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.

A mission statement for schools.

The schools’ mission is to provide students with the knowledge and skills to be responsible, productive, and happy citizens.

How’s that for a mission statement?  It’s concise and complete in one sentence.  Let’s look at each requirement.

Responsible:  To be responsible citizens students need to understand our Constitution, how the three branches of government work, and where they fit in a representative system.  That’s called “civics”.  They need to know the history and geography of the US and the world around it.  They should have some idea of how other forms of government such as parliamentary systems, monarchies, and dictatorships work.  They need to understand the current world situation.  They need to know how the economy works and how to manage their own finances.  They should also have a sense of pride in their country. A nation that hates itself will ultimately destroy itself.

Productive: This means students have the knowledge to pursue the career of their choice, whether it’s a profession, a skilled trade, or building the family business.  Right now the emphasis is on STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) to which I’d add another M for medicine because the country needs doctors.  STEM isn’t all though.  The USA needs researchers and teachers in other fields too, it needs business leaders and entrepreneurs, and it needs skilled tradespeople.  If we want to recapture our industrial leadership manufacturing needs machinists, welders, metal workers, robotics programmers, and composite materials workers.  Construction will always need carpenters, electricians, masons, painters, welders, and plumbers.  Transportation doesn’t run without mechanics for cars, trucks, trains, planes, and ships.  Much of the work done by skilled trades can’t be offshored.  You can write computer code on the other side of the globe but you can’t fix my car engine from over there.  Everyone must have the “good oral and written communication skills” demanded by employers.

Happy: Huh???  The three words “pursuit of happiness” found in the Declaration of Independence were not an accident.   The founders of this country wanted it’s citizens to be happy.  Obviously happiness can’t be taught because it involves personal interests.  Being prepared for a career will certainly help most people.  Beyond that the best schools can do is to offer a wide range of curricular and extracurricular opportunities so that students will know what’s out there.  Students should have some appreciation of our cultural heritage through art, literature, music, and theater.  They should be able to participate in athletics and sports.  They should have the chance to be involved in student government, chess clubs, robotics competitions, and other extracurricular activities.  Some schools also sponsor community service projects to build citizenship.  All of these things could develop into lifelong interests that promote happiness for the individual.

Did I miss anything?   If you think so you probably want the nanny state school.  It’s down that dark hall to the far left.