Thorner: Author Peter W. Wood proclaims ‘Common Core is dead’

April 13, 2016

 

Monday, April 11, 2016

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By Nancy Thorner –

As part of The Heartland Institute’s continuing series of book and movie events, specifically designed to showcase freedom, the book, “Drilling through the Core”, edited with an introduction by Peter W. Wood, was presented by the author on Wednesday, April 6 in the newly named Andrew Breitbart Freedom Center, located at Heartland’s Arlington Heights facility, 3939 North Wilke Road, Arlington Heights, IL 60004.

As noted on the back outside cover of “Drilling through the Core”

“For the first time in history Americans face the prospect of a unified set of national standards for 8-12 education.  While this goal sound reasonable, and Common Core has been presented as a state-led effort, it is anything but.  This book analyzes Common Core from the standpoint of it deleterious effects on curriculum — language arts, mathematics, history, and more — as well as its questionable legality, its roots in the aggressive spending of a few wealthy donors, its often-underestimated costs, and the untold damage it will wreck on American higher education.  At a time when more and more people are questioning the wisdom of federally-mandated one-size-fits-all solutions, “Drilling through the Core” offers well-considered arguments for stopping Common Core in its tracts.” 

Peter W. Wood is an anthropologist and former provost.  He was appointed president of the National Association of Scholars in January 2009.  Before that he served as NAS’s executive director (2007-2008) and as provost of the King’s College in New York City (2005-2007).  Wood is the author of several books, including “A Bee in the Mouth: Anger in America Now” in 2007 and in 2003 “Diversity: The Invention of a Concept.”  

Peter Wood was introduced by Lennie Jarratt, Project Manager – Education Transformation at The Heartland Institute.

According to Peter Wood, “The Common Core Is Dead”.  It died of parental opposition, teacher opposition, political defection, and perhaps most importantly, flat-out academic failure.  But it would be foolish to think that dead things can’t hurt us.  Consider Bernie Sander’s resurrection of the Socialist economic theories, twenty-five years after the burial of the Soviet Union.  Dead things can likewise also take the living with them, as in the case of Jeb Bush with his unconditional support of Common Core, from which he realized sizable financial gains. 

Common Core was first perceived by architects, David Coleman and Jason Zimba, as a solution to the achievement gap between White and Asians on one hand, and Blacks and Hispanics on the other hand. Finding this concept difficult to sell to the general public, the achievement gap premise was changed.  Common Core would now make all students ready for college and careers.

According to Peter Wood, Common Core was never intended to raise standards.  Instead, it was a plan to establish a nationwide floor that would also be a ceiling.  In other words, Common Core “was anti-excellence wrapped in the gift wrap and tinsel of excellence.”

A study by the liberal Brookings Institution in March of this year found no evidence that Common Core State Standards have made much of a difference during the six-year period when NAEP scores have been stagnant.  The good news in the report is that Common Core does not appear to be the cause for the NAEP stagnation, as states not accepting Common Core suffered the same stagnation. 

This troubling stagnation, as explained by Mr. Wood, has its basis in the following: an increase of single-parent families (the top factor); family dysfunction; financial insecurity, and immigration, all of which will result in poor school performance, and which likewise prove that changing the standards for K-12 education was never going to change the level performance of students. Common Core’s fine-tuned curriculum has seemingly moved in the opposite direction, which explains why SAT and ACT scores have dipped in the Common Core era. 

Common Core Language Arts and Math Standards evaluated

There has been a decline of instruction in literature, to be replaced by non-fiction.  Why?  Because Common Core insists that students learn best from treating everything as informational texts, despite the ability of literature to teach students how to read beyond the literal text.  As such students learn how to see the forest and not just the pine needles.  Common Core leads students into the territory of pine needles.

Regarding Common Core English Language Arts own standards, Mr. Wood knows of no college that would value an approach to literature that chops everything into fine pieces and then dissolves content so students come away not knowing why they read “Moby Dick” or any other book.  However, such a spoon diet of fragmented versions of great literature conforms to how Common Core views literature.  In its fragmented approach, Common Core is able to ward off literature as dangerously privilege or even elitist.   

