3389124067_9b70b6254dcommon core (n.):  discarded remnant of the fruit both Adam and Eve ate from.

The US in general and NYS in particular have gone whole hog over the unpalatable slop they call “common core”.  Please bear with me as I share why I would prefer to discard it rather than feed off it.

Philosophically, pedagogically, and theologically it is wrong to make the assumption that every student in the state or nation should learn exactly the same things in exactly the same way to exactly the same standard.  While we are created equal in God’s eyes and should be viewed equal in the eyes of the law, each person is an individual.  Students learn by different methods at different paces and for different purposes.  The parents and the classroom teachers are the best judges of what each child needs to know and how well he or she can learn it at any given time.  When all the posturing is removed, it is clearly outrageous to think that bureaucrats in an office in Washington, D.C. can write a test that can measure the degree of a student’s equality with all others nationwide.  It is more outrageous to think that a free government with a free economy that promotes the freedom to excel would want to do so.  The latest test scores in New York underscore my contention:  only about a third of students tested could measure up to the standard of educational equality defined by the educrats; and ultimately teachers and schools will be penalized unless they get their cookie cutters working more efficiently.

I firmly believe with E.D. Hirsch that a common base of knowledge allows us to communicate as citizens and neighbors; and cultural literacy is based upon shared awareness of facts and concepts.  However, in a diverse society, we do not penalize those who emphasize one facet of our national culture over another.  Once upon a time, most major colleges required, for example, familiarity with literature such as Ivanhoe in order to qualify for admission.  Those colleges did not assume, however, that everyone was college bound.  When I was in school, we had the Regents diploma/college preparatory track, the local diploma track, and the vocational/technical track from which it was tacitly assumed that some would go into the workforce without any diploma whatever.  We all had basic English and arithmetic instruction, but the expectation was that not all students needed, wanted, or could succeed at the same “common core” of learning.

Finding a national common core in the humanities, language arts, or social sciences is an exercise in futility.  However, it seems to me that the skill-based discipline of arithmetic could lend itself to a standard field of learning.  Addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, decimals, fractions, and knowing when to use each process could and should be taught uniformly to all students through grade 8 (with the understanding that some students do not have the aptitude to master the skills by that arbitrary deadline).  What else could arithmetic focus on at that level?  Algebra and geometry have generally not been introduced yet; and so if any subject in any grade could lend itself to “common core” testing, it should be 8th-grade math.  And yet two-thirds of those taking the 8th-grade math test failed.

Either the arithmetic teachers are not teaching arithmetic, or the exam is not testing arithmetic.  With the scores so uniformly abysmal, I have to conclude that the test is rotten to the core.  And if the educational experts cannot test such an objective discipline as arithmetic, how can they possibly test the much more subjective fields of reading and language arts?

I occasionally will spend my money on a beautiful, nutritious apple; but I have never willingly paid for the core.  The worth is negligible, and the cost is unimaginably high.

Just ask Adam and Eve.