Article 6 in a series on Common Core Standards
By Celeste Busby
It is no secret that the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for English will change dramatically what and how students are taught. There will be less emphasis on reading books that are fiction (the classics) and more emphasis on reading informational texts. In early grades, even elementary grades, 50 percent of reading material will now be informational text that can be anything from instruction manuals, Environmental Protection Agency announcements and Executive Orders to historical documents. In the junior and senior year of high school, that figure increases to 70 percent. How can reading instruction manuals promote a love of reading?
It has been stated that reading informational text does not provide students with the deep cultural information that develops pride of ones heritage and also does not promote the critical thinking that promoters of the CCSS promise.
With regards to writing, Professor Anthony Esolen, with the Development of Western Civilization Program at Providence College, in R.I., has read some of the “student essays promoted as examples of what CC strives for in its standards . . .” Esolen states “even the best one [essay] has no integrity.” It is just a contradictory “mechanical spouting of information.” Apparently, organization and style are good, but the problem is with the accuracy or truth of the information.
According to the CCSS, an historical document like the Gettysburg Address is to be read without emotion and without any background knowledge as to why it was written. This presents a serious problem, as the lack of knowledge can negate the meaning of the document.
E. D. Hirsch, Jr., author, former Yale English professor, who in the 1960s became chairman of the Department of Composition Program at the University of Virginia, discovered the concept of “cultural literacy”—meaning that reading comprehension requires more than learning decoding skills. It also requires the important factor of cultural background knowledge. This discovery came when he was giving relative readability tests at two Virginia colleges. Students at UVA understood information on Generals Grant and Lee that students at a Richmond community college did not understand, because they weren’t well informed on the American Civil War. From this testing, he determined that “Core Knowledge” (the background information) was important, because writers often take for granted what readers might know about a subject. NOTE: Core Knowledge is opposite of the method in Common Core.
Sandra Stotsky, Ph.D., professor Emeritus at the University of Arkansas and a member of the CCSS Validation Committee refused to sign off on the Standards. While at the Massachusetts Department of Education (1999 – 2003), she wrote the Massachusetts English Standards that are considered by many to be the best English Standards available. She has testified before numerous state committees and legislatures that CCSS:
- Are not rigorous; competitive; authentic, college-level work; internationally benchmarked; nor research-based as stated by promoters.
- Require teachers to emphasize empty skills, not academic standards.
- Require teachers to teach informational texts that they are not trained to teach.
- May lead to reduced enrollment in advanced high school courses.
- Are run by private corporations, so Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and “sunshine laws” do not apply.
- Lead writers of the English Standards, David Coleman and Susan Pimentel, did not have any experience teaching English.
Civil rights activist Ernie White on “children being trained as slaves”
Civil rights activist Ernie White was a panelist on the Glazov Gang Program talking about “The Cancer of Common Core.” (Caution: Panelist, Basil Hoffman, tells an off-color joke at the beginning of the video that adds nothing to the topic and that some may not appreciate.) White actually sat in on a CC class of 20 students reading a portion of a book. The 20 students sat in a circle, and were instructed to explain what each of them understood from the reading. White explains that if you were a student that disagreed with the others, “ . . . the group would pull you back in, and you had to agree with the group . . . . they [then] decided that ‘this is what we all understand,’ and then, they moved on . . . it was group consensus. [For instance, if] one person said, ‘I thought it meant’ this . . . the group said, ‘No, no, no. It means’ this. . . . ”
In concluding, he stated, “Independent thinking is being snuffed out. The teacher said she doesn’t have to teach anymore. She can stand in a corner, and she mediates. She watches to make sure they all are participating, and that’s the new training method.” He feels that children are “being trained to be slaves” and to do “absolutely nothing about their future.” He is concerned that parents don’t realize what CC is when they see it. Therefore, parents are doing nothing about it. But, he does believe that both Democrats and Republicans are getting tired of what is going on and are starting to take a stand.
There have been a number of reports of progressive or socialist indoctrination throughout the CC lessons. Here’s an example that appears on a third-grade worksheet on possessive pronouns according to Jeffrey Lord in his article “Common Core: Obamacare for Education.” These sentences are clearly meant to indoctrinate our children and mold them into good little “sheeples” or worker bees:
Students are to re-write these sentences with possessive pronouns.
The job of a president is not easy.
Example of what the re-write would be: A president’s job is not easy.
The people of a nation do not always agree.
