Uncommon Core

The Common Core is the new traveling circus act that will save public education. The standards were the initiative of Achieve, a group of governors and corporate leaders, that felt students were not being adequately prepared for life after high school.

Notice that the profession of teacher is absent from that group. No biggie.

The majority of states have adopted the Common Core Learning Standards.

In New York State, these new standards were adopted the same year the new teaching standards were implemented. If you didn’t know, teachers are now evaluated on how their students perform on tests, in break dance competitions, in skeet shooting tournaments, in HVAC repair and the Hunger Games.

In other words, teachers were a bit stressed. But thankfully the state stepped in and paid $12.9 million to outside corporations to develop lesson modules around the Common Core.

What’s even better is a single lesson unit is only 300 pages long and includes such helpful tips as how to speak to little humans.

For example, let’s say you want your students to look at a chunk of text, the module will direct the teacher or actor to state: “Look at this text. What do you notice about it?”

All this time, I had been saying “Tree! I like pretzels crushed in my hair. Pigeons dance sometimes” when I’ve wanted students to look at a chunk of text. Had I known that I needed to actually say “Look at this text” I could have saved a lot of time, time I spent instead on brushing pretzel crumbs out of my hair. Thanks corporation!

The real gem of these multi-million dollar modules is the content. It’s as if the content was written by people who had never met a child or been a child themselves or been in a school or taught anything other than a hamster how to bubble in a state assessment.

For example, the second grade module wants second graders to be able to “describe the basic principles of Hinduism and Buddhism” and “describe the teachings of Confucius.”

That is fucked up.

–Confucius

For a point of reference, second graders are typically 7 years old with only a tiny bit of exposure to world religons that they may have gained from reading Green Eggs and Ham. That is totally a Daoist tract.

If you asked a 7-year-old to describe the basic principles of Hinduism, the 7-year-old will likely respond: “My dad’s birthday is in March.”

The module for first grade wants first graders to “explain the significance of gods/goddesses, ziggurats, temples, and priests in Mesopotamia” and “explain the significance of the Code of Hammurabi.”

For a point of reference, a first-grader is typically 6 years old. First grade is usually when students learn how to read possibly by reading Dick and Jane Violate the Code of Hammurabi. 

To expect a 6-year-old to “explain the importance of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers and the use of canals to support farming and the development of the city of Babylon” may be a bit of an overreach considering that 6-year-olds still think Abraham Lincoln is alive and is my father.

The kindergarten module is about genocide and its implications on a global scale.

I’m joking.

The module for kindergarten has the expectations that kindergarteners will be able to  “describe the purpose of the Declaration of Independence as a statement of America’s liberty” and “explain Abraham Lincoln’s role during the U.S. Civil War.”

For a point of reference, a kindergartener is typically 5 years old; some start the school year at 4. In kindergarten, children start to learn the letters and sounds of the alphabet, like D is for the Declaration of Independence, a social contract that clearly delineated the rights of a people choosing to govern themselves and B is for barn.

In kindergarten, students practice the skills of cooperation and sharing. They hold hands when they walk to the nurse’s office and generally have difficulty finding their classroom when they drop their books off at the library. They usually don’t discuss the horrors of slavery, the dissolution of our country over that institution and Lincoln’s decision to go to  war to save the union

But what the fuck do I know? I’m only a teacher.

Speaker7 had to refer to Google heavily during this post having little to no familiarity about the Code of Hammurabi or the principles of Buddhism. Her elementary school teachers really sucked. All they did was taught her how to read, write and arithmetic. 

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51 comments

  1. You are taking the piss here – aren’t you? Because if you are not, America is doomed. I do not use the word lightly. If it is any consolation on the other side of the pond equally stupid lesson modules/teaching advice is rampant. My sister showed me a ginormous lever-arch file containing the latest wisdom passed down from those who are not teachers and who have never taught. She is the Head of Modern Languages at a large comprehensive (public school) of 1200 kids aged 11 – 18. French happens to be ‘her’ language and she has a Masters degree to prove it. The lever-arch file said on page 1. It is advisable to know something about the language you are teaching ……..!!!!!!! I kid you not. What a revolutionary idea, that the teacher should actually know something about the subject being taught.
    I revise what I said – America AND Britain are doomed.
    Join me in China and learn Mandarin, you know it makes sense.

