Sunday, June 09, 2013

About the Common Core Curriculum

There are a couple of good articles in today's New York Times (Sunday June 9, 2013) about the Common Core curriculum, the new national curriculum.

Who’s Minding the Schools? by ANDREW HACKER and CLAUDIA DREIFUS is on page one of the Sunday Review Section:

This is a quote from the article:
Already, almost one-quarter of young Americans do not finish high school. ... What does the Common Core offer these students?

The answer is simple. “College and career skills are the same,” Ken Wagner, New York State’s associate commissioner of education for curriculum, assessment and educational technology, told us. The presumption is that the kind of “critical thinking” taught in classrooms — and tested by the Common Core — improves job performance, whether it’s driving a bus or performing neurosurgery. But Anthony Carnevale, the director of Georgetown’s Center on Education and the Workforce, calls the Common Core a “one-size-fits-all pathway governed by abstract academic content.”

In sum, the Common Core takes as its model schools from which most students go on to selective colleges. Is this really a level playing field? Or has the game been so prearranged that many, if not most, of the players will fail? 

This is an excellent point.  What worries me is how this national curriculum is pushed down to the states from up high.  It is as though America is ruled by a secret government, and Common Core another decision from the Secret Government that we are expected to accept without question.

Mr. Hacker and Ms Dreifus write, "For all its impact, the Common Core is essentially an invisible empire. It doesn’t have a public office, a board of directors or a salaried staff. Its Web site lists neither a postal address nor a telephone number."

This reminds me of Kafka's Castle.  It is not good for America to become Kafkaesque.

The second article in today's New York Times is No Learning Without Feeling by CLAIRE NEEDELL HOLLANDER

The article needs editing.  I recommend skipping the first three paragraphs and starting with the thesis statement for the essay (beginning the fourth paragraph):  "Agreement on the skills American schoolchildren need to learn to read and write is much easier to arrive at than agreement on what they should read and write."

The critical point she raises is, "The Common Core remains neutral on the question of whether ... students should read Shakespeare, Salinger or a Ford owner’s manual, so long as the text remains “complex.”"

Her conclusion is, "It is time to align our education system with college demands by opening a real discussion about what teens should read in middle school and high school."

You can skip her closing paragraph.  It is a return to the theme of the first three paragraphs.

Living in Texas, one of the few states to reject the Common Core tests, which lead to the Common Core curriculum, I perk up when I see a liberal paper like the New York Times question the Common Core.

A single national curriculum is what we call in engineering a "single point of failure."  A single national curriculum is a singularly bad idea.