Some experiences can make you feel old. Perhaps you’re not familiar with the latest singing sensation or the newest clothing trend, or maybe, like one local mother, you have to go to an antique store to find the kind of books that teach school subjects as you learned them.
You might think that some basic educational strategies never change. According to the song “School Days,” the fundamental lessons were covered by the good old-fashioned “Three R’s: Readin,’ ‘ritin’ and ‘rithmetic.” However in the new age of Common Core Standards, (the new educational technique that is utilized in 49 states including Minnesota, ) these subjects don’t exist. Instead there are classes that teach Language Arts and Number Strings. Schools have already discontinued the teaching of handwriting and spelling, perhaps with the supposition that in the future, we will all be texting each other and all we will really need to know is how to type “OMG” and “LOL” while simultaneously playing a video game and keeping up with the Kardashians.
Now it appears that the Common Core Standards are questioning; “How much math do we really need to know? After all, we all have computers, we even have a calculator app on our cell phones, so does it really make a difference if we know the multiplication table?”
The mother who bought teaching texts from the antique store was trying to help her son in math by teaching him the same skills that she had learned as a child. She was frustrated to learn that long division is no longer taught in the schools. “I don’t know what they’re teaching, it’s all about number lines and loops.” (If you view the videos of Common Core teaching on the links listed at the bottom of the page, you will see what she is talking about.)
It used to be that a teacher would ask a straightforward question such as “What is 420 divided by 3?” Students have always been encouraged to show their work, but this has mainly been in an effort to prohibit cheating and also to help students find where they make mistakes in their mathematical processing. However, according to the new Common Core Standards, “140” would not be a correct answer to this question. Instead, students are taught to break down this question into multiple other mathematical questions and then to defend their mathematical strategies. The “correct” answer is one that defends why you think 140 is correct.
One teacher heralds the “sense of ownership that comes from having to defend their answers rather than just memorizing facts.” They’re not repeating back to me something that I have taught them, they’re coming up with these things on their own. “It’s not important what’s right and wrong, I’m really looking for why they think they got the right answer.”
What is this new kind of education teaching our kids? In a subject as clear-cut as mathematics, is confidence and the ability to defend one’s arguments as important as understanding basic principles? After watching these videos, one can picture a teacher recommending a student for college or a job based upon a very strange rationale; “Tommy thinks that 2 + 3 is 19, but he’s really confident about it, and very good at defending his ideas.”
To see footage of teachers putting the Common Core Standards to practice, click on the following links-
So we’re teaching kids that the most important skills to succeeding in in our society are #1, Confidence, and #2, the ability to argue one’s point. However the frustrated mother said that her biggest concern about Common Core Standards is that it is not teaching students critical thinking. Students are taught to argue, but not to apply logic to their arguments. This begs the question- who on earth is in support of this kind of education? Well in addition to the federal government, Common Core is supported by GE, Microsoft, Geb Bush and Bill Gates.
The Common Core Standards proponents have admitted that part of this new education is the process of data mining from students. People who support this procedure say that it is important for the government to learn all it can about students in an effort streamline education for students’ needs as well as to foresee future needs of the next generation.
While critics say that Common Core Standards are overly focused on standardized tests and compiling data, supporters of Common Core see nothing wrong with collecting information on students’ demographics, from the religion of their household down to their hair and eye color. This data mining process is part of a system called Icue, and little is known about it at this point. However, data mining as a practice may indicate the true goal behind Common Core. For years we have been hearing about the achievement gap between Caucasian students and students of color, specifically Latino and African American students. Despite massive efforts to bridge this gap, Caucasian students still graduate at a much higher rate. Politicians have struggled to address this issue for decades. Today, Governor Mark Dayton released a new report on his efforts to bridge this gap. (See link for more information.)
There is a great deal of pressure on school districts and politicians to bridge this gap, and there have even been threats that schools will not continue to get the funding they want if they don’t succeed by demonstrating that white kids and kids of color are scoring more alike. The fact is, no teacher or politician can control what is happening in the home. Some parents encourage their kids to read, write and do well in school, while others do not. Yet anyone who has taken even a basic course in statistics knows that numbers can be manipulated to “prove” different points. If we say that a student is succeeding in math because he is confident and knows how to argue, we can indicate that we have had great success in bridging the achievement gap, even if that student says that the answer is 19.
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