Common Core Fears: Short Atlantic Reflections

From the article Suburbia and Its Common Core Conspiracy Theories:

Many parents view the Common Core and the accompanying tests as a threat to their ability to keep their kids safe in a hostile world. Suburban parents, who are known for being particularly involved in their kids’ education and traditionally enjoy a good deal of influence on district policymaking, are frustrated by not being able to convince their local school boards to alter the standards or testing requirements. They worry that they won’t be able to help kids with homework, because the new learning materials rely on teaching methods foreign to them. They worry that, ultimately, their kids will be unemployed and living in the basement in their 20s.

A few thoughts on this key paragraph.

Traditionally enjoy a good deal of influence on district policy making.

Very true. A cynical part of me wants to say welcome to the world of inner-city urban education, where policy making is frequently dictated by state legislators. We can debate whether this is good or bad. And it may be a bit of a chicken or the egg issue. If lower performing , inner city districts had parents who were more involved (and to be clear, there’s a whole HUGE list of why they’re not involved) would said districts be lower performing? But that particular privilege of influence is weakening as education policy makers pivot towards various global and large scale boogymen (China! Lack of jobs! Generation of slackers! Economic stagnation, etc). Big problems require big (and centralized) solutions apparently.

They worry about not being able to help kids with homework.

Confession: I can’t help my 3rd and 4th grade daughters with their math homework. I keep “doing it wrong”. As an educator, I get the shift. The newer ways of doing math are there to help kids develop a better number sense. And, for certain, number sense is important. I really want my kids to have good number sense. It will help them immensely in the complicated world they’re about to inherit.

But I can’t do it. Not without googling the techniques, spending a good amount of time figuring out a new way to get the same answer, and then probably messing it up when trying to explain things to my perplexed daughters. It’s just a whole lot simpler to show them how I would do it (the old way). And I don’t feel stupid. I suspect that’s why a lot of parents are torqued. No one wants to feel stupid with 3rd grade math.

They worry their kids will be unemployed and living in the basement in their 20s.

This, I think, is the root fear (I can certainly identify with it). In America, the past 3 decades has not been great for the middle class (on the plus side, it’s been great for the rest of the world!). We’ve seen a more opportunities to fall out of the middle class rather than fall into  the middle class. There are a CONSIDERABLE amount of reasons for this (and these reasons take on their own colors given your political persuasion), but the fear is very real to parents who want the best for their children.

Unfortunately, the Common Core has become a symbol of that fear.

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