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.

At least, that’s what the New York Times says in an Op-Ed piece it chose to publish this past Sunday by the writer and English professor Jennifer Finney Boylan. In Boylan’s words:

It occurs to me that what enemies of a Common Core — by any name — have come to fear is really loneliness. It’s the sadness that comes when we realize that our children have thoughts that we did not give them; needs and desires we do not understand; wisdom and insight that might surpass our own.

Yes, it really makes me sad when I hear my children expressing original opinions. And it makes me feel tremendously insecure when they show wisdom and insights that I don’t think I’m capable of. And I’m sure many of my fellow parents feel the same way. After all, as Boylan explains:

For some parents, the primary desire is for our sons and daughters to wind up, more or less, like ourselves. Education, in this model, means handing down shared values of the community to the next generation. Sometimes it can also mean shielding children from aspects of the culture we do not approve of, or fear.

Nor does she merely assert this. Rather, she cites another heavyweight expert who has even bigger credentials that she does. That would be novelist Richard Russo:

My friend Richard Russo, in a commencement address 10 years ago at my college, Colby, noted that “it is the vain hope of middle-class parents that their children will go off to college and later be returned to them economically viable but otherwise unchanged.” But, he said, sending “kids off to college is a lot like putting them in the witness protection program. If the person who comes out is easily recognizable as the same person who went in, something has gone terribly, dangerously wrong.”

Personally, what I fear the most (beyond the prospect of my children expressing intelligent, original thoughts), and what I really, really want to shield my children from, is Lattice Multiplication: 

Lattice Multiplication is a feature of Everyday Math, the curriculum used by school districts in many large urban areas. But Boylan quotes Bill Gates as saying that “It’s ludicrous to think that multiplication in Alabama and multiplication in New York are really different.” Now I’m really, really scared.

Lattice Multiplication is part of what Boylan refers to as “the Common Core’s presumed progressive bias.” That’s apparently why Republicans are the only Common Core Enemy she explicitly names–along with South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley:

“We don’t ever want to educate South Carolina children like they educate California children,” said Gov. Nikki Haley of South Carolina, presumably because doing so would result in children in the Palmetto State riding longboards and listening to the Grateful Dead.

If, rather than presuming to presume, you look at the full quote, you can infer that Haley also fears what’s going on in Alabama–and pretty much everywhere else:

We don’t ever want to educate South Carolina children like they educate California children. We want to educate South Carolina children on South Carolina standards, not anyone else’s standards.

Presumably, Haley fears Lattice Multiplication–along with all the scary new ideas it will open up to today’s children–at least as much as I do.

And, equally presumably, we can guess which mindset Boylan prefers: the Fear Mindset of the Republicans, or the Unlocking the World mindset of those on the correct side of the Culture Wars, who bravely proclaim that:

Education means enlightening our children’s minds with the uncensored scientific and artistic truth of the world.

And that:

If that means making our own sons and daughters strangers to us, then so be it.

I wish I shared their courage. But for now, all I can be is grateful to the New York Times for seeing fit to publish such an intrepid, culturally-disrupting piece by such an incredible expert in the Common Core State Standards and all the ways in which they help students achieve “the [boldface mine] uncensored scientific and artistic truth of the world.”

One thought on “The real reason I fear the Common Core (and the new California Mathematics Framework)

  1. What do I fear? Well, among other things, I fear the kind of person who believes that there is such a thing as “artistic truth” and who is willing to take measures to force it down the throats of every person within reach.

    As to “scientific truth”, any scientist who proclaims such a thing is a charlatan. The entire point of science is attempting to disprove and replace current theories with better theories that more closely predict the universe.


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