Another example: The nation’s people do not always agree.
(By now, you get the idea.)
The choices of a president affect everyone.
He makes sure the laws of the country are fair.
(This sentence is just wrong, because according to our Constitution, Congress has that duty — not the president.)
The commands of government officials must be obeyed by all.
(Really? This sentence is also wrong; it is our laws that must be obeyed. A government official’s commands are not laws. An official’s commands could be anything, even something ridiculous like, “Nobody can sleep for three nights in a row.” OR “Everyone must pull weeds at 4:00 a.m. on Tuesdays.”)
The wants of an individual are less important than the well-being of the nation.
(Wants or unalienable rights? Let’s not confuse third graders. Doesn’t it depend on the situation and who defines “wants” and “well-being”? Individual rights are not necessarily secondary to the “collective” or group of people, at least not yet.)
Some information is not age appropriate; some say it is even pornographic.
Last Sept. 26, several parents, one a clinical psychologist, from Fairfax County, Va., appeared before the Virginia Board of Education, to complain about having only 24 hours to check out a school-suggested reading list and the “controversial or sensitive materials on that list.” The Fairfax Free Citizen ran an article about this and specifically mentioned two of Toni Morrison’s books “The Bluest Eye” and “Beloved.”
The BOE did the sensible thing and considered an amendment to the regulations regarding the use of controversial or sensitive instructional materials. It was posted on the Department of Education’s Town Hall website. A variety of opinions were represented in the comments from people. Some educators felt that it would be too time consuming to provide alternative book suggestions for the ones parents objected to. Wouldn’t it be a prudent and a simple matter to just leave books off the list that many parents object to? Has anyone considered Virginia porn laws?
Common Core State Standards has a suggested reading list that includes a variety of works, including books, short stories, poems, and an EPA announcement. People checking into this list are reporting some surprises. Not only are they finding progressive or socialist indoctrination, but attacks of so-called “white privilege” in books like “The Jacket,” by Andrew Clements, that is recommended for fourth graders, plus, there are books that are simply not age inappropriate.
Two examples that many feel are both not age appropriate and are pornographic, are “Dreaming in Cuban,” by Cristina Garcia and the aforementioned “The Bluest Eye,” by Toni Morrison, that has very graphic depictions of rape, incest and pedophilia — clearly not for underage, impressionable children. WARNING: The link for these books have very graphic information.
Check out this Washington Post article, “List: What Common Core authors suggest high schoolers should read,” by Valerie Strauss, to see if you agree with suggestions on the list.
Don’t mistake these concerns for censorship. The concern is for age-appropriateness and what parents feel is appropriate for their underage children and their family’s religious beliefs. Of course, not all children develop physically and mentally at the exact same age. So, parents must also consider what their children are ready to handle. Another consideration is how students might feel discussing explicit sex in a class of both boys and girls.
A sampling of Virginia Laws that might apply
Here are some laws, or portions of laws, discussing different aspects of pornography. For more information, Google: Virginia Code, or maybe talk to an attorney.
The Virginia Constitution, Article VIII, Section 5, provides that the Board of Education has oversight over “textbooks and instructional aids and materials for use in courses” in our schools. That is stated again in Virginia Code §22.1.238.
§22.1.208 Emphasis on moral education. “The entire scheme of instruction in the public schools shall emphasize moral education through lessons given by teachers and imparted by appropriate reading selections.”
§18.2.391 Unlawful acts, penalties. “A. It shall be unlawful for any person to sell, rent or loan to a juvenile, knowing or having reason to know that such person is a juvenile, or to knowingly display for commercial purpose in a manner whereby juveniles may examine and peruse: . . .
- Any book, pamphlet, magazine, printed matter, however reproduced, electronic file or message containing words, or sound recording which contains any matter enumerated in subdivision 1 or this subsection, or explicit and detailed verbal descriptions or narrative accounts of sexual excitement, sexual conduct of sadomasochistic abuse and which, taken as a whole, is harmful to juveniles.”
§22.1.277.02:1 “Each school board shall include, in its standards of student conduct, prohibitions against profane or obscene language or conduct.”
How do we expect students to abide by this prohibited conduct, if books like those already mentioned in this article are on a student suggested reading list?
It’s time for parents and educators to give some strong thought about what is happening in our schools. There is research out there that disputes the value of Common Core instruction, and for that matter, the education methods of the past several decades. It’s time to get informed, meet with other parents and educators and make the decisions that are best for our children.