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JENKINS: Common Core: One-size-fits-all education

With all the contradictory information being circulated about the Common Core — not to mention dueling and flip-flopping politicians — parents and taxpayers are understandably confused. Is the Common Core a good idea or not?

Speaking as both a parent and a taxpayer, I think I can help — or at least my colleague Chris Tienken can. Tienken is an education professor at Seton Hall University who produced a highly informative YouTube video about the Common Core. I highly recommend that you watch his entire presentation, which you can find easily by searching his name, but I’ll also attempt to summarize the key points here.

Tienken begins by identifying the Common Core as a reaction to what he describes as the “myth” that public education “is in some sort of crisis” linked to “global competitiveness.”

“The argument,” he observes, “goes like this: U.S. students rank woefully behind peers in math and science and that somehow spells trouble” for the U.S. economy. The solution is to pursue “policies that seek to standardize, homogenize and corporatize public education.”

The problem with this argument, Tienken says, is that “there’s no empirical evidence to support it. You can look at test after test, going back to 1964, and find no correlation between test rankings of U.S. students and any indicator of economic prowess, such as per capita GDP or even the Growth Competitiveness Index calculated by the World Economic Forum.”

We should not, Tienken argues, “be making national education policy … built on an education crisis myth derived from lies.”

In response to this imaginary crisis, says Tienken, proponents of the Common Core have created a curriculum based on another myth: that standardizing knowledge for all students is somehow a good thing. He calls this approach “anti-intellectual” and “not logical.”

The Common Core, according to Tienken, is “simply another version of imitate and regurgitate, when what we need is to foster creativity and innovation.” It makes no sense, he says, to “think that having every child master the same exact content at the same exact level of difficulty … is going to prepare all kids for all colleges and all careers.”

The problem becomes more than theoretical when students have to abandon their interests and strengths in order to meet nationally-mandated “educational outcomes:” “Many of the people who make our lives livable would not be in the positions they are today if they were all made to master the same narrow set of skills. Do your dentist, your child’s ballet instructor, your accountant and your mechanic all need to master Algebra II at the exact same level?”

In place of the Common Core, Tienken calls for a system that would “end standardization, return local control and provide financial and technical assistance for school districts to design comprehensive programs with large curriculum offerings to meet the needs of all kids.”

As a parent and a taxpayer, that’s a system I could support.

Rob Jenkins is a local freelance writer and the author of “Family Man: The Art of Surviving Domestic Tranquility,” available at Books for Less in Buford and on Amazon. Email Rob at rjenkinsgdp@yahoo.com or visit familymanthebook.com.