I knew about Tennessee's Race to the Top education reform effort before I knew it was part of the implementation of Common Core. As a close observer of current events I have known that education has being reformed as long as I can remember. I remember Governor Alexander's reform effort called "Teacher's Career latter" or something like that, that encouraged teachers to go back to school and get more education. I remember when phonics was dropped and the prevailing wisdom was that students should learn to read before they learned the alphabet. I remember an experiment with open class rooms where students from different grades and classrooms were in one very big room without walls dividing the class rooms. I thought that was one of the dumbest ideas of which I ever heard. And, of course, we all know about George W. Bush's "No Child Left Behind."
Despite constant education reform, American education has continued to decline. While at one time America was near the top as one of the countries with the most educated population, our educational ranking in the world has continued to drop.
When Common Core came alone I was all on board early. Maybe it is because of my own experience as a child. In my first five years of school, I was in five different schools. On my first day of school in the fourth grade, the teacher handed out a math work sheet. This is easy, I thought. I completed it but did not know that it was multiplication instead of addition. In this south Knoxville school, they had learned multiplication in the third grade; in the school I had attended in the third grade we had not been exposed to multiplication. It was a humiliating and a scary experience for a nine year old boy.
We are a very mobile society. It seems to make sense to me that their should be some standard that says, in this grade you should learn this. Also, the standard should be high so that America's place in the world does not continue to slip. We need an educated work force. Our standards are too low and many do not graduate ready for a career or college. Common Core seem to me to beef up the standards and requires a uniform minimum standard so that a student in Alabama is learning pretty much the same thing that a child in Massachusetts is leaning in a specific grade. The standards also require critical thinking. I also liked that the standard was voluntary and that it originated with the states and not the federal government.
When the political campaign against Common Core started, at first it seemed that it was being led by the populist conspiracy-theory-prone right wing fringe and I did not take the criticism seriously. After the Heritage Foundation and other more mainstream conservative groups began campaigning against Common Core however, I took a second look. I have read the criticisms bit still do not find a legitimate reason to oppose common core. So much of the criticism of Common Core appears misplaced. An inappropriate reading selection or a teaching method is discovered and opponents of Common Core point to that and offer it as an example of what is wrong with Common Core. Often it has nothing to do with Common Core.
The populist right united with teachers unions appear to be gaining ground in defeating Common Core and Tennessee seems to be on the verge of abandoning Common Core as have several other states. While most on the populist right are waging the war on Common Core, the mainstream conservatives are, for the most part, acquiescing, and not defending it.
I was pleased to find this article by Andrew Ferguson who is a senior editor at the Weakly Standard that defends Common Core and explains the battle against it. The Weekly Standard is a major conservative publication. Below are excerpts. I encourage you to follow the link and read the full article.
The Common Core Commotion
Most of the criticism of the Standards has come from the populist right, and the revolt of conservative parents against the pet project of a national educationist elite is genuine, spontaneous, and probably inevitable. But if you move beyond the clouds of jargon, and the compulsory gestures toward “critical thinking” and “metacognitive skills,” you will begin to spy something more interesting. There’s much in the Standards to reassure an educational traditionalist—a vein of subversion. At several points, Common Core is clearly intended as a stay against the runaway enthusiasms of educationist dogma.
The Standards insist schools’ (unspecified) curriculums be “content-rich”—meaning that they should teach something rather than nothing. They even go so far as to require students to read Shakespeare, the Preamble and First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and works of Greek mythology. Phonics is the chief means of teaching reading in Common Core, rejecting the notorious “whole language” method first taken up in the 1970s and—research shows!—a likely culprit in the decline in reading scores. The Standards discourage the use of calculators, particularly in early grades where it has become a popular substitute for acquiring basic math. The Standards require memorization of multiplication tables as an important step in learning arithmetic, striking a blow against “fuzzy math.” Faddish notions like “visual literacy” are nowhere to be found.
Perhaps most impressively, at least in language arts, the Standards require students to read and write ever larger amounts of nonfiction as they move toward their high school diploma. Anyone familiar with the soupy “young adult” novels fed to middle- and high-school students should be delighted. Writing assignments, in tandem with more rigorous reading, move away from mere self-expression—commonly the focus of writing all the way through high school—to the accumulation of evidence and detail in the service of arguments. The architect of the Language Arts Standards, an educationist called David Coleman, explained this shift in a speech in 2011. He lamented that the most common form of writing in high school these days is “personal writing.”
......The populist campaign against the Standards has been scattershot: Sometimes they are criticized for being unrealistically demanding, at other times for being too soft. Even Common Core’s insistence on making the Constitution part of any sound curriculum has been attacked as insidious. Recall that students will be required to read only the Preamble and the First Amendment. That is, they will stop reading before they reach the Second Amendment and the guarantee of gun rights.
Coincidence? Many activists think not.
The conservative case, as seen in videos and blogs posted on countless websites, relies heavily on misinformation—tall tales and urban legends advanced by people who should know better. Revulsion at the educationist project predates Common Core by many decades. It is grounded in countless genuine examples of faddish textbooks and politicized curriculums. For the last few years, however, Common Core has been blamed for all of them. Textbook marketers and lesson-plan designers are happy to help. Their market, after all, isn’t parents but fellow educationists on state and local school boards that control purchasing budgets. Once Common Core was established as the future (for now) of education, the marketers knew the phrase was catnip. Every educational product imaginable now bears the label “common core,” whether it’s inspired by the Standards or not. A search of books for sale on Amazon.com shows more than 12,000 bearing the words “common core” in their titles. Many were produced long before the Standards were even a twinkle in an educationist’s eye.