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Friday, February 20, 2015

Valuable Lessons of the Common Core

Lately, Common Core, defined by its creators as a set of academic K-12 standards "created to ensure that all students graduate from high school with the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in college, career, and life, regardless of where they live,"  has been getting such a  bad rap. This latest-and-greatest education innovation and its associated high-stakes testing are stressing out kids, narrowing the curriculum in schools around the country, draining money from education budgets and learning time from school days, pitting parents and teachers against administrators and state officials, and generally preventing schools from getting on with the job of educating students.

But hey, maybe everyone should stop being all grumpypants about Common Core and start to appreciate all that our kids can learn from it. After all, it IS all about the children – at least, that’s what Common Core proponents say: "Today’s students are preparing to enter a world in which colleges and businesses are demanding more than ever before." We all want our kids to go to college, right? And after college, our kids will have to meet the demands of...umm...businesses...right? So, yeah! Go Common Core!

And we all know that all kids can learn. If there's one thing every parent figures out pretty quickly, it's that kids aren't stupid. You can lecture them about being responsible and doing the right thing until you're blue in the face, but they soon figure out what's what, not by listening to what you say, but by observing the behaviors of adult around them and discerning the underlying values they demonstrate. So it's pretty obvious that our kids will learn something from Common Core! Isn't that great?

So let’s bring some good old-fashioned American positivity to the Common Core debate. Instead of being Negative Nellies, let's talk about...


1. Math: It’s all about numbers. And when we say all, we mean, all the stuff that really matters. And how do we know what really matters? We quantify it and attach a number to it! And when we say numbers, we mean the kinds in big data sets that are created by tests designed to quantify everything and attach numbers to it. In a world where all things can be measured and numbered, you will never have to settle for the squishily subjective, because SCIENCE! And speaking of…

2. Science: Data is good. As long as you have data, you are correct. What is data? Why, big sets of numbers that live in a database, silly! Why else would they call it a database? Do not bother yourself about where the data came from, how it is generated, what it actually reflects about the real world, whether the statistical models being used to interpret the data are valid, or whether that interpretation has any actual predictive value. Just do as you’re told and crunch those numbers, and you’ll be fine.

3. Language arts: Reading and writing are important. Why is reading important? Because that is how you learn about data, number-crunching, and all the other stuff that really matters. You know, the quantifiable stuff. Which is why reading “informational texts” is much more important than reading literature. Literature wastes your valuable, quantifiable time with stuff that will not be required in the business career for which Common Core is making you ready.  You know, unimportant stuff, like ethics, human relationships, aesthetics, and creativity. And writing is obviously very, very important. Think of all the memos, instruction manuals, financial reports, legal briefs, and resumes waiting to be written!

4. The arts: These are very important, to the extent that the material covered can be quantified and contributes to your demonstrated performance on standardized tests of math and language arts.  And just think of the important role the arts play in business careers! Ad copy! Jingles! Product design! Ummm…visually appealing PowerPoint presentations! So…umm…yeah. The arts.

5. History: Does this one even require explanation? Okay, for the slow students in the class, here goes. First of all, history is the wellspring of informational text, which, as we’ve established previously, you will need to be able to read for your 21st-century career. And then, of course, history is what you need to study in order to understand that America is the greatest country on Earth because it has free markets, little regulation, low taxes, and plenty of opportunity for those with enormous amounts of capital to create even more enormous amounts of capital. History is where you learn about how America ended discrimination based on race, gender, sexual orientation, and religion, creating the highest standard of living in the world [for straight white male Christians, mostly]. Oh, and also, history makes you good at memorizing dates, which is good, because dates are numbers, and we’ve already covered how great numbers are.

So there you have it. We hope we’ve cleared up all the unnecessary confusion and misinformation about Common Core. So kids, get out there and prep for those Common Core-aligned tests! And parents, please stay home and stop making a fuss at school board meetings. You have nothing to fear but the loss of public education to the agendas of for-profit testing companies and their oligarchic masters.