Conservative Hysteria Over Common Core is Unfounded

stopfededI am tired of all the hysteria over Common Core!

I have been a conservative activist for almost 20 years. For 15 of those years I have been involved in education as a classroom teacher (5 years) and a school board member (almost 10 years). And our school district is in our fourth year of implementation of Common Core. So, I think I speak with a little authority on the subject.

I will tell you that the many of the concerns surrounding Common Core expressed by my fellow conservatives are off-base at best.

First of all, for those concerned about ultra, left-wing teachings that might be mandated by the folks in DC, please know there is no way the federal government could impose more left-wing standards on schools than those that have already been put in place by the California Legislature.

Prior to Commons Core, students were spoon fed opinions as though they were facts; and told to either agree or get a bad grade. Critical thinking had nothing to do with it. Under Common Core, students are to be given the facts and encouraged to arrive at their own conclusions. And those conclusions should be supported by the facts, not mere “feelings” as some have suggested. Isn’t that what we have been clamoring for in education? Yes… We need to be careful about the facts students are given; and ensure that they are given all the information and correct information. But that should be the case no matter what education standards we are using.

There has also been much criticism of the direction mathematics instruction is taken under Common Core; the emphasis on understanding  how a problem is solved as opposed to simply solving the problem. It may seem overly complicated. But all it is really doing is expanding the scope of learning from only figuring out  “what” the answer is to include ,  “How” that answer was arrived at and “why” it works.

This may seem nonsensical for simple math problems. But when students start working on more complicated mathematical computations, understanding the “how” and the “why” can be crucial to correctly solving the problem. My son, who is currently taking a high level math class in college recently ran into this very scenario. He and a few of his classmates each solved  a complicated problem using differing methods. They all compared notes on how they arrived at their answers; and guess what… they had the same answer! And when they went to the instructor, he shared with them his method and why he used it as opposed to any of the others. COMMON CORE IN ACTION!

I get the inherent distrust of any initiative that comes out of this White House. They have done little to prove that they know what they are doing. And I too am wary of any top-down mandates coming from the federal government, as I believe the best education decisions are made closest to the child. But lets leave the knee-jerk, anti-Obama-ism at the classroom door and engage in truly substantive discussions about how we educate our children.

The fact is, Common Core will be whatever WE make of it. It is a set of standards, NOT A CURRICULUM. We will get to develop the curriculum piece.

I have witnessed firsthand as the staff and administrators of the Robla School District have worked diligently to create the sort of educational programs that will make a difference in students’ lives. They are finally able to break the shackles of the “one sized fits all”, “teaching by the numbers” system that has failed our children for too long. They are actually able to teach; to be creative; to use their gifts to inspire and direct students in a way that works for them.

I remember reading  Newt Gingrich’s book “To Renew America” back in 1995. Specifically, I remember the section on education. It spoke of “Competency-based Educational System”; It spoke of maximizing the use of technology in education. It spoke of a system that created critical thinkers and freed teachers up to be facilitators of education instead of just lecturers.

The more I think about what I read, the more I realize he was describing Common Core. Just something for my fellow conservatives to consider.