Drake Laughing

Are Common Core Arguments Too Coddled? OMGLOL Yes.

Jose Vilson Jose 21 Comments

Drake Laughing

Drake Laughing

Since the last time I spoke on the Common Core State Standards, people have started to stockpile arguments for or against them. Everything from “suck it up, life is tough” to “kids need recess, and a recess from CCSS” have been put to the fore, with the occasional #corespiracy coming from libertarians and people who hate anything Barack Obama brings as a solution, and I mean anything. I’ll hear nonsense like “The CCSS is like what happened to the Tuskegee Airmen” or “I don’t know why I don’t like the CCSS, but I’m just doing God’s work” and laugh because of the privilege this assumes. I’m also not willing to negotiate with Teabaggers over any sort of protest, even if I find even a strand of agreement with them.

Hence, my lens, my bias, is towards those who otherwise don’t get to speak, who actually want a solution that makes sense for all students, not just the students we treat like lab rats for our little experiments.

For example, I see lots of people use the term “developmentally inappropriate,” which Dan Willingham breaks down rather well here. Then I got to thinking about why I first supported Common Core, too. Sometimes, “developmentally appropriate” sounds like code language for “These kids can’t do this work.” Thus, you could have a situation where some teachers are doing multiplication tables with certain students as an in-depth activity in the eight grade, or never exposing certain students to Baldwin or Shakespeare in high school because “they just won’t appreciate it.” In my head, I find myself snickering, saying “How do you know?”

On the other end, a columnist like Frank Bruni will call our children “coddled” by adults who want everyone to win and never or fight for anything. From my purview, it negates the 1.4 million homeless children in our school system, and the privilege of knowing that, for some children, when they lose, they have enough safety nets that it doesn’t really feel like failure. In one neighborhood, when a child fails, they get tutoring and their parents have the means / influence to speak up as one of their last resorts in case their child doesn’t get a good grade. In another, when a child fails, they’re seen as just another victim of their environment, not worth saving, with tiers of bureaucracy meant to temper down influence, especially if they don’t look like they have anything to say.

I want the best possible education for my students. I want higher expectations, rigorous and thoughtful discussions in classes, and a baseline curriculum that grants access to all students to jobs, learning, and freedom via knowledge. My argument will always be that you can’t make history without having known it. However, learning for proficiency is not the enemy of learning for learning’s sake. Friend Steve Lazar once told me he wants to teach a student something first and foremost because it’s damn good, then because it matches some pre-ordained objective.

Our current CCSS obsession proffers arguments that sound like we’re reading off pamphlets, less like we genuinely have read the standards and the accompanying documents. If you’re going to make a good argument, make it. Please. If you’re for or against the exorbitant amount of testing, accountability measures, and wayward curriculum this comes with, say that. If you’re just trying to make it work because you’re in the classroom and you feel like you can’t do anything about it, that’s fine too. The average teacher feels this, and not enough of the people making these arguments take this into account.

As colleague Michael Doyle has said, “Searching for “the middle” is pointless–search for truth and let it fall where it will.” Let’s have a disagreement, but make it make sense for the people on the ground. Otherwise, you might be coddled into your corner, too.

About Jose Vilson

José Luis Vilson is a math educator, blogger, speaker, and activist. For more of my writing, buy my book This Is Not A Test: A New Narrative on Race, Class, and Education, on sale now.

Comments 21

  1. Arthur Goldstein

    And yet, developmentally inappropriate is what I most often hear from parents of young middle class children, kids who spend hours doing homework, kids who get questions that adults cannot comprehend, kids who are to study genocide in third grade. A colleague of mine says her second grader is studying algebra and sneaked into his classroom to photograph his math book. Carol Burris has an Answer Sheet column today with a particularly absurd first grade problem.

    It cannot be that you and I are so ignorant we are not and have never have been “college-ready,” and in fact it appears that teacher grades are a better indicator of that than the metrics the geniuses have developed. Common Core is not a cure-all, nothing is, and it’s nonsensical that this is yet another “reform” being pushed on us with no testing because it’s an emergency and our kids can’t wait.

    It’s ridiculous. I teach ELLs exclusively, they have different needs from those of us who are born here, and one of them is simply time. I can’t speak expertly about kids with learning disabilities but I’m sure they do too. I can tell you that kids whose grandmothers force them to spend all night delivering Newsday with them tend to fall asleep more often than those who do not.

