As you know, if you have been reading my posts, we adopted three children who were already in school, but definitely not learning. We decided, after trying public, private and supplemental tutoring that home schooling worked the best for us. Why? Because individual attention, when a student is behind, trumps any other form of education. The student needs to back up and learn at their own pace, which is sometimes painfully slow.
Thanks to ‘no child left behind’ my third grade daughter, who did not know her letter sounds and was still counting beans in math, received straight As. (No kidding.) When I asked why, the teacher patted her on the head and told me that children like her (with emotional issues) needed to see those grades for their own self-esteem. Those grades did not help her ‘self-esteem.’ Even though she was doing poorly in school, she was smart enough to know her report card was a joke. Any incentive grades could have made in her learning was now gone. (And she was competitive with her brothers who received ‘real’ grades on their report cards.)
Any national standard will leave children like mine behind. The teacher will need to keep the children on pace with the curriculum and it will be a disincentive to slow down when the children are struggling, and at times whole classes struggle. A friend of mine called me frustrated because he had a class of third graders that did not have their sight-words (the, did, for, run- things you should be able to spell automatically without sounding out) memorized yet. He had to go back and teach the basics before they moved on. This meant that this class would not finish where previous classes had, but they needed the basics. To try to stay on track would have resulted in them being even further behind.
Where we live today the high school students can pass a class titled ‘Algebra,’ but since the math teacher needs to catch them up they may not learn as much as the children who were surrounded by students more motivated to learn. The problem is the children, and their parents think they learned, and succeeded in Algebra. When the child gets to college and fails in math, they will not understand why, and likely be frustrated enough to quit. Common standards will only result in more of this, not less, as schools will have to look like they are following the standard. It is better for a child to succeed at a lower level, knowing that they know what they know then to believe they have achieved and have skills when they do not.
Further, every community has its own flavor and needs. America should be diverse. One community may wish to focus on farming, since that it what they do, while another is overjoyed there is a CAD lab in their school. Let’s let us be unique. One of America’s greatest assets is her diversity. Let’s not put anything in place to stifle this.
Common Core stands to lessen the overall knowledge of our country since everyone will have studied similar things. Someone should know Shakespeare well, while others studied Van Gogh. There should be a place where computer scientists thrive (like Silicon Valley) without the future farmers wondering why there is all of this programming stuff in their curriculum. (True farms benefit from some computing, but not the level the parents of Silicon Valley employees, or their children who have grown up thinking in C, would enjoy.) Having everyone learn a little of everything makes no one an expert in anything. Further there is bound to be some great stuff that is left out, or an agenda that begins to permeate our country that exists without critical evaluation because it was introduced at a young age and no one is taught to question it. (And everything should be questioned. I once took a course proving that Calculus exists. How many people have just taken it for granted that it does? We need a few people here and there that know why and how it works, rather than just doing it to get the answer right on the paper… but, as most successful adults can tell you, we do not need many of these people, because most of us who have taken Calculus have never used it again in our adult lives. The point: All knowledge is good, but not everyone needs the same knowledge.) Let us keep our diversity and find a different way to ensure than all children learn.
Photo by Matija Barrett