The Common Core — the recently devised set of K-12 English and math standards along which the curricula of many schools are being rewritten — has now drawn the ire of comedian Louis C.K., who complains (here and here) about the Common-Core-oriented homework his daughters have brought home.
As a high school teacher who’s skeptical of both the need for national standards and of the particular skills and tasks the Common Core demands of students (see also here, here, here, here, and here), I’m glad to see criticism of the Common Core draw attention.
But one of the most insightful criticisms of the Common Core that I’ve heard came from my high school creative writing student Robert M. in class last week. I’m not sure why Robert and the other seniors were talking about the C.C. as class began, but they were, and Robert made this argument:
The people who made these standards — they were educated without the Common Core curricula. So if these old curricula were so inadequate, doesn’t that suggest that these Common-Core creators were themselves educated inadequately, perhaps so inadequately that they should not be making new standards themselves? And conversely, if the Core creators were educated well-enough to be qualified to make new standards, doesn’t that suggest that the Core standards aren’t necessary?
At the very least, the Common Core standards are untried, are an educational experiment that doesn’t do anything to address the issue that seems most-important to helping more students have educational success. (See also this.)
And of course, not all teaching methods that have been tried over the last few decades (the time during which today’s educational leaders were themselves educated) have been shown to be effective.
But Robert’s argument points out the massive hubris involved in a small group of people trying to remake the schooling of an (almost) entire nation according to the Common Core’s narrow conception of what it means to be educated.
And Robert noticed this paradox in the Common Core even though he himself has not been educated by these standards.
The one thing you can count on in education is change. Not necessarily improvement… but change. My theory is that we keep looking for a better way to educate human beings because we are continually fighting the fact that we are educating HUMAN BEINGS. Not raw iron. Or raw lumber. Or raw plastic. But people who have their own agendas, needs, frailties, deficits, abilities, interests. When we figure out how to motivate every single student to participate in their own learning to the full extent of their ability, then we won’t need any more pendulum swings.
Very perceptive insight by Robert M.