Since the purpose of this blog is to promote debate over educational issues, I’m especially pleased to post what may be the most intelligent debate I’ve seen between a proponent and critic of the common core standards.
The central question that both interlocutors address is: Do we really know what students need to know if they are to function in the world they will enter? In other words, can we even identify a “common” core?
According to common core critic Yong Zhao, presidential chair and associate dean for global education at the University of Oregon’s College of Education, the answer is no.
It is impossible, unnecessary, and harmful for a small group of individuals to predetermine and impose upon all students the same set of knowledge and skills and expect all students progress at the same pace (if the students don’t, it is the teachers’ and schools’ fault). I am not against standards per se for good standards can serve as a useful guide. What I am against is Common and Core, that is, the same standards for all students and a few subjects (currently math and English language arts) as the core of all children’s education diet. I might even love the Common Core if they were not common or core.
Marc Tucker, Marc Tucker, president of the non-profit National Center on Education and the Economy, disagrees:
This kind of thinking is, to my mind, seductive, but I cannot agree. It is now more important than ever to figure out what all young people need to know and be able to do. The literature is clear. Truly creative people know a lot and they have worked hard at learning it. They typically know a lot about unrelated things and their creativity comes from putting those unrelated things together in unusual ways. Learning almost anything really well depends on mastering the conceptual structure of the underlying disciplines, because, without that scaffolding, we are not able to put new information and skills to work. Zhao says that we will not be competitive simply by producing a nation of good test takers. That is, of course, true. Leading Asian educators are very much afraid that they have succeeded in producing good test takers who are not going to be very good at inventing the future. But that does not absolve us of the responsibility for figuring out what all students will need to know to be competitive in a highly competitive global labor market, nor does it absolve us of the responsibility to figure out how to assess the skills we think are most important.
You can follow the first link to read the full debate . . . and enter into it as well.