    We need to treat kids as individuals. No “expert,” not David Coleman, not Merryl Tisch, not John King knows what my kids need more than I do. And I intend to keep giving it to them, Core or no, until they toss me out.

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      Jose Vilson

      Thanks for the comment. Agreed with

      It cannot be that you and I are so ignorant we are not and have never have been “college-ready,” and in fact it appears that teacher grades are a better indicator of that than the metrics the geniuses have developed. Common Core is not a cure-all, nothing is, and it’s nonsensical that this is yet another “reform” being pushed on us with no testing because it’s an emergency and our kids can’t wait.

      thoroughly, which is why I wrote this in the first place.

  2. David

    I believe a lot of the complaints are coming out of the experiences that parents, students and teachers are having with our current education system. Unfortunately, CCSS marched on in waving a big flag claiming to be the answer. So, when you are witness to and or directly experiencing just how dysfunctional our education system is becoming, won’t you lash out at the dude running around the room waving the big flag. CCSS, in my opinion, has only a small roll in the way things are going down. It’s how we do business, and how we’ve made a business out of education that is tearing the spirit out of our institutions of learning. Since that is so wide reaching, subtle and all encompassing, it is hard for people to grapple and come to terms with. We are talking about the very foundation our society stands upon.
    So, rather than be dismissive about people’s arguments, let’s provide the context and the vocabulary for a real conversation. I don’t know, maybe I just misunderstood.

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      Jose Vilson

      David, I’m in no way dismissing the concerns of parents, students, and teachers. I’ve been all three of those in one form or another, my most recent as a father. I just have a hard time with a couple of arguments I’m hearing, and I don’t like them at all. If you say, “They’re standardized-testing my kids too much,” that’s a valid argument and one I agree with thoroughly. If, on the other hand, you compare CCSS to Hitler / Third Reich, which I’ve seen, that’s not an argument I either like or respect. That’s what I’m more concerned with. Many of the arguments, like how confusing the CCSS curriculum is, works because, as a teacher, I don’t quite buy that everything with a CCSS label is CCSS aligned, thus the confusion.

      I hope I cleared that up.

  3. nikki stevens

    a Until we realize that God and prayer needs to be put back into public schools this chaos will continue. I do not support the Common Core Standards, Charlotte Danielson Framework or any of these new words that somebody decided to use to fit their monetary needs such as, rigorous, engage, measurable, effective or ineffective teachers. If students were allowed pray in public schools students would want to learn, teachers would be happy teaching and corporations and individuals wouldn’t have access to the teachers or students because God would be there to protect everybody. Sir, we don’t need to suck it up, we don’t need Common Core or millions of tests in public schools we need to bring prayer back and let God handle the rest. I am praying that one day Pres. Obama hears the voice of God and stop the butchering of teachers and students and realize that God wants us to pray to him with our students. So let us pray.

  4. Schoolgal

    When I first starting teaching, I made it a point to give my students the same types of education they would get in a private school. Some parents complained, but in the end I knew my students were ahead of the game. I think as teachers we should raise standards and I found the NYS Standards did just that if taught correctly.

    As for “developmentally appropriate”. I was surprised math that I learned in high school was brought down to the elementary level. Okay, my students got through that because I liked teaching math and finding ways to teach concepts through games. But now many of these same concepts are being introduced in the early childhood level. And, I have to draw the line somewhere. Early childhood should still be a time to explore and learn, but it’s turning into a test prep factory. So, now I am wondering if the thesis set forth by Nikhil Goya (and others) in his book “One Size Does Not Fit All” is the best approach. Basically it says don’t group students by age, group them by abilities and interest. Yes, there are early childhood students who are ready for advance subject matter just as there are older children who need more time on their journey to comprehension. But CC and the tests invalidate that fact that not all children learn at the same rate or level.

    CC in conjunction with Danielson are putting teachers and their students at a disadvantage. Teachers are tied to a structured curriculum and have to follow the rubrics someone named Danielson deemed “the best”. Then there is the push for informational texts over fiction and the “recommended” reading list becoming code for “mandatory” by many principals. Everything is geared to “what’s on the test”!! Is this what learning is supposed to look like?? Yet CC and testing are intertwined.

