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Why am I against the Common Core State's Standards?

By Michael Bohr

This is a question I am asked all the time and frankly, after repeating for the ten thousandth time, I decided to lay it out here. It's not that I don't mind answering the question to those who are truly in search of my reasoning, so that they may also have some sort of framework in which to begin their own research. What I mind is the way in which disingenuous people who have already made up their mind, WITHOUT doing their own research, try to pigeon hole me into making a mistake in order that they may whip out the old pro-CCSS talking points and attempt to score points with the lookers-on. So here it goes...

The "Standards" themselves: What can be said about the Standards themselves? Well, they are lacking, at best. At no point during the development of the CCSS standards were real Teachers and Educators truly consulted... and neither were Parents. Yes, there was established a so-called "Validation Committee" but there were only two people on that committee who we REAL Teachers and Educators. 1) Dr. Sandra Stotsky, Endowed Chair in Teacher Quality at the University of Arkansas, Designer of the Massachusetts ELA 2) Dr. James Milgrim of Stanford University and NASA mathematician Neither of whom would sign off on the final product. In fact, upon further investigation it was discovered that the notes and suggestions offered by these two highly respected and revered icons of American Education were never even considered or included in the final reports or standards. The only two people truly qualified to create a set of national standards were ignored and marginalized despite repeated warnings that the standards being created for the CCSS were inadequate and inept. Instead, people with no classroom experience and a bunch of corporate middle-managers were the designers. Mathematics: In math, the tried and true, time-tested algorithms of mathematics have been replaced with a failed and rehashed version of "fuzzy math". Add to that, while a child may still get the correct answer by actually working the problem out, if they can't correctly answer the written section on "how did you come to this answer?" in word form, they receive an "incorrect" on their answer and are considered to have failed... despite actually having solved the mathematical equation itself. Further, many of those classic algorithms are replaces with questionably effective graphs, bubbles and artistic mediocrities. Algebra is also now left to the 9th grade, leaving only the most highly gifted mathematical minds barely the time to master Algebra 1 by the end of their senior year, let alone any decent understanding of Calculus or Trigonometry. So much for "College and Career Readiness". English Language Arts: Now here is a mixed bag. In K-8, children are now limited to only 50% literary and 50% "technical" documents.

Correct spelling in the Core in the lower grades (K-3) is no longer emphasized as long as they are phonetically close enough to understand. Yes, REAL teachers do make the attempt to get the children to spell correctly, but there is little time left in the class to work on such things. Scripted writing has been completely abandoned. The only reason for these events seems to be that soon everything will be done on computers... "spell check" covers grammar and punctuation while keyboards eliminate the need for script. During the High School years, Literary works are now limited to only 30% while technical documents such as computer and software manuals and Dept. of Agricultural reports eat up 70% of class time. All this in the name of "critical thinking". Critical thinking is not inspired by technical documents. It may be that there was some critical thinking done in creating those documents, but the truth of the matter is that such writings dictate the assumptions to be made from them, not inspire a thought process to derive any deeper meaning than what was intended by the author. It is in Classical Literature where children and young adults learn to "read between the lines". It is where art exists and imagination is inspired. Technical documents rarely, if ever, draw upon the imagination of the reader or inspire them to think outside the box. That is not the intent of such works. In fact, staying within the box is often a requirement in being able to follow the meaning and intent of these writings. Such lessons will serve only to stifle the imagination of a child, not enhance it. From Dr. Seuss, J.R.R. Tolkien, Lois Lowry and progressing up to the works of Yeats, Homer and Plato, amongst a great many others, are where imagination and hence, critical thinking, come from. Complex sentence structures, innuendo and descriptive writing are what spark thoughts and ideas, imagination and contemplation. The human mind rarely functions in a step 1, 2, 3 and 4 process except while doing chores or tasks related to work. The greatest leaps in human innovation and understanding came from the artistic mind, the contemplative and creative mind. The Common Core's goals of "College and Career Readiness" seem more akin to creating good little worker drones who follow orders to the T, than anything close to creating unique and imaginative individuals. Without getting into the lunacy of the Common Cores curriculum, I would suggest going to websites such as http://www.engageny.org to witness the insanity of the standards set for K-12 students.

The High Stakes Testing: Oh, where to begin with this one? Should I start with how the coming computerization of education will rely on testing children in order for software algorithms, written by basement dwelling introverts who are paid huge sums of money by greedy corporate capitalists for power hungry politicians seeking dominance over the population? How about the intense and increasing amount of time spent preparing for such tests because Teachers and Principals will be fired and schools closed because of low scores? The amount of lost instructional time in the classroom? The diminished or complete loss of time, because of said preparation, for art, music, phys. ed. and even just time to run around and play because recess is barely 20 minutes long. Labor Laws provide for more break time for McDonalds employees than what is given to children and teachers. Maybe I should discuss the many first and second hand accounts of children, parents and teachers who witnessed and/or succumbed to stress-induced physical illness, anxiety and an overall sense of personal inadequacy and failure?

