Our 2019 Children’s Books of the Year stand out from an increasingly troubling crowd
My children are 33, 32, 25, and 21, so I thought I had seen the last of their elementary school. But a fourth-grade teacher I know on a first-name basis granted me an hour during her lunch break, inviting along her colleague across the hall, and we talked Common Core over yogurt at miniature desks in M.’s classroom. (WORLD agreed not to use their names in order to protect their jobs.)
“We’re flying the plane as we build it,” said M., commenting on the helter-skelter nature of this first year of implementation of the new federal school standards. (Let’s drop the canard that they are state-led standards.) “Last spring they gave us ‘curriculum maps’ but no resources to go with it. And they don’t want us to use the old reading and math. So they’re telling us to come up with lessons on our own.”
“Sounds like ‘bricks without straw,’” I said, remembering another unreasonable mandate millennia earlier. “They keep adding more to our plate, but they never take anything off. … We’re given too much power and authority—and stress. … It’s the illusion of lots of freedom but it’s only an illusion—because of the tests.”
“Teaching to the test” is what Common Core teachers do because it’s all they can do. (Picture Lucy Ricardo and the chocolate factory.) “We’re supposed to teach less, more thoroughly. But we’re only teaching less, not more thoroughly,” said M. Instead they have to make time for pointless complications. “I ask the other teachers, ‘Did you get to elapsed time yet?
If you want little Johnny to go to college, then whatever you teach him at home, he had better be ready to affirm on test day that Columbus was a bad guy and global warming is man-made.
Measurements? Acute angles?’ Many of us are finding that we’re missing pieces.”
The de-emphasis on memorization of facts concerns both M. and K.: “Some things [in Common Core] are not developmentally appropriate.” K. worries about the danger of exalting “process” to the downplaying of getting the right answer. She was speaking about math at this point, but I jotted in my notepad: “history teaching/moral equivalency.” The CC way is ramen-in-a-cup, ready-made history units produced by Core-aligned publishers, reducing complicated historical events to packets of three or four selected documents, accompanied by “Guiding Questions.” But who writes the questions?
This brings us to the dark side of Common Core. Brad McQueen, a teacher I met not in his brick and mortar classroom but his book The Cult of Common Core, had been sent to Chicago by Arizona’s Department of Education to bone up on the Common Core standards they had just begun implementing. It started his journey down an Orwellian rabbit hole of federal and corporate takeover of education, and of states selling their soul for 30 pieces of 2009 Stimulus silver.
McQueen learned that teacher evaluation is based on how the kiddos do on the tests. New online grade books, lesson plans, online textbooks and tests will allow powers that be to see exactly what the teacher is teaching. What better enforcement method for compliance? If your profession is on the line, who among you will not adjust your teaching?
“What better way to slowly, progressively, change the country’s mindset than to have control over our children’s minds by having full control of our education system?” writes McQueen. “Progressives have already infiltrated our school systems with revisionist history and pseudoscience. The Common Core is just the final phase of their control. Wouldn’t it be nice to just have one national/world mindset and stop having to deal with all these pesky states and localities pushing the individualism thing with differing political views and mindsets?”
Think you’ll escape through private or home schooling? Standardized tests are being redesigned to be in alignment with Common Core. By a stunning quirk of fate, a chief architect of Common Core, David Coleman, is also the president of the College Board. The new PSAT rolls out this year, and the new SAT debuts in 2016. If you want little Johnny to go to college, then whatever you teach him at home, he had better be ready to affirm on test day that Columbus was a bad guy and global warming is man-made.
Beware of deep-pocketed men bearing gifts. Common Core is about school curriculum like the Mafia is about pizza parlor management.