This wasn’t the post I expected to be writing about the Common Core State Standards today. But sometimes you hear something so alarming, it just can’t wait. Parents, please take note: if you aren’t looking at your children’s textbooks—especially their history books—you may want to start. That goes for their assignments as well.
Eighth graders in one Southern California school district are being asked to consider the issue that the Holocaust may be “a hoax”! Students at the Rialto Unified School District near L.A. were asked to write a paper on whether they believe the Holocaust happened or whether it was a hoax perpetrated by Jews to “influence public emotion and gain wealth.”
The Common Core-aligned assignment was 18 pages long and provided students with a list of “credible sources”. One of these sources claims Anne Frank faked her famous diary. Once a local paper exposed the assignment, the Anti-Defamation League and other Jewish groups made a fuss about it. The school district initially stood by the assignment, but as you can see from this press release issued Monday on their website, things have changed. They will also be having an “Emergency Board Meeting” this evening to discuss the issue.
Maybe they can discuss how such a question got in there in the first place. It’s hard to defend an 18-page assignment as a “mistake”. You can debate many things about history, but to plant the seeds of doubt into young minds that such a major and horrific event as the Holocaust may not have really happened is just plain irresponsible. The proof is on film, in the artifacts left behind and in the lives of those still alive who managed to survive it. Six million Jewish people were murdered (as well as many Catholics, disabled people, homosexuals and others) at the hands of the Nazis in the years between 1939 and 1945.
Revising history is nothing new, and the implementation of Common Core is only going to intensify these kinds of school assignments. Many schools across the nation have already abandoned teaching elementary school children how to read and write in cursive. This is not only a bad idea for them developmentally, but it’s taking from them the ability to read original documents as they were written. Not just The Constitution or Declaration of Independence, but the personal letters and journals that we’ve always used to help us to understand historical events. We learn history by reading the stories of people who came before us written in their own hands.
It’s long been par for the course for liberal/progressive school teachers and professors to bastardize the lives, beliefs and reputations of the Founders of this nation in order to separate as many people as possible from our history. To plant the seeds of doubt about America’s founding and its exceptional, unique role in the world.
What is the country going to reap tomorrow if these are the seeds being sown in today’s classrooms?
When I wrote last week that the Common Core State Standards were like the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow for all good progressives, I based it on what I know from history. The early progressives–elitists from the political realm, the business world and academia—have been trying to re-work public education to suit their own needs for more than 100 years…always under the guise of doing what they do “for the children”.
Common Core has been criticized, not for what it’s doing for children, but for what it’s doing to them…and to parents and teachers. I previously posted the photographer’s picture of her tearful daughter as she worked on her 2nd grade Common Core math homework. I’m certainly no expert on it, but from all I’ve read and listened to, doing math the Common Core way, especially for the youngest students is sort of like taking a road trip from New York to Miami by way of Los Angeles. Eventually, you’ll get where you want to be- with any luck- but not without a lot of wasted time and energy. It appears to be an inefficient way to teach the basics of math with a lot of unnecessary stress added in. Rather than try to explain this wacky math in writing, it’s easier to watch this video by Caleb Bonham. It puts it all in perspective.
Parents are finding it difficult, if not impossible to help their children with their homework, because the “old math” that is logical and makes sense in the real world just doesn’t cut it anymore. The real idea lurking behind Common Core, like so many of the supposedly “progressive” reforms throughout history (things that have been tried and failed) may be this: Mom and Dad don’t know anything; the old ways don’t work. After all, it was progressive darling President Woodrow Wilson who said, “The use of a university is to make young gentlemen as unlike their fathers as possible.”
That point of view, however, isn’t limited to universities. Author and former New York City public school teacher John Taylor Gatto makes this case in his book The Underground History of American Education (2000). Gatto lays out several ideas progressives hold about public education that must be debunked in order for real and positive changes to happen in education. One idea that must go, according to Gatto, is the idea that his family should not be the center of a child’s universe. He writes:
“Children will inevitably grow apart from their parents in belief, and this process must be encouraged by diluting parental influence and disabusing children of the idea their parents are sovereign in mind or morality. That prescription alone has been enough to cripple the American family.” Gatto wrote those words more than a decade ago—long before Common Core itself existed, but he could clearly see the trend where education was heading even back then.
If CCSS is unnecessarily difficult for the littlest students, it’s criticized for not being rigorous enough in the years leading into college. Where most students begin Algebra in the 8th grade, Common Core postpones it until 9th grade, giving less time for students who may want to pursue STEM careers (those in science, technology, engineering and math) to get in the pre-calculus and calculus courses they need by the time they enter college. University of Arkansas Professor of Education Reform Sandra Stotsky wrote about the Common Core Math Standards for the Pioneer Institute, a non-partisan private organization that is advocating strongly against CCSS. Professor Stotsky says some states may have to lower their math standards in order to align with Common Core. That will hurt high-achieving students who want to pursue STEM careers, and could in the long-term, lead to a lowering of standards on college campuses. She indicates that students who excel in math will be under-served by CCSS because the math standards will only prepare them for entrance into “non-selective” colleges: “Why should their high school mathematics programs ignore those students who might become our future engineers and scientists? This is apparently the grand bargain that over 45 state boards of education bought into without asking engineering and science faculty in their own state’s colleges and universities…”
Like so much that comes with progressivism, the devil is in the details. Remember when Nancy Pelosi said “We have to pass the bill (Obamacare) to find out what’s in it? That scheme spreads the wealth—and the health. Common Core is attempting to redistribute knowledge. So much for the’Rithmetic part of Common Core…wait until you see what they do to Readin’ and Writin’…
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.