Opine I will

I am an elementary school teacher just trying to do the right thing

The Common Core is un-American

Are the Common Core Learning Standards (CCSS), adopted by 46 states, un-American? I think so.

To accuse anything of being un-American is a serious accusation.  I’ve been mulling this disturbing conclusion around for several months now.  Please keep in mind, I don’t do this lightly. I know there will be feedback, some positive and some negative. But there are times that one must just call it as they see it.

As a lacrosse referee (my second job), I make the calls based on what I see. I make calls, not merely to assess penalties but to ensure the game is played fairly. Often I am criticized because others don’t see what I saw. Most of the times, it is because positioning is critical for making a good call. A good referee hustles to be in position.  Fans and coaches are not in the  right spot to see the action most of the time.  You can’t ref from the sidelines; you have to be in the game .

I’ve been in position to make this call. Being a 5th grade teacher, I’m in the middle of this “game” called CCSS. I’m observing the hits, the slashes, and the injuries due to standards that are based on the force ideals of those who claim they know what’s best for our nation. These same people, who really haven’t played the game, who haven’t been on the field are standing on the sidelines, making calls that will affect the outcome of this game. Our nation will ultimately lose this game if we continue with this game plan.

The Common Core reveals its un-American aspects in the introduction of every standard.  It states, “Students advancing through the grades are expected to meet each year’s grade-specific standards and retain or further develop skills and understandings mastered in preceding grades.” Really?  Those of us in the game often expect a goal to be scored, and when we see a player slip in the mud and miss the net do we label him as a failure? Is the coach to blame?  This national social experiment (CCSS) expects all children to master skills at the same time. It expects us to lock step our students from grade to grade, mastering preceding grade level material, always advancing, never retreating. Those who slip in the mud (poor test performance) will be labeled as under-performing  their coaches will be labeled as ineffective. It’s un-American to label our teachers and our students. Ignoring the challenges our students face very day; poverty, sickness, family issues, adequate resources, etc., is turning a blind eye to the mud that our children must maneuver though during the play of the their game of life.

Those “sideline coaches” shout that this grand social experiment (CCSS) will guarantee all children will be college and career ready. Yet they ignore the diversity that is America. The Common Core mandates specific skills, algorithms, percentage of fiction vs. non- fiction read, how essays should be worded, how arguments should be presented, and it even demands the stifling of personal opinions. David Coleman, architect of the Common Core has even said, no one gives a ‘sheet’ what you think.When diversity is seen as the problem, we  erode the fabric of our national identity. Unfortunately that’s the path Coleman and the other proponents of this social experiment are taking us.

The United States Constitution ( our rule book) tells us the responsibility of education remains with the states. Our Founding Fathers knew that regional differences, regional needs and regional values should be honored. They understood that local control of education was important to the well being of our nation. The CCSS shatters those ideals. Having all students learn the same thing at the same time, from coast to coast does not take into consideration the individual needs of local communities and regions. Imagine what our lacrosse game would look like if all coaches used the same play book. Imagine if all players had the same skill set. Should they all wear the same uniforms too?  Is this what we really want for our students?

As a nation we should be providing opportunities for our students to develop skill sets that will allow them to try “a new shot” without the fear of failing.  We should be encouraging our teachers to try out new game plans to meet the academic, social, and emotional needs of the diverse students they coach. We should proudly demonstrate that all of our students are not the same, that we allow them to develop at different rates. As a nation we should not allow those who shout from the sidelines to affect the game. Our referees (our tests) should be used to ensure the game is fair and not be used to only assess penalties.

The Common Core is un-American. I would call any national standards un-American. There is no such thing as a “standard child” or a “standard America”.  Some say, standards ensures fairness for all. They say it ensures that the child in Mobile, Alabama, get the same education as the child from Nassau County, New York.  Those of us in this game know that fairness does not mean everyone gets the same thing. Fairness means everyone gets what they need to succeed. The needs are as diverse as our nation.  Common Core ignores that.

Lacrosse originated in the Iroquois nation. It is the oldest organized sport in America .A true American tradition.  It was used to settle disputes and it was instrumental in keeping the Iroquois Confederation together. The amazing thing is, the rules were changed for every game, and there were no boundaries or “out of bounds”. It can be called a true American game that evolved with every game played. The Common Core has set strict boundaries, it prevents free thought, it requires that we all have the same game plan, and it is dividing our nation. It is un-American.

Ask any teacher, that is in the game and is in the right position to make the call, listen to the coaches, and  talk to the players about the Common Core. They’ll tell you that the game is being taken over by those in the stands, those on the sidelines, those who have no idea about the game. They’ll tell you that those who want to take over this game are more interested in hedging their bets as they try to manipulate us all.

That’s not the America I want.