I could certainly go into the reams of research and scientific proof that has proven time and time again that: 1) Some children are great at testing and guessing, while others choke under the pressure despite having very high IQ's and 2) That bubble testing does not gauge intelligence or comprehension and is not a true indicator of either what the child has learned or their capability to learn more. I could, of course, cover the issue of how the Teachers, Principals and schools will be judged by the performance of nervous children who have been told that THEIR very educational opportunities will be judged and limited by the results of these poorly designed and administered questionnaires. One can never forget the insane costs associated with such testing either. From the coming computer infrastructure demanded by the testing companies, per the Race to the Top Grant Applications (read: binding contracts), to the level of security involved in administering these tests that the last three Presidential Administrations couldn't hope to achieve with bureaucracies like Homeland Security to do it for them! And just how much money is it that will be made by the companies who wrote these tests, that was taken away from the schools to pay for supplies and teacher salaries? We're already running on deficits and sacrificing teacher pay, the number of teachers needed to keep class sizes manageable, supplies and upkeep of school houses while spending vast amounts on bureaucracies to watch, monitor and cajole compliance. Tell me again how it is that the secretaries for the Commissioners of State DOE's deserve higher pay and benefits (and a company car) for part time work than the man or woman teaching my children fulltime?

The Psychological Profiling and Behavioral Modifications: This is a real beaut! Because of the intense amount of information and the high stakes testing, as well as being locked up in a building for 5-7 hours a day, children don't exactly behave well. Children, for the most part, are inherently wired to run around and play, having the most creative and silly minds on the planet. This does not work for those who are trying to create "Career and College Ready" little troopers. So, those in the upper echelons of government have decided that they need to study their little minds and come up with ways to keep them all in line and on track to be good little global citizens and efficient workers for the corporations that make their campaign donations and hire them after they leave Political Office... IF they ever leave Office. To these people, the effects of poverty, dysfunctional homes, and single to no-parent families are no excuse for failure. Children who are wired to run and play more than the next child or have developmental issues, or even the classical "late bloomers" cannot be tolerated because they "skew the numbers" and effect the re-election efforts of politicians and profit margins for the newly designed international educational industry. So, vast amounts of data are collected, HIPPA waivers are issued and FERPA regulations are rewritten whilst test questions become less about what the child knows and more about what that child "feels".

Those children who cannot function under these stresses need to be modified through a series of tools such as medications, rewards and consequences, isolation and/or public humiliation for not fitting in with the rest... or performing up to the expectations of distant politicians and social engineers. Curricula is designed to impress upon these children the societal demands and ideologies that are often in contradiction to their familial and cultural heritages. Theory is presented as fact and the facts are lacking in scientific and empirical evidence, but as long as the child buys into it, the child may be spared the aforementioned consequences, medications and other goodies that are in store for them if they don't. One cannot finish without mentioning the millions of dollars spent on creating and deploying such wonderful things as galvanic skin sensors, seat pressure/motion detectors, facial expression and eye movement monitors, the pressure sensing computer mouse and the ever wished for fMRI. If any of this seems ridiculous, out of a sci-fi novel or something you expect from the FBI or Homeland Security interviewing terrorists of criminals, I would highly suggest you read what if called, Promoting Grit, Tenacity and Perseverance" aka The Grit Report, available on the US DOE website. Read that, then come talk to me.

The Data Collection: The SLDS (States Longitudinal Data Systems) as outlined in the NEDM (National Education Data Model) is the very first hurdle the States must comply with, as directed by the Race to the Top Grant Applications (read: binding contract). Every child that has ever gone to school has been warned to keep in line or else it will be note on their "Permanent Record" (queue dramatic sound track). Well, with the SLDS, that permanent record is now truly permanent. From Pre-K through High School and then on through College and well into the Labor force, Americans will have every bit of their lives recorded and stored. No, they will not be stored in private records that are only accessible by permission. They will instead begin being collected by the public schools and sent off to data centers, owned and operated by private corporations and/or Foundations and "non-profit" entities and made available to anyone with a "vested interest" in knowing what is in them. Of course, if a "vested interest" is too high a bar for someone to reach, there's always old fashioned hacking available, for which said storage facilitators have stated unequivocally that they can neither guarantee security nor be held liable for breaches of said security. All of this is being done without parental permission or notifications in many States, as laws are constantly being changed to allow such a malicious gathering of information. From criminal enterprises and people looking to steal identities, to the more insidious criminals of the world who commit such acts of horror that keep parents from sleeping soundly at night, there will now be a one-stop resource with which to find the next victim, our children. For this alone, I would pray that there is a god and that this god would please have mercy on my children and protect them... because you can bet dollars to donuts that Norton AntiVirus is certainly not up to the task of keeping this information safe! Speaking of the information itself, it is a long list indeed! It is also of the highest value for those mentioned prior and for those seeking to market products beyond educational software and into the realm of consumer marketing. Government Agencies will have access to the most personal of information that will make what Edward Snowden had access to seem trivial.

