In today’s schools we preach tolerance of “diversity” of skin color, ethnicity, nationality, and religion, while ignoring diversity in the way children learn and the need for flexibility in standards, curriculum, and instructional approaches. In an effort to homogenize education into a one-size-fits-all system that can be readily assessed by scanning bubbles marked with a #2 pencil, we squeeze students into a rigid box, a system numb to individual diversity, and expect that ALL will learn—that NO child will be left behind.
Starting with the K-12 schooling years, these are some of the conditions under which we expect students to learn:
- Teachers are handed curriculum by their school districts, according to a rather complex process that ties content to state standards—and beginning this year, to federal standards.
- All students are expected to learn from identical curriculum, even when the lesson plans don’t meet the needs, interests, or values of those students or when assessments reveal that children are not grasping concepts or retaining information from their lessons.
- The curriculum typically dictates the teaching methods to be used, irrespective of the differences among students’ dominant learning styles, such as auditory, visual, or tactile/kinesthetic. (Some studies break learning styles down into further categories.)
- Rote memorization is emphasized over critical thinking—a primary reason being the ease of assessing outcomes based on multiple-choice tests.
- Standardized testing is overdone but underutilized. What is the point of looking at test scores if schools and teachers are prohibited from altering curriculum and teaching methods in response?
As the cost of education rises exponentially year after year, as it has during the last four decades, and assessments show that academic achievement continues to flat-line, the only solution we manage to come up with is to look for ways to standardize education even further!
Enter the Common Core Initiative—the federal government’s drive to replace existing state education standards and to nationalize K-12 curriculum, testing, and assessments across all 50 states and 55 million-plus students.
The full name of the program, Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSSI), is misleading by design. Proponents say these are state standards, not federal, and that state teachers and administrators investigated and approved them for their states voluntarily. But the truth is that the Common Core standards were devised by large bureaucracies and private-member organizations and attached to federal funding. They were presented to the 50 state governors in exchange for increased federal education funding to cash-strapped state budgets, as well as waivers from penalties imposed by No Child Left Behind, a federal program that a growing number of teachers, parents, and school administrators have described as a dismal failure and harmful to education.
Simply put, the adoption of Common Core by the states was the function of bribery. Some of the 45 states whose governors agreed to the deal did so before the standards were even completed.
Curriculum publishers have been making changes to their materials at a rapid rate to accommodate Common Core’s implementation. The major international publisher, Pearson, is aggressively involved in a number of aspects of Common Core, including testing and assessments, and has reportedly bought out other publishers in large numbers.
To be fair, any program of this magnitude will have some positive features, i.e., various aspects of the curriculum may actually benefit some students. One such feature is said to be an emphasis on developing critical thinking skills. At the same time, a number of educators have evaluated the English Language Arts and Mathematics standards and determined them to be inadequate preparation for university-level studies.
The trouble with Common Core is that it is an inflexible set of universal standards, under federal government control, virtually unalterable by the states and, as such, is silencing participation by local school districts, teachers, and parents in the education of their students.
Californians and others across the nation who oppose Common Core are urged to get involved. Here’s where to start: Stop Common Core in California; Californians United Against Common Core; Parents and Educators Against Common Core Standards; Defeat the Common Core Agenda.
It’s time for an Education Revolution. It’s time to take learning back to school.