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More strange and invasive questions asked in the name of Common Core standards

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On the heels of J.E. Dyer’s report yesterday on “educational” materials that go beyond the pale by asking students leading questions about their political ideology comes the latest oeuvre in the bizarre Orwellian initiative known as the Common Core Curriculum.

Kyle Olson of the Education Action Group writes that an activity sheet in a book designed to prepare eighth-grade students for testing in social studies asks them rather pointed questions about their “group identity and social class.” The questions, which appear on a screen grab of page 90 of Spectrum Test Prep, have been reproduced below:

  1. With which ethnic group do you most closely identify? To which social class would you say you belong?
  2. When you watch TV or read newspapers or magazines, are people of your ethnic group, gender, and social class widely represented?
  3. When you study the history of America in school, do you learn about the contributions of people of your ethnic group? Your gender? Your social class?
  4. If you ask to speak with the manager of an institution such as a bank, a retail store, or another place of business, how likely is it that you will meet someone of your ethnic background or gender?
  5. How many of your teachers share your ethnic background?
  6. Can you readily purchase greeting cards that feature people of your ethnic group or social class?
  7. If you cut your finger, can you easily find bandages that match the color of your skin?
  8. What conclusions can you draw about group identity and social class from your answers to questions 1-7?

The book is a product of Carson-Dellosa Publishing, a longstanding purveyor of so-called “supplemental materials” — books designed to accompany full-year texts.

This particular title, Olson notes, was copyrighted in 2007 but described by the publisher as compatible with “national standards.” He rightly asks, “What bearing do bandages and greeting cards have on assessing whether a student can read or write? And what would the ‘correct’ answer be?”

As it turns out, the book has an answer key which informs us that “[a]nswers will vary depending on the ethnic group, gender and social class of each student.” That would seem to go without saying. But what exactly are the creators of these materials, or the teachers who use them, hoping to learn? That is the $64,000 question.

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