Why I’m Not Freaked Out About The Common Core

December 12, 2013 in Uncategorized by JulieBastuk

Happy Girl Hopscotch in Strawberry Free Creative Commons


If you are influenced by public school education much at all, you’ve probably heard of the Common Core Curriculum.   In the area I live in, many people are up in arms about New York State adopting the Core standards, and are becoming quite vocal about it.  When I first heard some rumors concerning what was going to be implemented, I was initially worried, but realized pretty quickly that many things that worried all these parents were not really worries to me at all.

Before I jumped on or deserted the Stop Common Core bandwagon, I decided to take a closer look at all the hoopla, and attended an informational meeting presented by concerned parents that discussed the evils of the Core.  My conclusion about its implementation so far in public schools is that I don’t think it the anti-Christ incarnate, as many have made it out to be.  It definitely has some flaws, but I don’t think it will cause the demise of the world as we know it.  I’m currently homeschooling, but am harboring fewer firm and fast convictions about the need to do so, and thus felt like investigating the Core issues was worth my while.

Listed below are subject matter and policy complaints I heard several times from numerous people about the Common Core.  My rebuttal arguments are not against anyone as persons, but against what I consider to be faulty thinking or inaccurately drawn conclusions.

1.  Multiculturalism and diversity   I have heard and read multiple rants about the Core pushing multiculturalism and diversity in the schools.  I remember actually being shocked that these kinds of statements came up in the informational meeting and in pamphlets I’ve been sent.   So many anti-Common Core people are claiming that the standards are going to create creepy little robot kids (see pic below) that are taught very specific answers to questions and are not allowed open minded thinking.  Kids will only become robots when parents allow the “never question anything” problem to be perpetuated at home. As far as I know, there isn’t any surveillance in our homes that is watching us to make sure we don’t dialogue with our kids about what they learn outside the home and offer them other ways of thinking.

Can someone please explain to me how diversity and multicultural subject matter creates little drones?  I actually want to stand up and say, “Hallelujah, it’s about time we all realized there is a big world out there with people different from us, and it’s not all about us or the United States!”

A speaker at the informational meeting I went to listed by name several books that she found completely inappropriate for American public schools because they talked about the struggle of girls in Afghanistan and of children in the war torn Sudan.  I came very close to walking out when she said that we didn’t need to read those kinds of books or worry about what was going on with children in the Sudan because it’s so far away.   And I thought about running to the nearest bookstore and buying those exact books to take home and read to my kids.  

Because, I want my kids to develop the heart of Jesus…and Jesus was concerned about the people “over there.”  Samaritans, case in point.

As for the arguments about reading books depicting war and atrocities to young kids, I should point out that as a young elementary aged student I saw multiple Holocaust films, so introducing disturbing material in schools is not just something thought up recently by the Common Core people.  Furthermore, in regard  to hysteria that schools will now be offering pornographic and lewd reading material, let me just point out that it was all there before.  In fact, as a high school student years ago, I discovered books in the school library that were atrocious and pointed them out to teachers who didn’t even realize what they were putting on shelves that were accessed by fifth through 12th graders.

I’ve heard so many comments that describe the liberal bias of Common Core because things like labor unions,  and the United Nations are part of the material.  What I really think might be at the bottom of much of this thinking is the fear that the US may in fact not be a perfect country with God’s unequivocal stamp of approval, and has done some pretty bad things in its time.  That’s a hard pill to swallow when you’ve grown up thinking and being taught that America is God’s acting agent in the world.

2.  Time spent on American documents (Constitution, etc) versus other documents from the UN and Iroquois Nation.    I’m all for spending time learning about the important texts that this country was built upon, but geez, it was not built absent of outside influences, one of which was, in fact, the Iroquois Nation.  Even if you don’t buy that, no document or person is an island unto themselves, without any influences.   If you want to understand the Bible well, you need to study outside sources about the Bible, and the same goes for our country’s documents.  Our kids need some back story to fully understand and appreciate the Constitution, Gettysburg Address, etc.   

3. Reading of informational texts, memo-type material, with decreasing focus on literature.  When I first heard rumors about this part of the Core, I was concerned.  It already worries me that kids tend to read alot of twaddle and not good literature (which I do not blame on the Obama administration…it’s been going on for years).   However, when I looked more closely into the plan, and mulled over it a bit, I decided that the introduction of this type of reading material into public schools is a really wise choice.

The fact is, we live in a technology age, and even the liberal arts side of education is packed with scientific style writing.  Anyone who is a science major in college knows that they will be expected to read primary source articles from academic journals, and these are most definitely not written in poetic or prose literary styles.   Introducing informational texts to students early on is a great way to build a foundation for college courses and, later on, careers.   Being able to appreciate Wuthering Heights and Romeo and Juliet never did anything to help me understand the genetics paper describing how a human ear can be grown on the back of a mouse.   Being able to handle technical literature is a different beast than traditional prose and poetry, and if we want well rounded kids in this day and age, they need to learn how to read both.

4.Data collection and student tracking.  From the beginning I will say that I am irked  a bit that the data tracking system involves  very specific information about individuals.  However, despite that, I am not naive enough to say that data tracking has no place in improving the education system.  Longitudinal and cross sectional studies are invaluable in being able to monitor progress, see what works and what doesn’t, and be able to compare various demographics.  Anyone who has benefited from a prescription drug has benefited from these types of studies.  Without them there would be a lot of wheel reinventing, with much less information available to draw upon when making conclusions about how to proceed.

