Here we go again. The "Common Core Curriculum" is another top-down educational innovation that will solve many decades of educational decline. The federal government and the educational elites are already heralding it as the salvation of American educational woes.
Upon entering the White House, each president makes education a high priority. They act as if they possess the magic to wave their wand to significantly improve the learning of any young citizen.
These presidents, from Reagan's "Nation at Risk", Clinton's "Improving America's Schools Act", George W. Bush's "No Child Left Behind," to President Obama's "Race to the Top," created their educational initiatives. After spending billions in taxpayer dollars to make a big splash in the media, our educational performance has remained stagnant or has deteriorated. These Washington, D.C., proclamations have not worked. The latest version, "Common Core" is being currently pushed by "Race to the Top" grants, which require states to accept the Common Core curriculum.
This Common Core approach emphasizes higher-level thinking with little concentration on learning the basic skills. This makes as much sense as asking a student to focus on her acting ability before she learns her lines. The educational standards that emphasize analytical and critical thinking are admirable goals. The concern is the way these are defined and the age at which they must be mastered.
Class discussions with a facilitating teacher to simulate a college classroom may be engaging for some excellent students. It is going to be a horrendous waste of time for middle- to low-functioning students. They need to fill in their academic gaps. These students without basic skills will never be able to pass entrance exams needed to qualify for higher education. Critical discussions are easier and probably more interesting than rote learning, although it is putting the cart before the horse.
The ability to analyze information to arrive at a decision takes certain basic skills and developmental readiness. Jean Piaget, developmental psychologist, noted children weren't ready for abstraction before 12 years old. Common Core students are expected to develop these abilities before they are mature enough to do it.
Common Core Curriculum is more intrusive into the lives of students than former federal education programs. It sets standards, testing protocols and a defined curriculum for students. The National Center for Educational Statistics, NCES, with other federal agencies, intends to collect personal protected data on our children. This data includes religious and political affiliations; attitudes toward sex, nonschool activities and detailed tracking information on the child's whereabouts. Mining the "Big Data" by the federal government is an invasion into our children's and family's lives. It is ominous to our freedom.
The emphasis on higher-level thinking without providing the students the skills to reach them has been the fundamental failure of U.S. education. We are not providing a foundation in basic skills. Our reading, writing and math as compared to other nations are pathetically low.
Even if students had mastered these basic skills, no citizen would want to give the federal government the power to define critical thinking on examinations. Analyzing math and word problems and drawing conclusions is an elementary level of critical thinking. However, in the more subjective social sciences the conclusions drawn are not based on the scientific method. They are directly influenced by one's premises, which are influenced by moral values. These pseudo science conclusions are based more on ideology than on hard evidence, which can be used as propaganda by the central government.
Teachers need to be aligned with the parents and students of the local community. The most effective educational programs individualize schoolwork for the student. The success of home schooling and private schools demonstrates this reality. Quality education bubbles up from the local community grassroots. Government bureaucrats dictating what needs to be taught in our local classrooms will lead to social engineering, not independent thinking.
Bureaucrats need to get out of the way to allow administrators and teachers to create individual programs for students.
Dr. Maglio is an author and owner/director of Wider Horizons School, a college prep program. You can visit Dr. Maglio at www.drmaglio.blogspot.com.