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14 thoughts on “The Common Core is un-American

  1. I understand your concern and to some extent share it. But you belabor your metaphor. The people at the game are all explayers (having gone through our education system), ex-coaches (current and former teachers), and ex-officials (former adminstrators, etc.). None are totally clueless bystanders.

    I am in favor of national standards, fairly high ones, but I would like for them to cover maybe 65% of the school curriculum with the other 35% determined locally (state, county, city). I would like such standards to be incorporated into student’s and school district’s report cards so that students and parents can see whether their schools/kids are up to standards or not.

    These then would be quite American as every sport has quite rigid rules. Every industry has its own standards (e.g. the compter/tech industry, the automotive industry, etc.). There are great advantages to having standards, but like you, I don’t want them to be a straightjacket.

    Your friend in education (former teacher, teachers union officer),

    Steve

    • Anonymous on said:

      Steve what concerns me is that teachers are not even in the picture while all these fabulous common standard high stakes tests are being rolled out. Dig a little deeper and you will see all the little people who have theirs hands in armed pockets like the Walton’s and the gates who are betting with a few more fistfuls of millions they can turn all free public education into private corporations do they can make a little more more money. They don’t care about kids. They don’t care about all the black poor kids in Chicago and DC where they are closing these neighborhood schools. Dig a little deeper. They just want the test companies and themselves eating steak while others starve. Let teachers devise the tests built on authentic questions based on state curriculums.

  2. I am not against strong state standards

  3. You’re right in that there are too many people calling the game who haven’t had a stick in their hands. The bureaucrats regulating play lack experience and expertise to be allowed to change the rules after the clock has started.

    But the standards and the skills associated with the Common Core are what our kids need to stay competitive. It’s less a question as to whose fault it is when kids don’t score than it is finding ways to help them find the net.

  4. Strong state standards were in place in many states. NYS had standards that made sense and allowed teachers to use various methods to teach their students while following a well thought out state curriculum. Common core changes all that. It ths of mandates how and what to teach, often ignoring the diversity and the needs of students. That’s the rub.. That’s why it’s un-American. We should not be teaching children to address text and math in a lockstep sort of way. We should be drawing upon the needs and strengths of those we teach.

    • @rratto you’re either just plain wrong, exaggerating the situation beyond recognition or working in a place that has totally misunderstood the use of the standards. The CCSS is explicit in leaving the how and what of teaching to local entities, specifically the teachers. I am working with many teachers who are happily adjusting what they already do to help their students read texts more closely and use those texts in supporting their thinking. Watching this happen in all subject areas is quite exciting as students are shown the ways to think critically about the content of the subject.

      • I suggest you read the 5th grade math standards. They are very specific on what it to be taught, the algorithms that must be mastered how problems should be modeled.

        The ELA standards are also very specific on how children should answer, how they must respond, and what they should read. The appendix is very revealing

      • The CCSS does NOT leave the how and what of teaching to local entities. Have you looked at the list of texts that New York State wants us to use? It’s very specific! You can find it on the Engage NY site.

      • My experience is primarily with the high school ELA standards, and you are flat-out dreaming if you think they leave “the how and what of teaching to local entities.” Do you seriously think “local entities” would be in favor of ditching literature for government documents, for instance? As I have said on my blog, when they say “align,” I hear “obey.” And I’m not alone in that regard…

  5. Keep fighting the battle Ralph

  6. Pingback: Why? | Opine I will

  7. My biggest complaint about these standards run deeper than states rights. Some of the principles being pushed on our kids here are just plain wrong. Things like “America” is to blame for events like 9/11 and things such as Food, Medicine and Housing are rights instead of responsibilities. If we bring up a whole generation (or 2) of people who have been force fed this kind nonsense we will lose this country forever. Who is making these decisions? It seams that their real motive is very un-american.

  8. Michele Favaro on said:

    “Food, Medicine and Housing are rights instead of responsibilities.”…I think it is sad to read that anyone feels that those basic human needs are not something that we, as humans, need to help others with. I teach my children (I am a parent, not a teacher) that we need to help everyone have food, medicine and a safe place to live. I am not against having the Common Core. I am against the high stake tests that are taking place. I am against teachers no longer allowed to have “100 clubs” because some kids are unable to get 100s. I believe that we need children to be better prepared to compete in a global economy. But local tax payers cannot afford to implement these standards and the gov’t seems to want to do other things with our money.
    But teaching children that others need food, medicine and housing..well, that is just plain decent. And I, for one, hope my children NEVER have a teacher that doesn’t believe that.

    • dfjonathon on said:

      Michele Favaro— I think you are missing the point, and putting words into Tom’s mouth. The US has been one of the most, if not the most charitable nation, pretty much all along, and has always helped get food, medicine and housing to those in need. I believe what Tom is saying is that common core denies things like this, it is revisionist history, and it is forced on kids. If you do not come up with the answer common core dictates, the answer is wrong. Common Core is to brainwash, not teach critical thinking.

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