Maybe our kids are going to be guinea pigs in this Common Core project, as many have complained, so let’s be happy that their guinea pig-ness won’t be in vain because it will result in a wealth of information to serve future generations.

Three arguments could be made that explain what has caused the US drop in education rankings.  Either 1) the US education system is in fact dropping the ball in every area, or 2) other once struggling countries are catching up and passing us because of improving economies while the US has just maintained the status quo, or 3) a combination of both.  This is where longitudinal and cross sectional studies can help the US figure out what is going on, and how to improve in the future.

As far as the complaints I heard about private companies handling the data, again I’m baffled.  The same groups of people I hear griping about this data are the ones who are so proud that we live in a capitalist society.   So, why get mad then when businesses are just doing what businesses do in a capitalist market.  Of course they have an interest and influence how things are done in the education system as a result, but, again, that’s the nature of the beast.

And, if you want to argue that these private corporations are being run behind the scenes by government policy makers, well, it’s not the first time. On the flip side, thanks to a capitalist country, the private corporations have the freedom of lobbying the government and influencing the policy makers back or joining their ranks.  Think USDA, FDA, etc. etc.

5. It’s all because of Obamcare.  No, I”m not exaggerating…a couple sitting right next to me at a meeting said this under their breath.  I was so annoyed I felt like barfing right then and there.  This whole “It’s all because of Obamacare” is getting rather cliche these days, don’t you think?  It’s the explanation for everything, and it is disheartening to me because it is making me lose faith in the ability of American adults to think in a logical, rational way.    Considering this Common Core stuff has been tossed around quite awhile, I don’t think Obama is the pure champion of it.  Furthermore, Obama is starting to sound more powerful than God.  I really had no idea he individually had the power to screw with every area of life, but it appears to be that way according to alot of people.

Honestly, the “put all the blame on Obama” diatribe is really childish….it’s like when people blame everything that has ever gone wrong in their lives on their parents.    Let’s grow up, people.

6.  Our kids are being taught lifestyle choices that we don’t like.   This is really all about fear.  I can say that, because I felt the same way at one time regarding my kids.  It’s natural to want to protect our kids from pain and discomfort or humiliation.  However, nothing creates little drone people more than raising them in bubbles.  And nothing is worse for kids than when they are suddenly slapped in the face by life’s realities and have no capacity to deal with or process it.

The LGBY lifestyle is the big elephant in the room for alot of people using this argument.  Let’s just talk about it then.   Without talking about my personal thoughts on the lifestyle, I want to address how it will affect our kids.  I’ve hardly ever encountered anyone that became gay just from hanging out with another gay person.  And vice versa, except  for people guilted into a “straight” lifestyle for fear of being rejected by God or family.  The same goes for transgender and bisexual kinds of lifestyles.  Their lifestyles are not contagious, though we treat it as such.

I really think we parents need to not be so afraid of life that we hide them away from everything that doesn’t line up with our personal beliefs, but rather engage in constant dialogue with them, helping them to process what they learn and interact  with it based on their value systems.   Besides, even if we condemn lifestyles and refuse to mingle with them, our kids will one day be introduced to them, either as a child or adult, and we won’t be there to monitor what happens.

7.  Our education system wasn’t really that bad to start with.  I’ve been presented with educational data where some really bad conclusions were drawn regarding the standing of the US compared to other countries.  It was argued at a meeting I attended that the US had great high school graduation and college entrance numbers.  That’s great and all, but it amounts to a hill of beans if kids enter college and then never make it to graduation.  Which, is what is happening.  Barely half of students who enter a four year college will graduate within six years, and the numbers are equally depressing for other post-high school programs.

A second really horrible justification of America’s greatness that I heard was the comparison of the number of patents issued by the US compared to other countries is indicative of how well we are doing.  Really?!   There are so many factors involved in how patents are issued that make that argument potentially fall apart.  Consider the population of the US in proportion to other technologically advanced countries.  (Example:  Japan has 127.5 million people, Korea has 50 million, Germany has 81 million, and the US….313 million.)  Enough said.

Second, just because a patent was issued doesn’t really mean any completely novel intellectual property was developed.  Trust me, I’ve read tons of patents from the medical device industry, and many of them are so similar that you have to be an expert at reading patents to notice the tiny nuances between them.

Now, having said all of this…I am in no way suggesting that the Common Core is the perfect educational ideal.  I hate the teaching to national tests (that practice itself nearly screwed me in my literature classes in college…I could write a great 3 point persuasive essay, but had little clue what iambic pentameter was.)  I also think that teachers need individual freedom in how they approach and teach subject material, within reason.

I agree with much of what Marion Brady describes as 8 major Common Core problems (see below), and I think there are major areas that need to be addressed.  However, none of these issues are enough to freak me out and start panicking over public school education in the US.   What upsets me is when the problems with the Common Core are presented in a way that is based more on opposing ideologies and politics than concerns about the nuts and bolts methodologies of a program that will increase literacy and the ability of people to function well in a technological, global society.

And frankly, I wish people would get as upset by the poverty, racial and gender inequalities, and social injustice in this country as they have about Common Core.

For your further reading pleasure:
Common What? What is Common Core and Why is Everyone-Right, Left-So Mad About It?

Iroquois Constitution: Forerunner to Colonists’ Democratic Principles

Eight Problems With Common Core Standards

Seeking to fully live,