and dads. In edu­ca­tion, no one can pick the lat­ter, because our over­lords have already picked for us. Com­mon Core or the door, baby.