The Unasked Question
by Dr. Peg Luksik
The public debate over the Common Core Standards is intensifying as parents and teachers learn more about the changes to our educational system.
When the proponents of the standards mention them, they always begin with the word “rigorous”. The word is always used, and there is never a synonym. This is marketing at its finest.
Who could ever be opposed to rigorous standards that would make America’s children college and career-ready?
Then the definition of “rigorous” began to emerge. To quote the training materials being used with teachers across Pennsylvania, rigor does not mean “difficult, as AP Calculus is difficult”. Rigor meant… that lots of effort would be required. In the example given by one of the official presenters, the rigorous activity in a high school chemistry class was to have the students use balls to build little models of each of the atoms in the Periodic Table. She explained that the brightest students were frustrated with this activity because they were not used to having to do such “rigorous” work.
And now the Common Core based secondary school math assessment has been revealed. To meet these “rigorous” new standards and be able to graduate from high school, America’s students will have to pass Algebra I.
In testimony before the PA Senate Education Committee this month, a proponent of these standards was asked about this situation. He responded that a graduate only needed Algebra I to be “career-ready” – which he clarified by specifying that he was referring to working a service or manufacturing job or joining the military.
His response brings us to the unasked questions in this movement to radically restructure our schools.
Who is the client of the educational system? What is the purpose of education?
In classical education, which is how most adults over the age of 35 were taught, the client of education was the child, and the purpose was to give each child the ability to reach his fullest potential. The school was supposed to open doors so children from any background would have the chance to achieve their dreams. Educational programs were not aimed at what a child “only needed” – they were aimed at giving each child as many options as possible. They aimed a child at the ceiling instead of the floor.
And in reaching the ceiling, those adults learned what they needed to find and keep a job. Some of them went to college and some of them entered the work force and some of them joined the military. But those decisions were theirs, based on their abilities and preferences and effort. And if they decided to make a different choice, they had the ability to do so.
But the Common Core changes the answers to those basic questions. In the new system, the client of the educational system is business, and the purpose of the educational system is to create a work force with the skills they need to do the job. And if the job only requires Algebra I, then, as the gentleman testifying said, there is no need for the workers in that job to have any education beyond Algebra I.
Who decides which students will be allowed to continue learning and which will be stopped at “the skills they need to do their jobs”?
That too is an un-asked, and un-answered, question.
And it is the most chilling question of all.
Thanks to Dr. Luksik for her essay.