Even though my background and training are in the sciences, most of my friends are more humanities kinds of people. That’s probably because science for me is just one interest. It is not dominant. If I had to choose science or literature, I’d probably pick literature. But it bugs me that pretty much no college graduate I know took calculus in college. The reason is because calculus is college level math. But because our educational system is so very bad at teaching math, that the whole system has been adjusted so that people get out of college taking just a semester of algebra or statistics. And that’s sad because math is as varied and wondrous as English literature. These students lose out.
So I am actually a big believer is education standards. At the same time, I’m totally against Common Core. The reason is that it gets education backwards. It starts with the test and moves back to the education. Education shouldn’t be a second thought. When it is, it becomes a distorted simulacrum of real education. And I think this is one of the primary reasons why mathematics education is so bad. Things like multiplication tables are very easy to test for. Long division is very easy to test for. Equation solving is very easy to test for. There’s just one problem: none of those things have much to do with math.
What the proponents of Common Core, and education “reform” generally, want to do is to make all forms of learning systematized the same way math has been. This is why schools are pushing children to forego reading stories and instead read nonfiction. Education isn’t supposed to be fun; it is supposed to be for turning our children into adults who will be able to get good jobs. I come back again and again to this quote by Jonathan Kozol:
Back in September of last year, Gabriel Arana wrote, Common Core’s Political Fiasco: How It United the Left and Right Against It. It’s actually kind of disturbing because the only reason that conservatives are against Common Core is because Obama is the president. If it were Mitt Romney or John McCain in the White House, they would have no problem with it. Liberals are against it because they are against standardized tests. (Or if you asked Jonathan Chait, they are against it because they care about teachers unions more than the kids. He knows because his wife told him so.) The fact that there isn’t much actual policy behind what conservatives want is not surprising, but it makes me worry about the future.
What I found most interesting about the article is the makeup of the group that created the Common Core standards:
So it was developed by a billionaire businessman and some millionaire businessmen. In other words, it was just what Jonathan Kozol was talking about, helping “IBM in competing with Sony.” These are not honest actors. These are people with a very clear ax to grind. Yet most of the reporting on it (typically by upper-middle and upper class journalists like Chait) portrays these people as just looking out for the kids while those awful teachers only care about their salaries.
At best, the Common Core ends with educated cogs going into the modern assembly lines that I discussed this morning. And the result of that will be adults who hate and fear both math and reading. And after coming home from their soul crushing jobs, they won’t be capable of doing more than plopping down on the couch and watching the new season of Dancing With the Stars. I have seen the future of the human race: a boot stamping on a televised dance floor — forever.
 This is a quote from an interview in The Progressive, 1 December 1991. The complete quote is not online for free. I am searching for the full quote. All I have is, “The best reason to give a child a good school with a teacher who is confident…”
H/T: Diane Ravitch