The photo below went viral last month on the internet. The picture shows a pretty common scene: a little girl, wearing princess pajamas sits at the table with a paper and pencil, most likely trying to finish up her homework before bedtime. But the look on her face is one of frustration, sadness and absolute stress as she tearfully tries to get it done. Her mom, a professional photographer, snapped the picture while preparing her camera for a photo shoot the next day. She posted it with commentary that says it all: The little girl is 7-year-old second grader Maddie and her mother, Kelly Maher Poynter, was both praised and criticized for posting the picture, by people on both sides of what’s known as the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Critics of the posting say all kids hate doing homework and they might as well learn early that they have to do things they don’t want to do. Some even claimed the photo was staged in order to make a point about the controversial CCSS that have been implemented in public schools in nearly all of the states in the nation. Kelly, a mother of three, defended the photo and the situation by letting critics on her Facebook page know that Maddie is not a child who hates homework.
She had been working on her Common Core-aligned math questions and was able to get the correct answer using the “old” math (i.e. the math most everyone knows how to do), but was unable to get it using the new CCSS standards of showing three different processes to get the right answer. Here’s how she explains it: “After checking her work, I had found 2 math problems were incorrect. I tried to help her understand where she went wrong through her process but I don’t understand it myself and was not much help.” [emphasis mine] I told her to forget about it and we’d try again tomorrow but she became very upset that she could not get the answer and kept trying and trying to fix it. She is hard on herself as she very much wants to excel in school and not be pulled for extra help all of the time. I was talking to her and clicking my camera as I changed settings … it’s something that is very common in our household … and that is when I caught this image.”
Supporters of the posting rallied around Kelly and her decision to put it out there for all to see because many of them were parents dealing with the same difficulties CCSS is bringing to their own homes. There are many, many blogs and websites out there dedicated only to CCSS written by supporters of the standards and opponents alike. I’ve been learning about Common Core for about a year and was going to leave this topic to those blogs. After seeing that picture, however, I thought it deserved at least some mention here. After all, you have to wonder whether something is good when it causes this much stress in a 2nd grader. I don’t think math homework brought me to tears until high school geometry. What I’ve learned about CCSS isn’t good, nor is it anything new if you know about history and progressivism. Just recall the words of Maddie’s mother Kelly, above: “I don’t understand it myself and was not much help”.
Those are scary words. There was a time when kids and parents could work together on homework. Kids were encouraged to ask parents for help, and most parents were eager to give it. With these “reforms”, children will be less inclined to ask mom or dad for help because after a while, they know their parents just won’t know how to help them. They’ll be forced to go back to the teacher—the government—for help. Progressives the world over have been trying to separate children from their parents for ages. You could say that if there is any virtue in progressivism, it’s patience. Why else would they be so against today’s home schooling movement? In the next few postings, I want to show how these reforms could threaten freedom as they seek to make children into good “global citizens” rather than patriotic Americans. The late 19th and early 20th century elitists would look at today’s Common Core standards as the pot at the end of their rainbow.