NOT WITH MY CHILD YOU WON’T
Guest Post by Joan Landes
Joan Landes, a Utah mental health therapist, has spoken out in opposition to Common Core. The speech posted below comes from a recent conference where she spoke. She has given permission to post her findings here, and they are also posted on her blog here: Not with my child you won’t!
Thank you, Joan Landes.
National Educational Standards are Based on Myths and False Premises
Myth 1: International standardized tests are important indicators of international competitiveness
Fact: The U.S. has never scored well on these tests, but still led the world in all economic indicators.
- The international tests began in the mid-sixties and the most important test, PISA began more recently. Since the 1960s, the U.S. has led the world in every significant prosperity indicator including patents, research and development funding, business formation, growth in productivity (Baker, 2007). During this time, the number of years that U.S. students topped the international test scores? None. (Ravitch, 2013)
- High test scores are negatively correlated with national indicators of innovation and entrepreneurship (Baker, 2007). China and Singapore know this and are worried (Zhao, 2012).
- Twenty-five years ago, mediocre scores triggered biased groups to warn “that America’s inadequate education system and workforce skills imperiled our competitiveness and future. Their warnings were followed by a substantial acceleration of American productivity growth in the mid-1990s, and by an American economy whose growth rate surpassed the growth rates of countries that were alleged to have better prepared and more highly skilled workers”(Strauss, 2013).
Myth 2: International tests prove American students don’t perform as well as other industrialized nations’ students.
Fact: The tests don’t compare “apples to apples” for many reasons.
- For instance, the scores from China come only from Shanghai which is the richest and most educationally elite city in China, which forbids migrant children and represents a mere 2 percent of the students in China. (Nisan, 2013).
- U.S. scores, by contrast, are a much more representative sampling of our complex demographics. In fact, students from affluent suburban school districts in the U.S. are very competitive with other students. The student groups who don’t perform well tend to come from dysfunctional families and communities of which the U.S. samples contain more than most other OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) nations (Strauss, 2013; Carnoy & Rothstein, 2013).
- The score spread between all countries is fairly narrow. Between the highest performing state in the U.S. and the highest performing nation in the world (Taiwan) in 2009 is only about a 10% difference in raw scores (Schneider, 2009). Even the spread between Taiwan and the lowest performing “state” (Washington D.C) is only about a 30%. So, that would mean Taiwan scores an “A”, Massachusetts an “A- or B+” and Washington D.C. earns a C-.
- The validity and reliability of the test itself is under serious question (Carnoy & Rothstein, 2013). Translations may not be good, scoring has not been validated and many student groups are not tested (Schneider, 2009). Many countries “cheat” on the test by using non-representative sampling and by “teaching to the test” to increase student scores (Stephen, 2013).
Myth 3: We should seek to emulate China and Singpore’s rigid educational system because they score well on standardized tests.
Fact: China and Singapore are very low on indices of innovation and creativity.
- High test scores are inversely related to high levels of creativity and innovation. Merely 473 innovations from China were recognized by the world’s leading patent offices outside China in 2008 versus 14,399 from the United States. (Zhao, 2012).
- Other indicators of happiness/prosperity/creativity are also inversely related to high test scores (Baker, 2007).
A noted expert on Asia predicted at the World Economic Summit: “The next Apple, the next Google will come, but probably not in China, at least not in the 100 years . . .If China wants (to have an Apple or Google), it must rebuild its education system.”
Another expert states: “Standardized, narrow, and uniform educational experiences, high-stakes standardized testing, (and) a push for conformity . . . are . . . identified in China and Singapore’s education system for destroying the nations’ creativity and entrepreneurial spirits” (Zhao, 2012).
Steve Wozniak from Apple said of rigid systems like Singapore, “When you’re very structured almost like a religion . . . Uniforms, uniforms, uniforms . . . everybody is the same. Look at structured societies like Singapore where bad behavior isn’t tolerated. You are extremely punished. Where are the creative people? Where are the great artists? Where are the great musicians? Where are the great singers? Where are the great writers? Where are the athletes? All the creative elements seem to disappear” (BBC, 2011).
The highest performing nations on the tests (China, Singapore, India, Korea) are moving away from constant testing and rigid structure while the U.S., with the Common Core assessments are diving headlong into old methods that will kill innovation.
In fact, an educational “superstar”, Finland, has NO assessment program until the end of high school, shorter school days and a 3 month break in summer, and very little homework. Furthermore, school is not compulsory until age 7! (Hendrickson, 2012). In addition, the national curriculum is not used to roll spindle and mutilate students and teachers through punitive assessments. The nation has a very “hands-off” attitude toward individual schools and understands that individual customization of curriculum and independence of teachers and schools creates the best results overall (Hendrickson, 2012).
- After an average level of educational achievement is attained, further emphasis on tests is counterproductive to innovation (Baker, 2007).
“Among high-scoring nations, a certain level of educational attainment, as reflected in test scores, provides a platform for launching national success, but once that platform is reached, other factors become more important than further gains in test scores. Indeed, once the platform is reached, it may be bad policy to pursue further gains in test scores because focusing on the scores diverts attention, effort, and resources away from other factors that are more important determinants of national success.” (Baker, 2007)
Myth 4: We should embark on a national, top-down restructuring of educational standards such as Goals 2000, Outcome-Based Education, No Child Left Behind and the Common Core Standards to improve our scores and thus future prosperity.
Are you kidding?
Fact: National Standards in themselves do not determine student excellence. Both the highest and lowest performing nations have national standards. National standards/programs don’t correlate with high achievement on international testing.
But what does make a difference?
Unique state standards do make a difference in student achievement when combined with other layers of teacher requirements, moderate levels of subject mastery assessments and customizable programs for individual students. Massachusetts had a true state-led effort to craft excellent standards and supports. This process was transparent and involved years of public debate and input before a consensus was reached. The results were the envy of the rest of the U.S. and, even with the disparate SES, managed to compare favorably on international tests with the highest performing students in the world.
Using the 50 states as individual laboratories, each state and even each district can learn from the successes and failures of the others. An excellent example of this process is our neighbor to the north, Canada.
When international testing commenced, Canada occupied the middle of the pack, similar to the U.S. They have about 24% of students who are immigrants. But within a few decades, Canada was able to shoot to the top tier, while the U.S. remained stuck. What did Canada do? Did they fund a federal department of education, impose a draconian, coast-to-coast set of uniform standards, assessments and eventually curricula?
No, they did not (Edwards, 2013).
In fact, Canada’s educational system is much less structured than ours. They don’t have a national department of education or provide any federal funding. Each separate province (similar to States) is very competitive with the other provinces and seeks through a process of competition to quickly innovate and implement strategies which make real differences for students (Macleans, 2010). The gains have been real and well-documented by research. This kind of real evidence is what should drive educational decisions—not the machinations of special interests, crony governmentalism, and federal bribes from the Department of Education.
With monolithic national standards, students are effectively trapped with nowhere to escape for a better education. Unless they move to Canada.
Common Core Standards ignore recent research in neuroscience
Science/Research findings are of limited value and can be biased. If the findings of a particular study don’t sound intuitively correct, be very skeptical. Poor science has been used in the past to justify very harmful practices.
Example of the limits of Science: Marasmus
In the early part of the 20th century babies in orphanages were dying at an alarming rate. Scientists were flummoxed. They called the fatal disease “Marasmus” (Montagu & Matson 1979). Assuming the mortality rate was due to bacteria, they prescribed strict separation for the babies from touching or contact. Only ultra-hygenic feeding and diapering were allowed with no extra handling.
The babies continued to die as if in a plague.
Finally, some bright soul decided to start cuddling and hugging the babies. They stopped dying and started thriving. “Marasmus” was nothing more than the deprivation of attention and love (Stout, 2005).
Programs like Common Core Standards may be the “marasmus” of the 21st century. Will our children have to suffer because of badly researched programs?
No experts on child development, mental health, or neuroscience helped to craft Common Core
- CC is based on old motivational science from the 1910s and 1930s with B.F. Skinner.
- He studied “stimulus-response” patterns to learn how to manipulate animals and people.
- A Skinnerian Box
- Skinner developed ways to train people and animals through the coercion of punishments and rewards.
- He even had his own baby daughter in a glass box crib for the first years of life although he said the contraption was a solution to keep her warm without bedclothes (Snopes, 2014)
Problems with using punishments and rewards as motivation
- External reinforcers tend to lose effectiveness over time
- External reinforcers usually take significant time/effort to administer properly
- External reinforcers are often expensive
- External reinforcers often leave subjects feeling manipulated and dependent on external control
- External reinforcers abrogate freedom
- External rewards tend to diminish intrinsic motivation (Timms, 2013)
Current Neuroscience finds that human learning occurs best in loving relationships
Unlike factory production methods from the 1910s, recent findings from neuroscience support the idea that relationships foster better, faster and more permanent learning for children (Cozolino, 2013).
Stressors from Common Core Assessments can interfere with two important types of learning
- Cognitive learning: Facts, procedures, memory, etc.
- Emotional learning: Interpreting others intent, expressing and identifying feelings, self-soothing, risk-taking, etc.
Common Core over-testing creates anxiety
Common Core Assessment partners SBAC and PARC add even more testing than NCLB requires at present. In addition their tests are longer and the consortiums encourage interim testing 2 or 3 times during the year besides the year-end test-weeks. In addition, these tests will be used improperly to decided teacher evaluation and sometimes pay, school rankings, child-progress and possibly even graduation (FairTest, 2014).
Common Core over-testing creates an environment of “conditions of worth”
Children need to feel intrinsically loved and valuable. Failure at tests, and even the testing itself can stress even the most resilient children. The are convinced that their worth is based on their performance.
Vulnerable children respond negatively to even normal stressors
- Children who have been abused, neglected or traumatized often display alarming responses to stress– especially outside of a safe, loving relationship. (Cozolino, 2013; Adams, 2014).
- Studies show that mammals and human that experience little nurturing in early childhood result in lower abilities to emotionally regulate themselves. (Raabe & Spengler, 2013)
Current neuroscience shows how early stress creates later emotional dysregulation
- Epigenetic studies show how the relational stress of maternal deprivation or early trauma creates genetic changes in protein synthesis resulting in the failure to uptake cortisol. This results in longer periods of distress to smaller triggers. (University of Utah, 2014; Weaver et. al, 2004)
Common Core Will Widen the Achievement Gap and Hurt the Most Vulnerable Children.
- 20% of students in school have a “serious” mental/emotional condition that could receive a DSM diagnosis (NIH, 2013)
- Examples: Depression, anxiety, bi-polar disorder, suicidality, self-mutilation, addictions, obsessions, compulsions, panic disorder, reactive attachment disorder, phobias, oppositional defiant disorder, ADHD, trichotillomania, etc.
- Sexual and other abuse is not rare. Approximately 20% of girls and 10% of boys have been sexually abused and have many resulting emotional, cognitive and behavioral problems. (Bolen, 1999)
- Many more students have experienced physical/emotional abuse and neglect and other traumatizing factors which create problems for learning (Childhelp, 2014; Adams, 2014)
Common Core Doesn’t Allow for Individualized Needs of Traumatized Children:
- Healing relationships first (Adams, 2014)
- Development of neglected neural modalities
- Relief from assessments which can create anxiety, depression and avoidance symptoms
The following harms are predictable
- The most vulnerable children will fall further behind the rest of the students.
- The achievement gap will widen (Adams, 2014)
- Vulnerable children will react more dramatically
- Expect more mental disorders
- Expect more anti-social behavior
- Expect more school shootings
- Expect more self-harming and suicides
How Should We Be Teaching Vulnerable Children?
With conditions of supportive relationships and few other resources, even traumatized students will tend to blossom (Cozolino, 2013, Adams, 2014).
Marva Collins taught “unteachable” inner city students in her home with practically no resources and they learned Shakespeare in third grade! Why? She first established a relationship! “I don’t care how much you know until I know how much you care” (Cozolino, 2013)
Relationships are Better Motivators Than Material Rewards
Children will perform better because of a relationship (I want my teacher to be proud of me!) more than for material rewards (I earned a candy bar!). Psychic rewards tend to be more powerful than material rewards.
Optimal Brain Development Requires Early Activation of Many Learning Modes
- Visual processing: drawing, painting, animation, and art appreciation, optical illusions, Where’s Waldo, video games.
- Auditory processing: foreign language, music, reading aloud, being read to, singing
- Emotional centers: identifying emotions, reading emotions on others, self-soothing strategies, emotional expression in safe environment (drama)
- Spatial/movement processing centers: building/manipulating objects, dance, sports, games, puzzles, cursive handwriting
- Memory centers: short term memory, long-term memory
Common Core Neglects Many Brain Modalities
- Common Core focuses huge amounts of time developing the left, prefrontal cortex activities in children to the neglect of other modalities. This will result in later difficulties in synthesis required for higher order thinking tasks such as creativity, innovation, critical analysis, perseverance in the face of opposition, etc. (Young & Doidge, 2013).
Common Core Reduces Experience with Literature
Common Core’s mandates for informational texts over literature deprive student’s brains of context (relationships). Stories/narratives foster larger areas of brain activation and memory activation than dry facts (Cozolino, 2013) Kids tell stories for a reason. The context gives meaning and meaning signals to the brain to remember (Cozolino, 2013)
Literature teaches both cognitive and emotional skills that informational texts can’t teach
One of the most important mental health purposes of education is to teach children to be empathetic, kind, to delay gratification and to become sensitive to their internal self-talk (conscience). Literature can assist with this through social learning. If these skills are not developed, the child becomes a heartless “clever devil” or as C.S. Lewis described, “Men without chests.” (People with active intellects and libido, but no heart or compassion). More admirable literature, not less, is what is need for children’s resilience.
Common Core Assessments Violate Student Privacy and Professional Ethics
Hundreds of assessment points on students and parents have been authorized by the DOE (NCES 2014) including substance abuse, record of child protective services, illnesses, affiliations, etc. These are information points which in the medical or mental health profession would be protected by HIPAA regulations.
New FERPA Changes Violate Privacy
Because the Obama administration made significant, executive changes to FERPA, student information can now be accessed by corporations, school personnel or any other entity that the state approves.
If doctors or psychologists did this, they would be fined at least $100,000 for each instance. And they could lose their license because of breach of confidentiality.
Why can the government get away with this violation?
Common Core is Completely Untested
Common Core Standards are completely untested experimentally yet are being inflicted on virtually every student in the entire U.S. from K-12 with NO PREVIOUS TESTING. This is an egregious violation of basic ethics and good science and shows the developers’ absolute disregard or ignorance of potential harms to children. The EPA conducts more testing for the food dyes in Kool-Aid than has been conducted on Common Core which kids will live with for 8 hours a day for 12 years.
No Hard Evidence Supports Common Core
Unlike other professions, educational bureaucrats are not using “evidence-based practices.”
Instead of funding yet another untested scheme, we must demand “Evidence-based Education”.
Show us the evidence FIRST.
Common Core Aligned Curriculum Provides Validation for Radical Lessons Which Can Harm Children.
CC alignment makes it more difficult for parents to challenge because the administrator appeals to the authority of the standards, “But it’s Common Core aligned!” However, the developers are careful to distance themselves from curriculum development so they can’t be held responsible for damaging lessons. We as parents can’t let them have it both ways. Either the Standards are RESPONSIBLE for the curriculum that is validated by “alignment” or they shouldn’t allow the label “Common Core Aligned.”
Numerous Examples Exist of Radical Curricula “Aligned” or Even Officially Recommended by Common Core:
The examples are multiplying every day, but here are just four problematic sources:
ELA recommended books for 11 graders (Common Core Standards, 2012)
- The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison (Landes, 2013) Graphic child sex abuse depictions. Landes is a mental health professional who asserts that this book could endanger youth who are victims of sexual abuse by forcing them to relive their trauma while justifying the perpetrator.
- Dreaming in Cuban, by Cristina Garcia (Berry, 2013) Graphic sex depictions.
Other texts/books aligned with Common Core
- The Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison (Kane, 2013) Graphic rape depictions.
- Voices in Literature and Writing, (Landes, 2013) Teaches first-graders how to create propaganda and trains them in mental health cognitive distortions.
- Adams, J.M. (2014). New ‘trauma-informed’ approach to behavioral disorders in special education. Ed Source website. Retrieved from: http://edsource.org/today/2014/new-trauma-informed-approach-to-behavioral-disorders-in-special-education/56753
- Arrowsmith-Young, B. & Doidge, N. (2013). The Woman Who Changed Her Brain: And Other Stories of Cognitive Transformation. Published by Simon and Shuster, New York; NY USA.
- Baker, K. (2007). Are International Tests Worth Anything? Phi Delta Kappan, 89(2). 101-104
- BBC. (2011, Jan. 20). Steve Wozniak: “Think for yourself.” www.bbc.co.uk
- Berry, S. (2013). ArizonaSchool District Pulls Sexually Explicit Book Recommended by Common Core Standards. Retrieved from: http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Government/2013/09/12/Arizona-School-District-Pulls-Sexually-Explicit-Book-Recommended-by-Common-Core-Standards
- Bolen, R.M. and M. Scannapieco, Prevalence of child sexual abuse: A corrective metanalysis. Social Service Review, 1999. 73(3): p. 281-313.
- Carnoy, M. & Rothstein, R. (2013). What do international tests really show about U.S. student performance? Economic Policy Institute. January 28, 2013. Retrieved from: http://www.epi.org/publication/us-student-performance-testing/
- Childhelp (2014). National Abuse Statistics, Childhelp website. Retrieved from: http://www.childhelp-usa.com/pages/statistics#gen-stats
- Common Core Standards (2012). Appendix B: text exemplars and sample performance tasks. Retrieved from: http://www.corestandards.org
- Cozolino, L. (2013) The Social Neuroscience of Education: Optimizing Attachment and Learning in the Classroom. Published by W.W. Norton and Company. New York: NY USA.
- Edwards, C. (2013). PISA school test results. CATO Institute website. Retrieved from: http://www.cato.org/blog/pisa-school-test-results
- Henrickson, K.A. (2012). Assessment in Finland: A Scholarly Reflection on One Country’s Use of Formative, Summative, and Evaluative Practices. Mid-Western Educational Researcher. Volume 25, Issues 1/2. Retrieved from: http://www.mwera.org/MWER/volumes/v25/issue1-2/v25n1-2-Hendrickson-GRADUATE-STUDENT-SECTION.pdf
- Kane, A. (2013). Common Core reading lists and pornography. Retrieved from: http://watchdogwire.com/northcarolina/2013/09/29/common-core-reading-lists-and-pornography/
- Landes, J. (2013). Why the book, “The Bluest Eye” should be banned from schools. Psychouttheopposition website. Retrieved from: http://psychouttheopposition.wordpress.com/category/education/
- Maclean’s (2010). Website. Retrieved from: http://oncampus.macleans.ca/education/tag/pisa/
- Montagu, A., & Matson, F. (1979). The human connection. New York: McGraw-Hill.
- NCES(2014) NationalCenter for Educational Statistics. Retrieved from: http://nces.ed.gov/forum/datamodel/eiebrowser/techview.aspx?instance=studentPostsecondary
- NIH (2013) National Institute of Health website. Retrieved from: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/statistics/1anydis_child.shtml
- Nisan, M. (2013). Why Shanghai’s Amazing Test Scores are “Almost Meaningless,” Business Insider, December 3, 2013.
- Raabe, F.J. & Spengler, D. (2013). Epigenetic Risk Factors in PTSD and Depression. Frontiers of Psychiatry. 2013; 4: 80. Published online 2013 August 7. doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2013.00080 PMCID: PMC3736070
- Ravitch, D. (2013). What You Need to Know About the International Test Scores, The Huffington Post. December 3, 2013.
- Schnieder, M. (2009) The International PISA Test. EducationNext. Fall 2009 / Vol. 9, No. 4.
- Snopes, (2014) One Man and a Baby Box. Snopes.com retrieved from http://www.snopes.com/science/skinner.asp
- Stephen, M. (2013). PISA: Poor Academic Standards–an Even Poorer Test, The Telegraph. December 2, 2013.
- Stout, M. (2005) The Sociopath Next Door. Broadway Books, a division of Random House Publishing.
- Strauss, V. (2013). How Public Opinion About the New PISA Test Scores is Being Manipulated. The Washington Post. December 1, 2013.
- Timms, M. (2013). Who cares about money? The New Economy. Retrieved from: http://www.theneweconomy.com/strategy/who-cares-about-money
- University of Utah Health Sciences Website (2014). Epigenetics: Lick Your Rats. Retrieved from: http://learn.genetics.utah.edu/content/epigenetics/rats/
- Weaver, I.C.G, Cervoni, N., Champagne, F.A., D’Alessio, A.C., Sharma, S., Seckl, J.R., Dymov, S., Szyf, M., & Meaney, M. (2004). Epigenetic programming by maternal behavior. Nature Neuroscience, 7, 847-854
- Zhao, Y. (2012) Flunking Innovation and Creativity. Phi Delta Kappan, September 2012 vol. 94 no. 1 56-61.