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?
Most of us remember high school English classes as a place where we were first introduced to some of the greatest writers the world has ever known. Our teachers spent long hours taking us back in time through the pages of literature, introducing us to Romeo and Juliet, Antigone, Hamlet, Hester Prynne and also more modern day characters such as Holden Caulfield. We learned from their fatal flaws, experienced their losses and were inspired by their triumphs. Through their stories, though fictional, we came to understand human nature– that people are people, regardless of the time and situation. In many ways, we also gleaned a better understanding of history.
Along with all of the frustrated students, parents and teachers that the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) have been racking up, perhaps other casualties of the standards are the works of Shakespeare, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Mark Twain and other classic writers. As if wading through the intricacies of a Greek tragedy wasn’t hard enough, Common Core expects English teachers to give up some of that in favor of non-fiction “informational texts”. Imagine a teacher trying to inspire a love of the written word in a room full of high school students with such materials as presidential executive orders or the latest policies being implemented by the Environmental Protection Agency.
Don’t laugh. It’s for real, and it’s part of Common Core. According to their website, reading this type of stuff will help prepare students for the future: “The Common Core asks students to read stories and literature, as well as more complex texts that provide facts and background knowledge in areas such as science and social studies. Students will be challenged and asked questions that push them to refer back to what they’ve read. This stresses critical-thinking, problem-solving, and analytical skills that are required for success in college, career, and life.”
Other well-respected educators disagree saying de-emphasizing classics in favor of non-fiction informational materials is more likely to have the opposite effect on college readiness, particularly for those in low income brackets. Emory University English Professor Mark Bauerlein and University of Arkansas Professor Sandra Stotsky co-wrote the paper How Common Core’s ELA Standards Place College Readiness at Risk. In it, the authors make the case that the achievement gap between lower and higher income students will widen under CCSS: “High-achieving students in academically oriented private and suburban schools will continue to get the rich literary-historical content that promotes critical and analytical thinking, while others will get little more than watered-down training in reading comprehension.”
Another professor, Mary Grabar, says Common Core instructs teachers to “read Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address without emotion and without providing any historical context. Common Core reduces all ‘texts’ to one level: the Gettysburg Address to the EPA’s Recommended Levels of Insulation.”
Wonderful. This will do nothing to inspire a love of reading or history in students of any age. Just what we need in a time when many students heading into college must take remedial English courses as freshmen in order to move into their college-level coursework. Add this fiasco that is Common Core into an educational environment where even college students can’t correctly answer 4th-grade level American history questions, as has been documented by many “man-on-the-street” interviews.
How ironic that states which accepted the Common Core State Standards had to do so in order to compete for Obama’s Race to the Top funds. Just based on the math and English standards, it seems more like a race toward mediocrity. This is all being done to education with lots of money from big corporations (Exxon) and wealthy foundations (The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation)…and it’s nothing new. As John Taylor Gatto pointed out in his book An Underground History of American Education , we’ve been down this road before and the results will be just as bad this time around as they ever were: “The impact of foundation money upon education has been very heavy, tending to promote uniformity in approach and method, tending to induce the educator to become an agent for social change and a propagandist for the development of our society in the direction of some form of collectivism.” [Emphasis mine]
Whenever the elites start throwing money at anything–in this case public education—you can be sure there’s something in it for them.
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.