    1. Sadly, I do not make this shit up. This is real and you are absolutely correct in the doom assessment. In fact you get an A on that test. China sounds pretty good.

  2. I’m hoping this is another one of your clever sarcasms but I fear it might not be. At my daughter’s elementary school in NJ, they have gutted the arts and phys ed curriculum in favor of a concentration on preparing for the state regents tests. It’s a single-minded focus on measuring the success of the school. There’s an overwhelming fear they’ll fall below the median.

    @ herschelian: Yes. We are doomed.

    1. It is not made up. I have taught the 5th grade module which is spending 12 lessons on closely reading different articles of the UN Declaration of Human Rights. It’s “awesome”

    1. I’ve had primary teachers tell me that they are witnessing a new level of text anxiety that they never before encountered. In Kindergarten, kids are assessed on 19 different data points 3x a year.

      1. My friend’s child is having daily melt downs and is being told, one month after school has started, that she’s probably fail 3rd grade – this child is SMART and has SMART parents, but she has testing anxiety, and now abject humiliation because she’s going to ‘fail’ – way to go, education system. Kindergarten kids should not even KNOW what tests are…this is why I’m so we can go to a school that does not do any kind of testing at all – this is just horrible and a dis-service to teachers and students.

      2. My son has been receiving early intervention for motor skill issues since 6 months and when his case was turned over to the school district at 3, he had to undergo an IQ test. It was given by a stranger in the late afternoon when my son got home from day care and only wanted to play with his trucks. He “bombed” it…never mind that he could spell his name. Fucking crazy.

  3. I heart you. My state has now also adopted the PAARC test, which means that all of their short-answer tests will be on computer for kids third grade and up. Sadly, keyboarding isn’t taught until 8th grade. Too bad, little dudes. It sucks to be you!

  4. I know that we are in a sad, sorry state of affairs with the Common Core but I really had NO idea that these were the standards for first and second graders. Are you making this up (I hope????) — my two stepchildren are both teachers and I’m pretty sure they love the Core as much as you do. What can we possibly do to change this? I know — how about teaching kids to read and write … and decline sentences!!

  5. I am right there with you with the common core woes! As a teacher, it is shocking what the common core is requiring. For so long we have been dealing with No Child Left Behind, but I feel like the Common Core leaves all kids AND teachers in the dust. My husband keeps saying it will all change when they get sued!

      1. It has to. I just don’t know how anyone can honestly keep up with it. One of my favorites is Shakespeare in the middle school. It is hard enough teaching it to 9th graders.

  6. OMG … and I thought, the german school system was doomed – but we still have way to go till doomsday here, it seems. Though – we ARE on the way, too! Why are western states doing that to their kids? Just another reason not to have victims of that system of my own. And they wonder, why women with higher qualifications have less children over here …

    1. For a first grader, getting him to understand that he lives in a city that is actually part of a state is mind-blowing so to expect first graders to explain early civilization is ridiculous. They study Mesopatamia in 6th grade.

  7. A most excellent critique of our new educational standards! The goal is not to shape impressionable young minds into critical thinkers but to turn out good little worker drones that won’t question their corporate overlords. Makes me glad I made the decision not to procreate so long ago.

    Teachers get too little credit AND PAY for one of the most difficult and critical jobs. There may be a handful of “bad” teachers out there, but most of them are passionate about what they do and they do it well. Too bad we don’t encourage and support them the way we support our troops.

  8. These core standards sound anything but common to me, but what do I know? After reading this, I’ve come to realize that I need to retake Second Grade, if only to learn the difference between Hinduism and Buddhism, something that wasn’t an option at my Catholic school back in the day, but it was all atheist training to me.

  9. Common Core, bleh. Everyone is so stressed about tests that no one is learning. The topic is upsetting, and the practices are saddening… but the part about them thinking Abe Lincoln is your father made me laugh like a loon. Yay for kids and the brilliant way they assemble their knowledge into a complete world! Boo for common core!

  10. My nephew is in first grade, and he is supposed to memorize the Constitution. I love what Rara said about everyone being so stressed about the tests that they aren’t learning. Isn’t the hope that children will want to learn instead of being rolodexes of information?

  11. I would like to see the makers of the test try to pass the test. Now THAT would be interesting. P.S. So glad I decided not to be a teacher at the last minute cause now I have the high-paying totally secure librarian job.

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