Is Common Core a Coordinated Effort to Mislead?

Some of my readers have started sending me articles and news stories asking me to respond. In this post and the next one, that is precisely what I am going to do. If you see something that appears to push a story about Common Core or any other issue in education that indicates to you somebody is spreading inaccurate information, send it on. We will talk about it.

In case you skipped some of my postings that are more focused on economics than education specifically, I am greatly concerned that the education policies and practices that have been adopted in the US (and globally for that matter) cost more overall than what is being produced of value. The emphasis we are just starting to chart where the school’s focus is to be more on desired values, attitudes, and amenable personality traits simply makes what is being spent potentially more destructive. Neither Professor Bode or his colleagues seemed to have any idea or appreciation for what personal characteristics drive prosperity or foster individual independence. And that is putting it kindly.

Long term education spending that does not add and preserve knowledge and skills and that actually seeks to undermine the values and beliefs and spirit that drove current levels of prosperity is a guaranteed prescription for social disaster. It will cause (or already has)  either economic stagnation, which is bad, or actual declines in average living standards. Even worse. I want to have the discussion of where these education policies and practices are actually taking us now. Before the momentum and amounts spent and decrease in actual relevant knowledge and marketable skills gets any worse. The typical policy maker has not spent anytime contemplating what creates genuine widespread wealth and prosperity in a society. Or what destroys it. Me? Thinking that way is reflexive so here we go. is a link to a recent story in a DC magazine pushing what I call the Common Core national standards. Interestingly enough the author, Robert Rothman, refers to standards with a small “s” and common core with two lower case “c’s”. Every reference in the article to standards works just as well if you substitute outcomes or objectives or even learning goals in its place. Gone is any sense of a body of knowledge or content each child should have nestled firmly within their own mind.  No Mr Rothman describes a world where facts are supplied or gathered up after a prompt, not embedded within each person’s every day functioning available for their own spontaneous use. Or available for sale to a potential employer.

It has never made any sense to me how one can be expected “to think critically and solve complex problems” without a tremendous amount of accumulated cultural knowledge. Or at least deep personal targeted knowledge relevant to someone’s particular commercial problems. If no one would voluntarily part with their own money to pay you for what you actually know or can do, that should be an alarm bell going off. What education and schools and higher ed are creating in the common core Outcomes Based Education/ Competency world has no real value to either private employers or potential customers. Continuing to spend if that’s the case is both mind arson at the level of the student and cultural arson at the level of the dollars, time, and other resources being spent. Taking out less than was put in. All this rhetoric about common just means that the ship will be long past its sinking point by the time anyone realizes where the hole is and what caused it.

Anyone looking at my picture of the serf’s collar and the name of this blog can tell I love a great metaphor. I also have very little patience for poor ones. Images and comparisons that simply do not fit the actual facts. Those kind of metaphors by education industry insiders do create the impression of an intent to mislead. In this situation the metaphor was the creation of a standardized transcontinental railroad in the US. The article is called “Transcontinental Education”. This is the tagline from the intro:

Soon, nearly every state in the union will have the same demanding standards for what students should know. If history is any guide, a burst of innovation won’t be far behind.”

I am not going back through my previous posts on innovation or why the standards are not in fact demanding since they must be accessible to ALL students using a variety of methods. I have also written already about how little factual knowledge there is to Common Core. The so-called knowledge is either how to do the desired generic skills like communicate or problem solve or be part of a team. Other knowledge is presupplied politically useful issues or topics or concepts. Past basic skills most of the real Common Core emphasis is once again on personal attributes of each student and not just looking for deficits. It’s more of a “this is the desired characteristics we want in each future voter and employee and citizen.” It is the approach a lord would have taken to his serfs or a king to his subjects. It is simply not the approach one takes in dealing with free independent human beings who will eventually need to make their own way and pay their own expenses as adults. Who may be capable of creating the Next Great Idea that benefits us all.

In the lower case world of “standards” and “common core”  where would the locomotives come from? What would propel them? Where would the ingenuity that created refrigeration cars and pressurized storage cars come from? Who will create ever swifter, more fuel efficient, engines in that world of uniform skills, values, knowledge, and attitudes?

Innovation is more than a marketing slogan or a PR campaign.




6 thoughts on “Is Common Core a Coordinated Effort to Mislead?

  1. (Public reply to your e-mail question. )You are my heroine, it’s obviously a big job, and I’m glad we have you fighting the battle.

    • Thanks Ms Trish,

      Most of the opposition to Common Core has previously been based on its end-runs around the local and state authority in this area under the US Constitution.

      I think that is a valid important argument. But a better one is to simply argue as I have and am that the actual facts surrounding the implementation as it will look like in your local schools and classroom do not fit the PR surrounding Common Core. You know I will develop theories about how my known facts fit together but I never run with it until I find a policy brief or a written declaration as to what is really going on.

      One of the points that keeps coming up both in the US and internationally is to shape the mindset of tomorrow’s voters. To limit the ability to think abstractly. To essentially invoke censorship at the source–by preventing an ability to read fluently or think in depth or sequentially.

      It makes a mockery of our Republic and representational democracy for the power of the federal purse to be used to corrupt the next generation of voters.

      Believe me some of the aspirations for “citizenship” I have are quite graphic in the reconfiguring of the role between citizen and state. Others declare an intent to have graduates who will know what government agency to contact to meet their future needs.

      The serf metaphor is based on a lot of hard facts and explicit statements by people with the power to obtain their desires.

      And it is time to talk about it because that icefield is getting close.

  2. “The so-called knowledge is either how to do the desired generic skills like communicate or problem solve or be part of a team.”

    Oh, my yes; that is what I call the fluff. The seem to think they need to teach kids “how to think” before they can teach kids some actual info to think about. That this is by design from a certain level of oh, shall we call them societal planners, is no surprise.

    But the thing that gets me each and every time, are the individuals who don’t see that this is crazy town. The teacher who tells me with a straight face, yes, most all kids need these reading strategies, for example, even though they already know how to read.

    If you don’t give ’em the strategies, they’ll never learn to comprehend what the read, I am told. With a straight face. She is a smart lady. But she believes this. She gives my kids an “out,” saying well maybe the especially bright ones don’t need it.

    But you don’t have to be exceptional to know how to think! We all have the capacity for reasoning, judgment, and comprehension!

    It’s like having fallen down a rabbit hole.

    thanks for visiting my site.

    • Linda- I would say the fluff is all we are getting under common core and EFA. But that would be wrong.

      PBIS for all coming in through RtI now mandated for all students. Plus the social and emotional learning coming in through anti-bullying initiatives even if there’s not a problem or School Climate index in states and districts on the cutting edge of these reforms.

      When you get into the backup for Common Core and a new push, Discipline Based Education Research, you discover research based does not mean there is research to show this works. There’s not. The implementing states and districts will be conducting the research on what happens to the students when these theories are pushed in a K-12 classroom or higher ed.

      We have clearly gone through the looking glass here. And we are funding it all.

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