    Last week I joined a new FB group called MAD (Mothers Against Duncan) but after one week left it because the comment section was filled with statements about CC such as “it’s a plot by Liberals and goes against God and Country”. Many of these moms home schooled and one praised the Ron Paul curriculum. “Paul’s curriculum will “teach the Biblical principle of self-government and personal responsibility,” and will teach students both “the history of liberty” and also about “liberty’s rivals.” It will also teach about the Constitution and how the Constitution “has been hijacked.”

    These so-called arguments against CC were disturbing to me on many levels, and I would rather fight CC on issues that are educationally valid and not politically motivated.

    Read more: http://dailycaller.com/2013/04/08/ron-paul-launches-his-own-home-school-curriculum/#ixzz2lbaXuDzh

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      Jose Vilson

      You hit it right on the mark, Schoolgal. Your argument about trying to teach kids the way private school kids were taught resonates because that was part of my reasoning for teaching in public school. As a graduate from a couple of religious institutions, I started to see how “they” get taught, and tried to bring it to kids who may, for whatever reason, not get access to those tools. Your last couple of paragraphs, re: the Ron Paul curriculum, are some of the reasons I wrote this to begin with as well. We ought to be careful who we align ourselves with, whether pro or anti-CCSS. These distinctions matter.

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  5. Nancy Flanagan

    “If you’re just trying to make it work because you’re in the classroom and you feel like you can’t do anything about it, that’s fine too. The average teacher feels this, and not enough of the people making these arguments take this into account.”

    I’ve been trying to make this argument repeatedly, in blogs, comments, Twitter discussions and getting lots of pushback from all-or-nothing bloggers (who prefer nothing, by the way). There are plenty of “reforms” that I’ve been compelled to follow in my 40 years in education that were flawed, built on the wrong premises, driven by money-makers and pumped up by hype. (A lot of technology-based reform springs to mind here.) Teachers are geniuses at figuring out how to extract the good from the Next Big Thing as it comes down the pike, and wait out the bad, acting as human shield between policy and the kids they care deeply about.

    Bruni’s just the latest in a string of people who think getting tough is the answer. I’ve been hearing this since the “cafeteria curriculum” protests in the 1980s. His piece reveals his deep ignorance of the history of education reform in America. He needs a dose of David Labaree.

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      Jose Vilson

      Nancy,

      I’m glad you bring the “teacher voice” to your posts because, yes, we are CONSTANTLY asked to make something good out of something that doesn’t make sense. It’s annoying as heck, and, as Renee would say, if you just listened to us in the first place, we wouldn’t have those problems.

  6. John Stoffel

    My argument against the CCSS: education, like democracy, must be by the people, of the people and for the people, in order to serve its purpose well. The CCSS are none of these. I also believe spending billions on “standards” and “alignment” makes about as much sense in eliminating poverty (poverty is the key) as trying to cut off a head of the mythical Hydra.

    I foresee the CCSS being turned back. However, without striking at the root of the problems in education, which are quite visible in the CCSS debate, I’m as much afraid of the twisted branches that will grow back to replace the CCSS as the CCSS themselves. I’d hate to think that one future day I wished we just accepted the CCSS, but that very well could be.

    This article is one of the few I’ve read that begins to strike at the root. We need to identify the root of the problems the CCSS, or for that matter, in education itself.

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  7. nikki stevens

    Common Core Standards is just another way for big business to make money. Education was the last área that companies want to control. Plus realistically these whole atack is really against unions. America’s economy has been falling apart way before Pres. Obama. Teacher’s unions are some of the biggest unions in America. Some of these crazy people are willing to hurt children, teachers and the public school system to destroy unions. Pres. Obama needs to stop supporting his friend Arne Duncan and do what is best for our children.America needs to stop competíng against foreign countries and teach for the students not so corporations can make money. The closing of public schools that is opening in cities is an atrocity that he has to answer to God for.I am tired of people saying we want the kids to be crítical thinkers. First thing the word critical is the wrong word, you should have thought about the correct word. I guess even adults don’t think all of the time, we just repeat what we are told.

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  10. Howard Phillips

    Hi. This is a bit late as I have only just found you.
    My fundamental criticism of the CCSS math is simply that it is not a CORE, it’s the whole damn lot and more.
    My guess is that fewer than 10% of the kids will graduate from 12th grade with a mastery of the lot. A core should confine itself to what is considered a basic minimum of knowledge.
    The excessive testing is a big error. In England, where they have a National Curriculum the kids are tested only 3 times, at age 7, 10 and 14.
    Also, it beats me how anybody thinks that the Gates Foundation acts independently of Microsoft.

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