Religious affiliation, political registration and affiliation of the entire family. Economic status, whether the home is rented or owned and in proper condition. Home addresses, bus stop routes, drop off/pick up times and locations and whether someone is home or at work when the child has ended the school day. Medical records will also be available, revealing whether the child is afflicted with a condition or disease, will all be collected and available to anyone who can gain access... and many WILL have access as mentioned before. Still, others will also have access such as future employers, credit and banking institutions, marketing firms bent on selling the latest widget of desire will all be seeking to get their hands on this info... and they will. It is of interest to note that the Data Collection System was the very first requirement laid out and expected of the States via the RttT Grants (read: binding contract). For those who may have their doubts about this, I highly suggest you read the RttT Grant Applications available on your State's website or through FOIA request. The NEDM, available at USDOE and the SLDS information, which can be found on both State and Federal information sources. Oh, also remember to read the Grit Report as this is a key function of how the Common Core's computer model will "adapt to your child's needs".

The Supporters of the Core: Let's put aside the obvious people, such as the corporate money grubbers and the Political Megalomaniacs. Let's talk School Administrators and Teachers, shall we? Both, though mostly the Administrators such as State and Local superintendents are being paid quite handsomely for their support. They are flown to exotic locations then fed the finest foods and adult beverages and given such swag as would make a Hollywood Socialite jealous. And they get good old cash with the promise of future employment when they've had enough of the kiddies. Do the research yourself, but you can start with the investigations and inquiries into Pearson Inc.s method of doing business in NY State. Then there are the Teachers. There are a variety of reasons for teachers to support the Core, the most rampant of which is the fact that they were lied to. They were sold a bill of goods by everyone in their world, from school administrators to vendors to even their own union leaders, who were all given vast sums of money from Education companies to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, amongst others. These teachers were star struck with the idea of helping the very children they honestly love and adore, with nothing but the best of intentions for those children. I blame them not and it is my gut that says this amounts to 99% of teachers. But these are not stupid people and cannot be fooled for long. After the shine wore off and they started to see the actual effects of the testing upon the children and the content, structure and pedagogy of the lesson plans they are only now being forced to shove into the minds of those beautiful children, their eyes have opened and they are both hurt to their very being and pissed off like you wouldn't believe! Go ask my dear friends at the Badass Teachers Association on Facebook at 25,000 strong in less than a few weeks and growing by the hour! Then there are the rest... the lazy and the ignorant. For the latter, they bought the sales pitch and won't hear another word. As to the former, that's another story as the latter may be forgiven... but not these folks! Not one bit of pity or compassion will I lay out for them. These are the ones who shouldn't be within a hundred miles of a student. They see an easy ride for themselves, as long as they play along and don't rock the boat. They are happy to receive the accolades that are only due to the honest 99% known as "Teacher". They like the idea of

not having to design a lesson plan, only hand out packet work and make sure the children fill it out on time. No need to practice any real pedagogy because it's all laid out for them, ready to go right out of the box. No, all they have to do to collect a check and enjoy the social status of Teacher is to play the game. There is a sub-group here to be made note of... those who want all that, but do not want to be held to account for the performance of children on the High Stakes Testing, a la NCLB and now the Common Core via PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) and the SBAC (Smarter Balance Assessment Consortium). Some don't mind the tests and even like them, as long as they are not judged by them. While these are the very, very few amongst the bottom rung of teachers... (Strike that, let's just call them "school employees". They don't deserve the title of Teacher or Educator), they still exist and I despise them. I make no apologies for this and I beg that those who are better than them understand what I am saying and to whom I am referencing. I'm sure you know the type, but I wish you didn't have to.

This is the Common Core... 1. It harms my children and denies them the opportunities to do great things with their lives. 2. It harms the Educators whose hearts are filled with love for the children and stifles their creativity and intellect. 3. It harms my country by further destroying what was once the greatest system of education the world has ever known. 4. It harms my heart because it seeks to deny my family the inalienable right to raise our children in the best way we can find.

That is why I am against the Common Core.

A personal note to teachers regarding Section 5: I could not end this essay without saying this, as it would truly injure my heart if I did not. For the vast majority of you who are Teachers, performing the work which is your love and calling Bravo!!! Thank you so much for all that you do for my children and my country! I and many parents know you are dealing with a great burden that makes your life stressful and causes you great pain. I want you to know that, for as much as I have involved myself in education for my children, I write these words for you as well. I hope that we can get back to having happy children, eager to go to school not only to learn, but to have fun while sharing their lives with you! My children's happiness is contingent on your happiness. You deserve that and a great deal of respect for what you do. I will strive to do my best to insure this as best as I can, in whatever way that I can. Please accept my words with the heartfelt intent and brutal honesty with which I offer them. Together, may we find the way to make school life as enjoyable and fulfilling as possible. Thank you! August 2013 Why Am I Against The Common Core State Standards, Michael Bohr