The dark side of Common Core Standards for education

Bus stop signCommon core standards are the new federal framework for education in American schools. The aim is said to be proper preparation of students for college and life. You can read glowing, but somewhat vague, reports at many places, for instance, the National Governors Association here, and the Arizona Department of Education here. As always, the carrot is money.

However, there are those, especially conservatives, who are not thrilled with the new standards. Their arguments fall into three main categories: States rights, privacy, and a content which seems to “dumb down” the education of our children.

Columnist Michelle Malkin has written a three-part series on Common Core, see here, here, and here, with some reactions from teachers here. She writes, “For decades, collectivist agitators in our schools have chipped away at academic excellence in the name of fairness, diversity and social justice. Progressive reformers denounced Western civilization requirements, the Founding Fathers and the Great Books as racist. They attacked traditional grammar classes as irrelevant in modern life. They deemed ability grouping of students (tracking) bad for self-esteem. They replaced time-tested rote techniques and standard algorithms with fuzzy math, inventive spelling and multi-cultural claptrap.”

According to an article by Valerie Strauss in the Washington Post, much of the drafting of the standards was done in secret with little input from teachers. The standards continue and worsen some of the bad things in the No Child Let Behind program such as pushing into lower grades the things kids are supposed to be able to do and know. “Once, schools gave youngsters a chance to learn how to read according to their own development. Now, a child who still can’t read by the end of first grade is in deep trouble from which it can be hard to emerge.” “Telling teachers that they must teach certain things to each child in a specific grade ignores this notion of individual development.” “Another concern about the new standards is that they are only for math and English. The emphasis on those subjects in No Child Left Behind’s assessment scheme led to a dangerous narrowing of curriculum in public schools; the arts disappeared in many systems, science and history and physical education took a back seat too.”

States Rights:

“In practice, Common Core’s dubious ‘college- and career’-ready standards undermine local control of education, usurp state autonomy over curricular materials, and foist untested, mediocre and incoherent pedagogical theories on America’s schoolchildren.” – Malkin.

The standards were developed on the federal level with no input from states. I could not find any cost analysis of the program.


The Department of Education is gathering information on, aside from test scores, student’s nicknames, religion, political affiliation, address, extracurricular activities, and bus stop times.

“In 2012, the U.S. Department of Education rewrote federal privacy laws to let it share a child’s academic record with virtually anyone, and states have begun combining typical student records of test scores and discipline history with highly personal information such as medical records and psychological evaluations. Nine states are compiling such information, which includes addresses and Social Security numbers, into a giant private database called inBloom.” – Heartland Institute. What does this database have to do with education?

A “Department of Education report on its data-mining plans contemplates the use of creepy student-monitoring techniques such as ‘functional magnetic resonance imaging’ and ‘using cameras to judge facial expressions, an electronic seat that judges posture, a pressure-sensitive computer mouse and a biometric wrap on kids’ wrists.’” –Heartland Institute.

I found a federal Department of Education publication called “Promoting Grit, Tenacity, and Perseverance: Critical Factors for Success in the 21st Century.” That report says in part, “The test score accountability movement and conventional educational approaches tend to focus on intellectual aspects of success, such as content knowledge…There is a growing movement to explore the potential of the ‘noncognitive’ factors—attributes, dispositions, social skills, attitudes, and intrapersonal resources, independent of intellectual ability—that high-achieving individuals draw upon to accomplish success.”

Sounds like the brave new world of education is not so much about gaining knowledge, but more about how we feel about what we know.

To me, this sounds very creepy and Orwellian, akin to Communist brainwashing.


“In practice, Common Core evades transparency by peddling shoddy curricular material authored by anonymous committees. It promotes faddish experiments masquerading as world-class math and reading goals. Instead of raising expectations, Common Core is a Trojan horse for lowering them.” – Malkin

“The curriculum should not be the coverage of content, but rather the discovery of content,” said one Common Core spokeswoman of the system. That means “the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has little or no more value than the phone book in Common Core.” Common Core de-emphasizes great literary works and will no longer challenge students to digest and dissect them.

