Wondering just what the Common Core standards for math and English/language arts are? Several commentators on earlier posts were perplexed about the details – and rightly so. Who wants to read pages and pages of EduBlab on the Jimmy Carter Memorial Department of Education website? Even then, like ObamaCare, Common Core is evolving, and we are just understanding it as it gets implemented. Should we be relieved that it’s only our kids and grandkids who are the guinea pigs? After all, most of us got a pretty good education.

Still wanting more? Well in the hardest nutshell in my cupboard, Common Core math standards are the institutionalization of Everyday Mathematics, a curriculum that was invented by Zalman Usiskin of Winnetka Way fame a few decades ago. Other iterations like Trailblazers have come along, but the basic agenda is about estimating not correct answers, but a range of answers that the student articulates in verbal form. If multiplication were a color, what color would that be?

Here are some problems with Everyday Math that I noticed back when I was on the Wilmette School Board:

  1. Without learning basic math facts cold, students will not learn long division; without long division, they won’t ever get inside the system of algebra.
  2. Any student who is not a verbal learner (think some Asian kids, left brainers, boys) are left behind when they have to verbalize math concepts.
  3. Some parents have daytime jobs and don’t want to do the follow-up team-homework required to back up the math ideas.
  4. Most elementary school teachers did not get a degree in education because they excelled in math; this curriculum requires very deep math skills from teachers.

The Common Core standards for English/language arts are easier for most to get: 70 percent government (non-fiction) pamphlets v. 30 percent literature. Use your imagination: literature pushes young minds to stretch and absorb history, language, vocabulary, inspirational and challenging ideas. Raise your hand if you think more than half our citizens (Obama voters?) have next to no connection with why the founders of our Constitutional republic wrote the Bill of Rights or the Declaration of Independence. This is not a good thing.

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