Common Core May Suck, But It's Unfairly Blamed for Politicized Public School Lessons

Common CoreCommon CoreCommon Core, the controversial set of new national education standards touted by the by the National Governors Association and the Chief Council of State School Officers, with significant federal encouragement, is in the news again. This time, it's being called out for promoting politicized lessons spoon-fed to the captive audience of kiddies in the public schools. But this is an unfair charge. Common Core has a lot wrong with it, high-pressure included, but it doesn't specify lesson-plans or politicized content. The real problem is the much older one of schools controlled by government officials.

The specific complaint this time is about fifth-grade English worksheets which ask students to edit sentences including: "Government officials' commands must be obeyed by all" and "An individual's wants are less important than the nation's well-being." The sentences are a small part of a larger worksheet (PDF) called "Hold the Flag High" linked to the Civil War.

Politicized lessonsPearson Education

But what a part. Way to go, oh bait-the-critics educators! You walked into it with those loaded sentences. Even teachers are debating the propriety of this stuff now.

But Pearson Education tells Fox News that this worksheet was copyrighted in 2007 and has been in use ever since—predating Common Core. And Pearson is far from the only curriculum vendor out there. Besides, controversy over politicized education started far before Common Core came along to cause a fuss.

In 1996, New York State mandated the teaching of the Irish potato famine as an act of genocide by the British government against the Irish, no other interpretations allowed. The Tucson Unified School District in Arizona has managed a heated, years-long battle over race-infused "culturally relevant" classes without any input from Common Core. Control over textbooks has long been a political prize in Texas, with conservatives in recent years sculpting the lessons delivered to students there and, given the size of the market and the cost of printing multiple editions, elsewhere. And the use of liberal pundit Paul Krugman's Keynes-centric economics texts in high schools has raised a few hackles, too.

The problem isn't Common Core, it's that government officials control so many schools, even in the age of expanding choice, and schools are a handy delivery system for pet ideas to (presumably) receptive young minds.

There's plenty to object to about Common Core. But dumping the new standards won't solve the problem of politicized curriculum so long as government officials control schools and get to force-feed their messages to the children of people with very different ideas.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • wareagle||

    meet the new standards, better than the old standards?

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    But Pearson Education tells Fox News that this worksheet was copyrighted in 2007...

    DAMN YOU, BUSH.

  • cavalier973||

    Yet another reason to homeschool.

  • Geoff Nathan||

    Just read through the materials, looking for linguistic errors (I'm a professional linguist--don't try this at home).

    As usual, the grammatical explanation of the 'possessive' is grossly oversimplified nonsense (kinda like teaching students in sixth grade that pi is three, figuring they'll find out the truth later). But this is not the fault of the Common Core but rather of Pearson's choice of materials.

    Linguists know that even adults often know less about (real) grammar than they do about the truth about fracking or GM foods.

    Short form: 'possessive' marks a number of different relationships between nouns. 'The President's job' is a very different relationship than 'a nation's people' and neither of them are like 'John's car', which actually involves 'possession'.

  • prolefeed||

    'The President's job' is a very different relationship than 'a nation's people' and neither of them are like 'John's car', which actually involves 'possession'.

    In North Korea, those three are pretty much the same relationship. Given the mindset of the authors of the worksheet in question, they probably do think these are quite similar cases -- the national government in their worldview does own the people, or at least should, and they are actively working toward that goal.

  • The Heresiarch||

    Meh. Regardless of the relationship, the formation is the same. And I think that that is the point of the exercise (and the mentioned indoctrination). True, it would be better if English were inflected to show the relationships better (dative of possession, objective genitive, partitive genitive, etc.), but I think that the whole point is to get people to use the apostrophe correctly. That's something 85% of adults can't do. Every time I see an apostrophe used with a simple plural, my head explodes.

  • Kill all the economists||

  • OldMexican||

    The problem isn't Common Core, it's that government officials control so many schools,


    The problem is not the smelly dead body with the flies, the problem is that there are so many damned flies!

  • Zeb||

    I'd say the common core is just a fly in your analogy.

  • Bill Dalasio||

    This argument seems a bit of a cop-out. Yes, politicized education long predates Common Core. The question, though, isn't whether Common Core creates this problem, but whether it exacerbates it. It strikes me as far more likely than not that increasing the degree of centralization and monopoly power in the nation's school curricula, by making politicized education far more effective, would do precisely that.

  • OldMexican||

    The specific complaint this time is about fifth-grade English worksheets which ask students to edit sentences including: "Government officials' commands must be obeyed by all" and "An individual's wants are less important than the nation's well-being."


    The next lesson is to edit sentences like "Work sets you free", "All within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state," and "This 'Freedom' thingy is overrated, anyway."

  • UnCivilServant||

    In 1996, New York State mandated the teaching of the Irish potato famine as an act of genocide by the British government against the Irish, no other interpretations allowed.

    Funny, my NYS Public school coverage of the Potato Famine amounted to "About 1840 there was an increase in the number of Irish immigrants to the Us because of it." and no more. I'm not sure if it was laziness or avoidance of the issue.

  • Bryan C||

    Common Core makes it much harder to correct such intrusions. It's a new and exciting way for lazy and politically sympathetic educrats to ignore parents and shut down local criticism.

  • creech||

    Don't the clowns who want to standardize everything from Washington ever consider the consequences if there was a President Santorum or a President Huckabee in the White House?

  • NoVAHockey||

    nope.

  • johnl||

    Hold on there Tuccille. Common Core is the union's scheme. Don't try to claim that union propaganda and the union's standards are unrelated.

  • trshmnstr||

    The specific complaint this time is about fifth-grade English worksheets which ask students to edit sentences including: "Government officials' commands must be obeyed by all" and "An individual's wants are less important than the nation's well-being." The sentences are a small part of a larger worksheet (PDF) called "Hold the Flag High" linked to the Civil War.

    I just want to give a little more extensive and correct background on this (I did my own research because the original story i saw looked like a photoshop job).

    This sheet is part of a curriculum called Reading Street Grade 5 Common Core 2013, put out by Pearson. As part of the curriculum, the kids read a short story and do comprehensive "language arts" exercises surrounding that story. There's a spelling exercise, a grammar exercise, a vocabulary exercise, and so on.

    As far as I can tell (I did about one hour of online research, and haven't seen a physical copy), This sheet was a part of the "Let's Practice It!" grammar workbook, specifically lined up with the "Hold the Flag High" story they read for unit 2 week 2.

  • wheelock||

    From the teacher discussion:

    Seriously? I don't think kids are going to be influenced by these sentences in the least bit. They will do the worksheet and then forget exactly what was on it. As long as they get the concept, who really cares what the sentence says.

    Yeah because the sentence: "government official's commands must be obeyed by all" could never be seen as anything but an innocent grammar lesson. And those dumbshit children could never be expected to remember it anyway. Ye gods, I will likely never have kids but I cannot imagine the terror of them coming home with something like this.

  • logical_atomist||

    "government official's commands must be obeyed by all"

    I just don't understand why they went with clumsy slogans like this
    when the original classics were already so perfect:

    "War is peace."
    "Ignorance is strength."
    Freedom is slavery."

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Video Game Nation: How gaming is making America freer – and more fun.
  • Matt Welch: How the left turned against free speech.
  • Nothing Left to Cut? Congress can’t live within their means.
  • And much more.

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement