Utah Teacher David Cox on Common Core   11 comments

On Common Core: Education Without Representation

As it is going, teachers will be little more than robots, constricted in everything they do.

Guest Post by Utah Teacher David Cox

When I was first hired, what one taught was decided by the texts that teachers and the principal decided upon.

So I had a great deal of say.  It was school based, though the state had recommendations of what, and at what grade level, but recommendations were all they were.

Some time after Nation at Risk, 1983, it became the vogue thing for districts to write up “standards.”  That came about to counter what so many teachers were being taught by constructivist professors (as one of mine at BYU did) that, “If you want to cover the text…(wait for it) use a dish towel.”  You were to teach what they, the students, wanted to learn.  It was “democratic” learning (student driven).  In other words “just teach whatever!”  The standards movement came about to stop constructivism, because the Back-to-Basics movement wasn’t able to, since it was directed at teachers and not the professors, who were the source.  Alpine SD used teachers, I was one of many, who wrote these and lesson plans to go with them in the old ACE (Alpine Curriculum for Excellence).  It actually was very good –and specific.

Then the State Board of Education decided they had to get into the act and State Standards were created through USOE.  These were much inferior to the ACE.  At first we were able to “align” the standards together, which I worked on using Career Ladder monies.  Finally they were shoved down our throats and we had to give up the ACE for these inferior state standards, which were quite non-specific.

Now we are having National Standards crammed down our throats, which will be backed up with tests that will end up dictating even the methods used to teach.  Why?  (Here’s the irony.)  Because they are being created by professors who are as constructivist in philosophy as the original standards movement was created to get rid of!  And these “standards” (inferior to many states’ previous standards and heavily influenced by the aforementioned philosophy) are being required in order to get federal dollars and wavers from NCLB.  How can any district back out?

And as these become entrenched in a few years the politically correct police from Washington will start telling us EXACTLY what we can and can’t teach (history will be added, think of how that will be slanted) and how, and it will be things we in Utah will disagree with strongly depending on the administration in power.  What’s worse, there will be no other choice.  Already charter schools are being required next year to teach it, and even private schools will be required to become accredited, of which the first requirement will be to adopt the national curriculum.  The next step, as has happened in Sweden this past year, even home schooling will be abolished.  Do you see why I’m terrified?!

I’ve watched it happen from day one and followed it very closely.  I’ve seen all the changes, and it isn’t better.  Back then, you couldn’t guarantee perfect teaching, but many teachers did a very good job.

As it is going, teachers will be little more than robots, constricted in everything they do.

This will almost prohibit great teaching.

The real irony is that conservatives tried to forcibly get rid of the faulty constructivist teaching by using government power with the standards and accountability movement.  And after getting the force of government in place, liberals turned it around and took control and are in the process of completely implementing their agenda.  If they had truly understood human agency and the real conservative philosophy, they would never have tried to use government to “guarantee” correct philosophy, because if you give government enough power to control it, it will end up controlling you.

Here is why I strongly oppose Common Core:


As a retired teacher, former legislator, and grandparent, I am strongly opposed to the Common Core for three main reasons.

 1. I want standards, not standardization. Standardization forces everyone to come down to a common level, the lowest common denominator. Locally adopted or created standards build the intellects and support of and from the local parents and teachers. Nationally imposed “standards” bring avoidance and lack of responsibility along with agendas I oppose, such as #2.

2. The philosophy of those who created Common Core is constructivism. They believe the student must construct their own set of knowledge (discovery learning). This is the philosophy that gave us “Whole Language” instead of reading, English, and spelling. It gave us “Investigations Math” instead of real math. It dumbed-down history and geography into “Social Studies.” The Common Core itself is dumbing-down Algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and calculus into Math 1 and 2, etc.

3. Finally, though the standards themselves were not directly created by the national government, they are being imposed by incentives. The real nationalizing threat comes from the tests that ARE nationally created and which drive the implementation of the standards. I want our schools to listen to the parents, not to Washington politicians and educrats.

The real answer to improvement will only come when we give both freedom and responsibility to the local community. That is the story of America, the story Europeans didn’t (and still don’t) believe, that, given freedom to either succeed or fail, the common man will usually do what is necessary to succeed. Nationally imposed education will not do this, neither will vouchers, which would only, with the funding, pass on the government interference that is hampering the public schools to private schools. To solve this we need to create new, community-sized school districts. Doing this will bring the community together on behalf of their own children. The adults will grow in the process of local decision-making and control of education, and that will then raise the children.
Only by creating new smaller districts will we return liberty and responsibility to the local parents and teachers. Only then will true accountability be accomplished. Only then will true educational quality and efficiency be possible to achieve. It truly takes a community to educate a child. We cannot lift the children without lifting the adults too.
That cannot be accomplished by nationally created and imposed standards.
It takes governing from the local level to lift and build the people. That is what the United – “States” are all about.

-by David Cox

11 responses to “Utah Teacher David Cox on Common Core

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  1. Mr. Cox,
    Do you have any evidence for No. 2? If so, I would love to read it (genuinely–I know that could be taken as sarcasm but none is intended).

    • See my comment below. Also I have followed this in some ways for over 40 years, but in more detail the past 10 years both as a teacher and as a legislator, but to give references and foot notes for #2 would take writing a full magazine article, which I haven’t done.

  2. Mr. Cox, can you lengthen this post, provide more evidence and references to #2, and email to me? I’d like to cross post this on my blog, but it’s still a little light, but still very good and in line with my own thoughts.

  3. To Joy Pullmann and A Conservative Teacher:
    As a full-time teacher with a number of other irons in the fire, I don’t have the time or access to prove all of this completely. Here is my initial response: One reason is that college employment in education is so in-bred that you can’t get to “expert” level without becoming a constructivist, so by using “experts,” by default we end up with constructivists. Another reason is the grouping of all the different kinds of math into math 1 and 2 – the same thing they did to Reading, English, and Spelling by making it “Language Arts.” A third reason is the lesson strategies being put out in education magazines like The Instructor are all in investigations format. I have read other evidence, but haven’t compiled it and don’t remember where.

    Here is a response from a friend, Oak Norton, who has followed this in more detail than I: Our USOE is inbred with constructivists. Evidence there is that when they did the MVP math program and developed the horrible secondary math 1 textbook with the “fluffy the dog” problem sets, they asked 5 known constructivists to create the textbook. 2 of the worst from ASD. It wasn’t even a textbook, just a problem set book. There was nothing you could learn from it because there were no examples or instruction. Thus you don’t need a textbook, just a constructivist teacher.

  4. “The best way to prevent a political faction or any small group of people from capturing control of the nation’s educational system is to keep it decentralized into small local units, each with its own board of education and superintendent. This may not be as efficient as one giant super educational system (although bigness is not necessarily efficient, either) but it is far more safe. There are other factors, too, in favor of local and independent school systems. First, they are more responsive to the needs and wishes of the parents and the community. The door to the school superintendent’s office is usually open to any parent who wishes to make his views known. But the average citizen would be hard pressed to obtain more than a form letter reply from the national Commissioner of Education in Washington, D.C.” Ezra Taft Benson former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture and LDS Church President

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  6. As a parent concerned for the welfare of my children I am looking into charter schools. How are charter schools in Utah affected by Common Core and are they required to teach it? So far the one I am looking into is not teaching Common Core but I am afraid that will change.
    Any input on Charter schools and Commin Core would by greatly appreciated.
    Thank you for fighting for our children.

    • Charter schools have to use the same state tests as the district schools, so they will have to modify to some degree. Odyssey Charter where I am uses Saxon Math and Saxon has made extensions that are designed to meet that need.

      My opinion is that over time the tests will push the constructivist agenda more and more and it will be increasingly difficult to avoid teaching Common Core directly. The tests are and will be designed to reward only those teaching in their way.

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