“English professor Mary Grabar describes Common Core training exercises that tell teachers ‘to read Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address without emotion and without providing any historical context. Common Core reduces all texts to one level: the Gettysburg Address to the EPA’s Recommended Levels of Insulation.” – Malkin.

“Stanford University professor James Milgram, the only mathematician on the validation panel, concluded that the Common Core math scheme would place American students two years behind their peers in other high-achieving countries. In protest, Milgram refused to sign off on the standards. He’s not alone.” – Malkin.

“Traditional literature is under fire. Moral relativism is increasingly the norm. ‘Standards’ is Orwell-speak for subjectivity and lowest common denominator pedagogy.” – Malkin.

Apparently, history is not part of the Common Core curriculum. So far, Common Core has furnished standards only for mathematics and language arts. “Focusing on just two subjects threatens to narrow the curriculum, while dodging essential reading threatens to hollow it out.” “The truth about national standards explains the need to evade serious scrutiny. Despite claims about needing national standards to compete in the world economy, or all countries that outperform us having national standards, the research reveals that, all else equal, countries with national standards do no better than those without. It also reveals that the freer the education system, the better.” – Cato Institute. The Common Core Standards were developed within a web of deception according to Cato.

The Heritage Foundation comments on English and language:

Why do Common Core’s architects believe that reading more nonfiction and “informational” texts in English classes (and in other high school classes) will improve students’ college readiness?

Their belief seems to be based on what they see as the logical implication of the fact that college students read more informational than literary texts. However, there is absolutely no empirical research to suggest that college readiness is promoted by informational or nonfiction reading in high school English classes (or in mathematics and science classes).

In fact, the history of the secondary English curriculum in 20th-century America suggests that the decline in readiness for college reading stems in large part from an increasingly incoherent, less challenging literature curriculum from the 1960s onward. This decline has been propelled by the fragmentation of the year-long English course into semester electives, the conversion of junior high schools into middle schools, and the assignment of easier, shorter, and contemporary texts—often in the name of multiculturalism.

A diminished emphasis on literature in the secondary grades makes it unlikely that American students will study a meaningful range of culturally and historically significant literary works before graduation. It also prevents students from acquiring a rich understanding and use of the English language. Perhaps of greatest concern, it may lead to a decreased capacity for analytical thinking.

Read the full article here.

Heritage Foundation comments on the math standards:

As more details emerge about the content and quality of the Common Core national standards backed by federal funding and the Obama Administration, questions about the coherence, international competitiveness, and the college readiness level of the standards also loom. Many experts conclude that the math standards are vague and incoherent. Writing in Education Week, curriculum expert Grant Wiggins notes:

…the mathematics components of the Common Core State Standards Initiative are a bitter disappointment. In terms of their limited vision of math education, the pedestrian framework chosen to organize the standards, and the incoherent nature of the standards for mathematical practice in particular, I don’t see how these take us forward in any way.

isn’t alone in his skepticism. A recent Education Next article cites concerns from Professor William McCallum, one of the three authors of Common Core’s math standards, who has said that “overall standards wouldn’t be very high” and “not up to the standards of other nations.”

Read the full article here.

Finally, there is no proof that Common Core Standards actually work. The Arizona Independent opines: “Here is the sad reality: most people do not know about Common Core. Teachers, parents, students, administration and even state lawmakers are largely in the dark on the matter. Why? Because state executives accepted the Obama administration’s ‘Race to the Top’ funds without question. Part of receiving the Race to the Top funds required the implementation of Common Core which circumvented the proper debate that should have gone through the public and the state legislature.”

Copyrighted by Jonathan DuHamel. Reprint is permitted provided that credit of authorship is provided and linked back to the source.