Common Core math slows down the pace of math instruction.  Instead of third grade before pre-Common Core, when almost all state expected students to master basic addition and subtraction, Common core decided fourth grade would do.  Instead of 5th grade, the multiplication table and long division has been moved to the 6th grade.  Algebra is kicked up to the 9th grade.  Often there is no room for pre-calculus instruction, logarithms are barely mentions, parametric equations are absent, and Arithmetic series are omitted.  Adults can live without this mathematical knowledge, but the door is being shut for millions of students for careers in fields where a solid foundation in math is critical. 

The thinning out of math standards betrays the two main promises made by Common Core architects, already mentioned David Coleman and Jason Zimba, that the Standards would make students college and career ready, and that the Standards would be internationally bench marked to at least as high as the standards in countries that excel in math.  Last year the U.S. ranked a dismal 28th.   

Many parents have noticed that there children are being taught tediously complicated forms of computation in primary school, which are deliberately meant to drive a wedge between parent and child.  Geometry is now being taught in a way tried before in the Soviet Union in the 1980’s, where it was deemed a failure and discarded.

The aims of Common Core

As to what kind of people we want our children to become, as inferred by the nature of Common Core standards, the outcome is summarily set forth by Peter Wood:

Common Core aims to make children into well-organized utility-maximizers — people who do not waste time contemplating hard problems or dreaming big dreams, but who have a ready means to cut things down to the size they already know how to handle.  The perfect job for a Common Core graduate is probably coding. 

Parroting the confession made by one of the Common Core architect, Common Core defenders are now using the excuse that the initial  “college ready” promise of Common Core was meant to convey a readiness to attend a “community” college.

Peter Wood is adamant that Common Core is finished and that a resurrection by die-hard partisans can’t be achieved, for dead is dead!  Mr. Wood mused how the Common Core mess will be cleaned up; who will pay for it, and what will come next? 

Not so sure about “dead is dead”

Given the millions of dollars the Gates Foundation provided to set the stage for Common Core (some of which was used as bribe money to convince cash-strapped states to sign on to Common Core sight unseen) to the large investments spent in school districts on textbooks, teacher training, and computers to support the Common Core tests, the Common Core curriculum can’t be eliminated just by wishing it were so by waving a magic wand.

Consider what happened this past December when both the U.S. Senate and the House voted to continue this nation’s federal boondoggle in education.  Despite talking points about getting the feds out of creating standards, there is still a requirement that states continue to maintain high state standards, a clear nod to the continuation of the much-hated Common Core State Standards.  Furthermore, states must continue to submit their state plans for review and approval by the U. S. Secretary of Education.

Eagle Forum described the bill, “Every Student Succeeds”, as Common Core by a New Name and on Steroids.  Supported by the owners of the Common Core standards, the bill (S 1177) was guided through Congress by Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN).

Concluding thoughts

Suggestions given by Mr. Wood as to how parents can survive waiting out the bad years ahead: 

1) Move children out of public schools.

2) Keep children in public schools but work extra hard at home to compensate for Common Core’s poor delivery of essential knowledge and it mis-channeling of children’s intellectual development. 

Peter Wood’s current focus is to make less harsh the upstream damage to higher education.  One of his battles will be to fight the continuing effort of the College Board, under David Coleman’s stewardship, to institutionalize as much of the Common Core as possible through the SAT’s and Advanced Placement examinations.

A live stream youtube video of the Patrick Wood event can be seen here

Upcoming Heartland events in April will feature F. W. Buckley, author of “The Way Back: Restoring the Promise of America” on Thursday, April 14, from 5:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. 

On Wednesday, April 18, Brian Fojtik and Victoria Vasconcellos will speak about the impact the new “vapor wars” (e-cigarettes) have on science, public policy, business and jobs?  

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