A Common Core Math Lesson: Right Is Wrong

A third grade student was asked to solve the multiplication problem 5×3 by repeated addition. The student responded with 5+5+5=15 and was told that’s wrong. It was supposed to be 3+3+3+3+3=15.
Now Common Core advocates claim that it’s math is cumbersome in order to teach basic math principles. The fact that AxB=BxA is a basic principle called the commutative property. So, what’s really going on?
What’s going on is teaching obedience to authority. It’s “my way or the highway”. It’s “you’re wrong because I say so”. It’s what political correctness demonstrates every day: that speaking the truth is wrong if anyone is “offended” enough to protest. It’s better to deny the truth than stray from the party line.
As I mentioned in “Common Core: Teach the Test!” this is the system that J. S. Mill warned against in 1859; a system to turn out obedient workers for the state. It’s also being used to undermine our cultural heritage.
Since the Federal government got involved in education costs have skyrocketed while achievement has not, and Common Core represents the final Federal takeover of public schools. Their next step will be to use money to gain control of public colleges and impose “Common Core 2.0” on them.
There is only one solution. Abolish the unconstitutional Department of Education, move their fund distribution function to Health and Human Services, give the schools a simple mandate like my “Mission Statement for Schools”, and return control to the states, the cities, and the parents.

Competition breeds excellence, control breeds mediocrity.

Don’t tip the ship: a math lesson.

If you’ve seen the term “tipping point” you’ve met Complexity Theory, the mathematics of “complex” things like fish schools, economies, and nations.  We use the terms “complex” and “complicated” interchangeably but mathematically they’re not.  Something that isn’t simple is complicated, but it doesn’t become complex until it acquires properties like interdependence, diversity, and adaptability.  A car is complicated but not complex .  Got it?

This theory says that complex systems are flexible.  They can return to a central point if tipped one way or another.  If pushed too far, however, they reach an unpredictable “tipping point” from which they can’t return.  There’s no going back; they’re something different.  Now you see how it applies to a nation.  Complex systems can also be changed suddenly by a “Black Swan”, a totally unexpected and usually catastrophic event.  The attacks of 9/11 were a Black Swan to our security posture.

The USA is leaning far to the left.  If it continues to do so or is aided in doing so by another Black Swan it will become a socialist nation, a nanny state.  How close are we to the tipping point?  No equation can answer that question.  Anyone care to guess when the “government of the people, by the people, and for the people” does perish from this earth?  Does anyone care at all?

Common Core: Teach the Test!

As an abstract model for education, there’s nothing wrong with Common Core.  There are lots of models, some going back centuries.  Let’s leave this “one-size-fits-all” model as an abstraction, not public policy.

When a model becomes linked to Federal funds or relief from other mandates it becomes a de facto mandate, a Federal intrusion into education, an area traditionally reserved for the states.  Federal “carrot and stick” intrusion is all about control.  In 1859 J. S. Mill warned against public education being a means to develop obedient citizens who will do whatever the government tells them to and a means to void parental values children have learned at home.

When a mandate becomes intertwined with other mandates it also becomes self-reinforcing.  The increasing demand for standardized testing feeds the demand for a standardized curriculum so that schools and states can be compared.  The test results will them be used to modify the curriculum mandate which in turn will modify the test questions.  This is called a feedback loop, something that works well in industrial process control, but is education an assembly line?  Good teachers don’t like teaching the test, but what happens when the curriculum and test are one?  Kids have already figured standard tests out and don’t worry about them.

When a model becomes loaded with liberal propaganda it becomes indoctrination, not education.  For example, 8th graders must be familiar with gender identity issues.  There’s an English lesson that uses sentences that imply that a president has dictatorial powers and a history lesson that distorts the 2nd amendment.  This is the result of an unholy alliance among Marxist academic leaders, teachers’ unions, and textbook publishers.  Our children are the losers.

When a model seeks to create a national student database containing identifiable student information it becomes an abomination.  This has nothing to do with improving education but everything to do with tracking citizens from birth to death by an ever expanding and more intrusive Federal government.  This is about control, nothing more, and parents should be demanding the right to opt out for their children.

Common Core is focused on the productive aspect of education.  The concept was developed by David Coleman and Gene Wilhoit, but they didn’t have the money to fund it’s development or lobby governments for it’s adoption so they presented their concept to a progressive billionaire.  Bill Gates, through his foundation, has donated over \$100 million dollars to the Common Core effort.  Now Mr. Gates has said many smart things about schools, including the facts that children need to learn that life isn’t fair and that the world doesn’t owe them a living. You mean I don’t get an award just for showing up? I believe he is, however, primarily concerned with employment.  One indication is that reading classic literature is being subordinated to reading informational texts

If you were upset with the set theory approach of “new math” and didn’t have enough graph paper around for Medieval “matrix math” you won’t find relief in Common Core math.  For fourth graders to add 7+7, one set of instructions are to “use number bonds to help you skip-count by seven by making ten or adding to the ones.”  That makes about as much sense as our tax code!  Are number bonds like chemical bonds?

There is a history of laws prohibiting Federal officials from mandating or controlling schools’ curricula, including the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act (the Feds first venture into education), The 1970 General Education Provisions Act, and the 1979 law creating the Department of Education.  The Dept. of Ed. was supposed to serve as an information exchange, not a curriculum administrator.  It has overstepped it’s mission.  Corrective action will be to eliminate the Dept. of Ed. completely or to downsize it to perform it’s original functions and save tax dollars.  Provide Federal education grants to each state but eliminate the “carrot and stick” control strategies.  Return control of education to the states and to the parents and ban any national databases or mandates for interoperable state databases that track identifiable student information..

Face the fact that Federal involvement has not improved education in almost 50 years.  Fifty years ago colleges didn’t run a lot of remedial math and English courses.  Today remedial courses consume expensive college class hours and prevent some students from completing a degree in 4 years.  Fifty years ago employers didn’t complain that new employees lacked math or communication skills; they do today.  Finally, the government has expanded the Head Start program even though it hasn’t proven to be of any measurable long term value.  This doesn’t sound like the right direction to me.

Update 2016: News flash: Grade 12 student math scores falling and language skills stagnant.  All it cost was millions of dollars to “upgrade” to Common Core.  It’s time to end Fed Ed.

Axiom I: For every statistic X that proves assertion A there exists a statistic Y that disproves assertion A.

You won’t see endless tables of statistics in my blog.  Most statistics have exclusions and inclusions that narrow and can slant the picture.  If you ask how many people died in alcohol-related traffic accidents last year you’ll get a pretty accurate number, but what about the unemployment rate?  It excludes discouraged people who have given up the job search.  Don’t they still need work?  What about the under-employed? Next consider the “core” CPI that excludes changes in food and energy prices.  How many TVs have you eaten lately?  Generally if a figure depends on survey results you have to ask who wrote it, who was surveyed, and what is the margin of error.  Even then be skeptical.

What if X=Y?