When I was 9 years old I attended a private school in Pennsylvania, stiff upper-lip teachers, uniforms and all. We read a great deal of books while at school; in addition, we had to list off a number of books that we would read during the year at home. The part I hated most would grow to be the part I appreciate most now: comprehension tests. After each book we had a set of rigorous questions to answer, each pertaining to intricate details found within the book. With the glaring eyes of a teacher staring through you as you stumbled for the answers to the multitude of questions, you quickly learned to actually pay attention when you took to reading your books.
Could my teacher have simply taken us through the areas that answered the questions? Of course. We would have passed the tests with flying colors, received a good grade, and the clouds would have opened up and beamed a heavenly glow around a highly approved teacher. But what good would it do for our actual education, not just the grades on a paper? Nothing. You can teach a child to pass a test, but the result will not be the comprehension of the materials.
Welcome to Common Core.
I could go on a 6 page tangent over the idea that classic literature and personal writing is somehow deemed irrelevant to those that add their approval to such poor standards, but alas, I won’t only focus on this one issue since it is simply one large missing portion of a widely flawed initiative. Ok…For the sake of being honest, I’ll probably focus a lot of this post on said portion. Our society would rather have kids droning on about vampires and Anastasia Steele than topics and stories that challenge the reader to create within their mind a space welcoming of creativity, and that’s the sad fact.
Common Core attempts to prepare kids for the workforce (emphasis on “attempts”), not for college. By high school, common core will place kids years behind the education level in other countries. Can schools do anything about that? They can modify the standards by an additional 15%, but the standards themselves are under a copyright by NGA Center, and the Council of Chief State School Officers; regretfully, they are the only group that has the legal right to change the standards. So if your school says “we modified and only partially adapted” in an attempt to bring levity to the change, realize that they are grossly misleading you, or they have no idea what they’re talking about – both of which should concern you.
Why did states welcome Common Core with open arms, many knowing the issues it would cause? The almighty dollar. Money trumps the future of your child’s education in today’s world, it’s as simple as that. Money and waivers are given to those that welcomed Common Core standards and testing. Period.
Sandra Stotsky, Professor of Education Reform, had the following to say about Common Core standards when she refused to sign off on the standards:
“As empty skill sets, Common Core’s ELA “college readiness” standards weaken the base of literary and cultural knowledge needed for authentic college coursework, decrease the capacity for analytical thinking, and completely muddle the development of writing skills.”
She goes on to note that English teachers are being asked to teach on materials that are beyond their skill set. At minimum, 50% of the curriculum must be filled with informational nonfiction material (questionable material at best); reducing literary material to dismal levels, occasionally minor quotes and sections are substituted instead of allowing students to absorb the full material.
Maybe now is when you might question the importance of literature. “What’s the big deal?”… As infuriating as it is to even hear it be questioned, I believe that we should seize the opportunity to explain.
If not for the works of Mary Wollstonecraft, the original feminist movement may not have been born. No, not today’s feminist movement, the feminist movement that would be revolted by today’s feminists and their ultimate goal of objectifying women across the globe.
“…and women, intoxicated by the adoration that men (under the influence of their senses) pay them, don’t try to achieve a permanently important place in men’s feelings, or to become the friends of the fellow creatures who find amusement in their society…
…as blind obedience is ever sought for by power, tyrants and sensualists are in the right when they endeavor to keep women in the dark, because the former only want slaves, and the latter a play-thing.” – Mary Wollstonecraft
Literature is an important key to understanding moral customs and cultural differences. We learn about the beauty of a free society and the struggles highlighted for our minds to analyze. We are forced to contemplate good and evil, acknowledge the differences between our fellow man, and imagine for just a time that we are struggling with the lost. Our emotions are challenged, and our compassion developed. It teaches us the benefits of metaphors, comprehension, and depth of character; every person, every stage, every smell, every scene is custom to the reader. Building it inside of our minds while the story unfolds. They are not just a people spoken about in our history books, the characters become a being that we know and care for; we develop a logical response to both good and bad actions through our connection to the character. You may choose to toss it out with the pile of what you deem to be useless art, but I fear that the societal decline that has accompanied the lack of reading and writing is of no coincidence.
Let’s also not forget that our failing vocabulary could use a substantial lift.
See “bling,” “twerk,” “cuz,” “totes,” “peeps,” “adorbs,” “realz,” “dat,” “haz,” “luv,” “YOLO,” “swag,” “outa,” “dat,” “whatevs,” etc…. I rest my case. Do you realize that many of those words won’t even be corrected by autocorrect? Dat should totes make you weep 4 humanity, Peeps, 4 realz.
