In an earlier article, I asked the question, Is Common Core being HIJACKED…? To answer that (and the answer anyway is no, as explained in that article), you have to read and study the standards and look at examples from the classrooms and the training materials.
Outrageous Examples from the classrooms are all over the web, but each particular state or local school district will deny that they are doing THAT in THEIR classrooms. “They may be doing that in some other State, but not in this State.” They can get away with that assertion because in general textbooks stay in school and the parents don’t get to see them. The homework sheets if any, that kids might take home are incomprehensible to parents and they give up trying to help.
As it happens, a friend had managed to get hold of a math textbook, used in the last school year in a State whose Superintendent of Public Destruction vehemently denies doing all the bad things that other States do. Guess what? This textbook does too include all the outrageous examples reported by other states. I’ll have more about that in another article.
The official standards are written in the rather impenetrable language of academic bureaucracy. Fortunately, California saw fit to translate the official standards into more accessible language.
Yes, the English standards (http://www.cde.ca.gov/be/st/ss/documents/finalelaccssstandards.pdf) do set the schedule for shifting from fiction to “informational” text. Yes, they do call for “close” reading a text, without reference to the context in which the text was written, as if the text were its own isolated little universe. Ayn Rand in her various publications had explained why this is an impossible task. We DO learn from experience, we DO form abstractions from concrete examples, we CAN’T be human and NOT do that, given that our brains are “wired” to work that way.
OF COURSE our kids should be taught to read critically. Isn’t THAT what we used to do in English class, reading the classics, writing compositions, discussing the assignments? And yes, kids should be encouraged to read “informational” text; they SHOULD learn how to decode the obscure bureaucratese of government regulations and the legalese of insurance, rent, loan and service contracts, or the florid language of historical documents. The trouble is, none of these is comprehensible without reference to their context and prior knowledge.
The surprise comes in the California Common Core standards for math (http://www.cde.ca.gov/be/st/ss/documents/ccssmathstandardaug2013.pdf). Yes, it does allow a timeline for precalculus and calculus. Incredibly, for me specifically, is that the timeline from grade 1 on is practically identical to what I had in school. Why this is important is that I started my schooling in a country that is always mentioned as one of the top five in the world in math. When I finished 6th grade in Hungary and moved to France, I was two years ahead of my French classmates in math. When I finished 9th grade in France and moved to the US, I was two years ahead of my American classmates in math. That should be four years behind Hungary, right? In too many of our schools, yes, that is very true. We turn out graduates who are illiterate in math.
The California Common Core standards for math allow for two tracks, traditional and integrated. Traditional is what American kids get; something like algebra 1 in 9th, plane geometry in 10th, algebra 2 in 11th, and solid geometry / trigonometry and possibly pre-calculus in 12th grade. This what I had seen in 3-4 states myself. But in Hungary and France you always had integrated math, or at least the different forms of math being taught in the same year, so the integration in your head was formed explicitly and implicitly by reference to the other lecture or homework you had just finished. It wasn’t until COLLEGE that I had seen math presented as one complete whole, in the form of courses called Calculus and Analytical Geometry, not fragmented into its traditional parts, seeing algebra and geometry (and vectors and tensors and matrices and power series and …) as merely different representations of the same thing.
So you’d think I’d be gung-ho FOR Common Core, right?
NO. HELL NO.
The problem comes back to, Is Common Core being HIJACKED…?
And the problem is illustrated in a series of web links that my chief researcher — my wife — has found. She has the patience for these things that I do not.
Whoever is interpreting the Common Core standards (Achieve Inc., Pearson Inc., etc.), they choose to do so in a manner that makes learning math impossible. The nerds such as Bill Gates who are pushing Common Core so very hard did NOT learn math the way math is being implemented in the name of Common Core compliance. Wherever they went to school, whichever college they attended or dropped out of, they were certainly intelligent enough to see through and see past all the nonsense of new math, fuzzy math, and every other kind of latest-greatest fad that came out of the progressive education industry. But most people do not learn in SPITE of a bad textbook, a bad teacher, or a bad teaching method. Most people are discouraged by just one of those obstacles.
So you would think that well meaning reformers would seek to make learning easier, not be piling every possible obstacle into one package. But because the people who are implementing Common Core are doing all the wrong things, YOU have to ask, WHY? And when you arrive at the inescapable answer, your blood should BOIL.