The real reason I fear the Common Core (and the new California Mathematics Framework)

This OILF post, from March, 2014, feels timely–especially in light of California’s new Common Core and social justice aligned Mathematics Framework.

The real reason I fear the Common Core

The reason that I fear the Common Core State Standards, as it turns out, isn’t that the Standards are so vague that they further enable the Powers that Be in education to promulgate practices at odds with controlled experiments and peer-reviewed research on how children learn, or that the Standards impose expectations that are unreasonably high for most students while providing no strategies to help teachers and students attain them, or that the Standards’ one-size-fits-all expectations end up depriving both gifted and special needs students of appropriately challenging material. No, apparently the reason I fear the Common Core State Standards is loneliness.

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Edutrends and classroom management

I just re-posted a post on Out in Left Field about whether whether student-centered learning is driven not just by Progressive ideology and Constructivist learning theory, but also by a combination of expedience and exhaustion. Perhaps, given the attention spans of today’s students, it’s less exhausting to be the Guide on the Side than the Sage on the Stage.

Friends who’ve tried teaching in non-magnet secondary schools in Philadelphia have told me that the moment they turn their backs to their students to write something on the white board, all hell breaks loose.

But it occurs to me that, since I wrote that post, we’ve entered a global learning pandemic in which nearly all students have tablets or laptops. Nowadays, it may be easiest of all to manage a low-attention classroom when everyone is glued to a screen.


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Social motivation in autism: a critique of Jaswal & Akhtar (2019)

(Cross-posted at

In a piece entitled Being versus appearing socially uninterested: Challenging assumptions about social motivation in autism, Jaswal & Akhtar (2019) set out to challenge the long-established view that many of the behavioral characteristics of autism indicate a lack of social interest. They propose “alternative explanations for four such behaviors: (a) low levels of eye contact, (b) infrequent pointing, (c) motor stereotypies, and (d) echolalia.”

Rita.obeid6, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
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John Dewey and the citizen child

From an interesting essay on John Dewey by John Fennelly:

Largely responsible for the positive reception of Dewey’s pedagogical principles was concern over the profoundly changing social and economic environment, especially the rapid growth of cities. . . . Schools, in Dewey’s vision, emerged as the premier mechanism for preserving democratic arrangements.

. . . . Traditional practices such as routine conveyance of subject matter, teacher-centeredness, rote memorization, neat rows of desks, and a quiet classroom had to be abandoned because they were not only out of step with the times but also encouraged undemocratic habits and attitudes. 

So apparently Dewey believed one should educate children in civics the same way progressive education educates students in math and science: not by learning civics (or math or science) via instruction, practice, and testing, but by doing civics via group problem solving.

Should students learn about the Holocaust?

How much has changed in the last decade! When I first re-read the title of this archival post from Out in Left Field, the issues that popped into my head were trigger warnings and student mental health; not the notion of a canon of historical facts that everyone should know.

Are there people out there now, I can’t help but wonder, who think that today’s students are too fragile for this topic?

Here’s the old post:

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How would you prefer to learn to read Georgian?

As I get more and more involved in combating facilitated communication, it occurs to me that two things that FC proponents under-appreciate is (1) what it takes to learn to read and spell, and (2) just how unlikely it is that someone could accomplish this without explicit, systematic instruction. 

That’s because most FC proponents, like most Americans, don’t remember what it was like learning the English writing system (I certainly don’t!). 

And because most of them, like most Americans, have never tried to crack the code of a completely different phonetic alphabet like Georgian,

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Empathy *is* important–let’s rethink how we “teach” it

Forget the rest of “social emotional learning”. In a society where people routinely demonize, shout down, and cancel those who disagree with them on hot-button issues, and are ignorant of what life is like for people outside their socioeconomic bubbles, not to mention people in other countries and cultures around the world, we need more than ever to promote empathy.

Here’s my two cents, which I just re-posted on Out in Left Field.

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A new union

In the spring of 2018, a young SEIU organizer, fresh out of Yale, arrived at my college to organize a union. I came on board the following fall and have been working on organizing the campuses ever since.

Organizing an army of adjuncts who have no offices and no connection to each other is a massive undertaking, made far more difficult in our case by Covid and Zoom, not to mention masks.

Kids don’t learn remotely, and workers don’t organize remotely, either. I don’t know why remote learning and remote organizing are so deficient, but they are. 

In spring 2019, we won our union 4 to 1.

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