Our education system is encouraging/forcing kids to waste much of their time on not using their mind to contemplate morals, use critical thinking or build worlds inside their imagination. If time is the true currency, what our schools are doing is as frivolous as flushing your money down the toilet. In reality, it is more so. Once again Stotsky reiterates:
“Teachers and parents are regularly being told that more technical and persuasive writing will boost students’ critical thinking. But little analytical thinking is apt to appear in letters to the principal about cafeteria food that kids are often encouraged to write in order to practice writing a “persuasive” letter. Reading researchers know there is absolutely no research to support the idea that increased study of “literary non-fiction” or “informational” texts in the English class, or increases in persuasive writing, will increase students’ level of analytical thinking. There is every reason to believe they will, instead, lower the level.”
To read her full statement, click here.
I would be remiss if I also didn’t note that we had already experienced the failures of universal testing with NCLB (No Child Left Behind). Schools in low income neighborhoods became what Common Core wishes for all schools to become: test preparation programs. NCLB disciplined high performing schools and children on its war path to lift poor performers up. This never works. It’s never worked. Why do we keep trying such doomed experimental programs with education AND economics???
So then we take billionaires and politically motivated organizations and give them the reins to dismantle a democratic institution that has done more to bring equality than any other democratic institution in the USA? We provided opportunity to those who made the choice to seek it out, now we are punishing those who strive for success. Since NCLB & Common Core, there has been an increase in charter schools; meanwhile, thousands of public schools have been forced to close. Public schools that while in poor neighborhoods were the bridge that offered hope and freedom to children that, despite their circumstances, created within themselves the ability to survive & accomplish. Years later we now have increased child poverty, and the continual widening of achievement gaps due to standards that were backed by both sides of the aisle.
Well done, Ol’ Chaps!
Back to Common Core – Not only will children suffer in their reading and writing, but in a world where comprehension is not a priority, math and various other studies will take a detrimental blow. We are already seeing arithmetic problems in grade school students turned into 100+ steps of wasted time. It is making children feel like failures, when in reality, their minds should be built to solve the problem in the most logical way. Horrifyingly, these practices have never even been tested! They’ve turned the United States education system into a giant experiment. The weakness of the Common Core math standards were even noted by the creators of the standards themselves.
But then it gets even better!
We have a nation of kids who have constant entertainment. Video games, television, movies, etc. fill their days. Constantly being fed the narrative. Constantly being mind numbingly entertained. Then we send them to school and expect them to pay attention to the mundane, the redundant, and the unimaginative, then drug them because they are “hyper.”
Historically we didn’t have the issues that we have, and many other countries don’t either, so what gives? Clearly changes in the last 50 years have led us to this point, what were they? Do they have to do with chemicals? Food Dyes? Education? Shouldn’t those be the first questions we respond with before we start pumping children with more pharmaceuticals than an 80’s rock band?
If you or your child exhibit 6 of the 18 ADHD behaviors, you/they can be labeled as an individual who suffers from a “biologic abnormality of the brain” and handed a prescription. Read the behavior list sometime, you’ll likely come to the same conclusion as me: every human being at some point has suffered from ADHD. Imagine the entire population of Nicaragua, that’s roughly how many children in the US alone are on Psychotropic drugs. Kids are diagnosed at an alarming rate. Once signs of a hyper personality are found, parents, teachers, and doctors flock to the easy out like starving castaways who have just come upon a Pizza Hut.
Maybe I’m just primitive in nature, turning from my cave art to watch the spectacle and shake my club in mumbled revolt, but those “symptoms” seem to me to be an epidemic of both the mind and the heart. I’m not a doctor, but I am an observer of society and the downhill slope it’s taking that leads directly to a lava pit.
In a world filled with sensory overload, we’ve lost a huge part of who we are. With every advancement made in video games, the entertainment industry, and now faulty school standards, we slam another nail into the casket of creativity and imagination. Now I’m not saying that all movies, games, and shows are bad, I’m just saying that as time goes on, our hearts become more invested in things that require little thought process. God created our minds to be used, and when kids are scratching on the walls of conformity we’ve now decided they need a pill instead of a change. They don’t require self-discipline because it’s not expected any longer, and then we have to deal with ADULTS that have no self-discipline.
And Isn’t that a peach….
Welcome to the new America. Start standing up against the change, or conform to the new thought standards, perpetuating a system that creates robots that simply obey the government agenda. Educators & politicians can call what they are doing education, but indoctrination by any other name will destroy as swiftly.
“What appalls me most about the standards is the cavalier contempt for great works of human art and thought, in literary form. It is a sheer ignorance of the life of the imagination. We are not programming machines. We are teaching children. We are not producing functionaries, factory-like. We are to be forming the minds and hearts of men and women to be human beings, honoring what is good and right and cherishing what is beautiful.” Dr. Anthony Esolen – Providence College