Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Dirty Little Secret of Common Core


What is appropriate reading material for children?  It is certainly an excellent question, begged by the absolute stipulation that it must have parental approval, so how does a parent find out?  Well, there are countless reading lists across the internet - it's super easy to just Google, "middle school reading list" for example and you'll retrieve a number to choose from. 

I remember several years ago having the occasion to be in the library of Deer Creek Middle School.  As I was waiting for one of my daughters to participate in an activity, I began to look over the book summaries posted on the walls of the library.  I was actually shocked at what I found.  In fact, I was so shocked, that I started looking into middle school reading lists and did a whole series on reading lists.  Though these are several years old now, I would take the time to study these.  You may not know what your child is reading and moreover, you may not know what kind of books are available in the school library or what the school is assigning to be read.  Unfortunately, it's not hyperbole that the older kids get, the less likely they are to spontaneously inform unsuspecting parents of anything they might be afraid would provoke a reaction at home.

Just recently, at an Oklahoma state school board meeting, we heard a boy (recently graduated) explaining how much fun it had been to be in this super cool non-traditional classroom setting where they got to read the book Unwind.  This book is basically about 'aborting' children after the age of 14 if they are unwanted/needed/desired.  I feel certain this would set off very stimulating discussion in the college crowd, but is this really a shining example of what kids in 6-12 grades should be reading?  Shouldn't these kids be reading something like CS Lewis or TH White for example?

This thought occurred to me as I read a very pornographic depiction of the book "Bluest Eyes",  (Toni Morrison, author), by an Oregon mother who had realized the volume was included on the Common Core State Standards Appendix B - the document that provides literary examples for use in the classroom with ALL Common Core standards.

But wait, shortly afterward, I read an article about an Arizona mom who decided to check into these 'exemplars' herself and found another pornographic book called "Dreaming in Cuban".  Immediately, she contacted a local organization who involved the press, creating such a stir that Arizona pulled the book.

I then stumbled upon a story about a high school English teacher FORCED to have students,
"Write an essay that compares the cultural experience reflected in To Kill a Mockingbird and The Mother of Monsters and explain how this experience helped a character demonstrate individuality in the face of outside pressure." 
She finally describes the lesson this way,
"This is obviously a pro-abortion message. This story paired with this assignment is a repulsive perversion of the concept of “lesson”; it is a corruption of anything descent and good."
"There is something deeply repulsive in this lesson, especially as it is aimed at students as young as 13."
Chester Finn of the Fordham Institute calls these recent concerns about the Common Core, "arcane", attributing the flap to
"the blurry border between academic standards and classroom curricula."
Okay, everyone is entitled to their opinions, however, it's important to point out here that Mr. Finn is a Common Core proponent whose organization has been paid big bucks by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to essentially prop them up and serve as their apologist.  That kind of makes Mr. Finn's argument here...shallow.

I have to admit, however, he does have a point on the 'blurry border' business.

As soon as the standards were adopted by most states in 2010, the horn sounded and publishers were off to the races.  Within a matter of months there were publishers everywhere stamping "Common Core Aligned" on their textbooks to take advantage of the 'new' market.  Catherine Gewertz had a great article in July, where she quipped,
all you need to do is take one step to trip over materials that are allegedly aligned to the Common Core State Standards.
Certainly, this is great for the Free Market and all, but, truly, how are any of us - parents, taxpayers, administrators, teachers - supposed to know definitively what is and isn't Common Core related?  But then again, does it matter whether it's Common Core aligned or not?

Oklahoma has changed the name of our standards to the Oklahoma Academic Standards even though when you click on the link to the Standards they go directly to the Common Core pages!  In fact, when a ROPE Facebook follower saw the post we made on Bluest Eyes, she contacted our State Department of Education and was told



Is it truly appropriate to have the kind of reading material mentioned here in ANY high school in America?  I would argue no.

Parents, PLEASE...take the time to look over the information your child is bringing home from school.  Ask your child's teachers what is being taught!  Stay informed and help us FIGHT COMMON CORE!