Public schools

Common Core: The Latest Flaw in One-Size-Fits-All Public Schools

When the federal government imposes a single teaching plan on 15,000 school districts across the country, that's central planning, which brings stagnation.

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School classroom
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My TV producers asked our Facebook audience to vote for a topic they'd most like to hear discussed on my year-end show. The overwhelming winner, for some reason: the education standards program Common Core.

Most Americans don't even know what that is. But they should. It's the government's plan to try to bring "the same standard" to every government-run school.

This may sound good. Often, states dumb down tests to try to "leave no child behind." How can government evaluate teachers and reward successful schools if there isn't a single national standard?

But when the federal government imposes a single teaching plan on 15,000 school districts across the country, that's even more central planning, and central planning rarely works. It brings stagnation.

Education is a discovery process like any other human endeavor. We might be wrong about both how to teach and what to teach, but we won't realize it unless we can experiment—compare and contrast the results of different approaches. Having "one plan" makes it harder to experiment and figure out what works.

Some people are terrified to hear "education" and "experiment" in the same sentence. Why take a risk with something as important as my child's education? Pick the best education methods and teach everyone that way!

But we don't know what the best way to educate kids is.

As American education has become more centralized, the rest of our lives have become increasingly diverse and tailored to individual needs. Every minute, thousands of entrepreneurs struggle to improve their products. Quality increases, and costs often drop.

But centrally planned K-12 education doesn't improve. Per-student spending has tripled (governments now routinely spend $300,000 per classroom!), but test results are stagnant.

"Everyone who has children knows that they're all different, right? They learn differently," observed Sabrina Schaeffer of the Independent Women's Forum on my show. "In the workplace, we're allowing people flexibility to telecommute, to have shared jobs. In entertainment, people buy and watch what they want, when they want." Having one inflexible model for education "is so old-fashioned."

No Child Left Behind programs were an understandable reaction to atrocious literacy and graduation rates—but since school funding was pegged to students' performance on federally approved tests, classroom instruction became largely about drilling for those tests and getting the right answers, even if kids did little to develop broader reasoning skills. So along comes Common Core to attempt to fix the problem—and create new ones.

Common Core de-emphasizes correct answers by awarding kids points for reasoning, even when they don't quite get there.  

A video went viral online that showed a worried mom, Karen Lamoreaux—a member of the group Arkansas Against Common Core—complaining to the Arkansas Board of Education about complicatedly worded math problems meant for fourth-graders. She read to the Board this question: "Mr. Yamato's class has 18 students. If the class counts around by a number and ends with 90, what number did they count by?"

Huh?

But I could be wrong. Maybe this is a clever new way to teach math, and maybe Lamoreaux worries too much. Unfortunately, though, if Lamoreaux is right, and the federal government is wrong, government still gets to decree its universal solution to this problem.

Promoters of Common Core say, "Don't worry, Common Core is voluntary." This is technically true, but states that reject it lose big federal money. That's Big Government's version of "voluntary."

Common Core, like public school, public housing, the U.S. Postal Service, the Transportation Security Administration, etc., are all one-size-fits-all government monopolies. For consumers, this is not a good thing.

With the future riding on young people consuming better forms of education, I'd rather leave parents and children (and educators) multiple choices.

Despite Common Core, Schaeffer pointed out that this year did bring some victories for educational freedom. "We saw new education tax credit programs and expansion of tax credit programs in numerous states—Alabama, Indiana, Iowa and others. Education Savings Accounts expanded in other states; voucher programs expanded."

This is good news. Vouchers, Education Savings Accounts and tax credits create competition and choice.

NEXT: Supreme Court Delays Contraception Mandate for 2 Catholic Nonprofits

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  1. Vouchers are good. Not much is going to help, though, until special ed mandates and other extremely expensive things go away. The idea of universal public education is the real problem. People like the idea, but not if they have to pay for it. Vouchers, or really anything that returns choice back to the individual parents, are good, but if the attitude is “vouchers for me, expensive mandates for everyone else,” that’s not helping a whole lot. Someone is footing that bill.

    1. I agree wholeheartedly. The “free appropriate public education” (FAPE) clause of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is lunacy. Basically, it states that a school district has to take on all financial responsibility for educating a child, regardless of cost.

      FAPE is a real killer for rural school districts, especially. Say a family of four with 2 autistic children move into your hamlet of 500 people: Guess what? You’re gonna buy that shiny, new, and expensive autism robot (and software, and training, and support) or the Feds are going to wring that money out of you via the inevitable lawsuit.

      1. Educating the autistic kids (except the most extreme cases) is somewhat defensible. In one of my kids grade school classes there was a mentally damaged kid that was literally incapable of learning and destined for lifelong institutionalization, but was mainstreamed with a dedicated assistant. Did absolutely nothing other than disrupt the education of the other kids in that class and piss away a ton of money.

        1. I’m not arguing that they shouldn’t be educated in a public education system where their parents pay taxes just like anyone else. However, the IDEA act is typical FedGov passing the buck onto the states and municipalities. For example, that mentally damaged kid was in your class because some Ed bureaucrat deemed it to be the “least restrictive environment” that he was entitled to. Again, FAPE mandates that a school district provide an “appropriate education” to every student, regardless of cost. If the district doesn’t have the money, they must find it somehow or risk being in non-compliance of Federal law.

            1. the rulings in Parks v. Pavkovic and from my own state Timothy W. v. Rochester School District have the consequence that a school is mandated to educate a child, even if he or she doesn’t have a brain (literally!)

              Equality demands that everyone is treated equally, doesn’t it? How would this compare to say, SSM?

            2. yo, that’s FUNNY
              federal laws and reulations have gotten so stupid that they ask the impossible, to teach a kid WITH NO BRAIN. Kid literally got NO BRAIN, and they gotta provide him with an “education”

    2. Vouchers will lead to states making a more intrusive relationship with private schools to ensure its money is being spent wisely, including the right for private school teachers to unionize, idiotic testing requirements, etc.

      It also creates the problem of taxpayer money funding religious institutions and/or only going to private schools that have the right political connections.

      There are many problems with the public school system. Funneling money to private schools through vouchers, however, is not the way to fix those problems.

      1. The assumption that it’s the state’s money is the problem.

      2. The G.I. Bill sent a lot of vets to colleges, many of them private or religious. My dad went to a Catholic college even though we weren’t Catholic. Somehow the Republic survived all that. Vouchers are a decent compromise, and any competition will help fix public schools.

  2. You who else prefered a unified educational standard?

    1. Tulpa?

      1. That was unified perpendicular food truck parking.

        1. Oh, is that what the kids are calling it these days?

    2. Albert Einstein?

      Oh wait, that’s unified field theory.

  3. Your Mom

  4. Reason #174 to homeschool.

    I feel bad for people who can’t afford private schools. I think a lot of people can actually afford it, but they’re put off by the religious nature of the more affordable private schools.

    I went through those bible programs, and all they ever taught me was how to defeat a Bible teacher in public. Meanwhile, they were really big on stuff like teaching a work ethic and individual imitative.

    I guess it goes back to my old take on the religious beliefs of people like Romney. I’d rather vote for someone who believes in magic underwear than someone who is so profoundly stupid that he believes bailouts, overspending, nationalizing GM, ObamaCare, and heavy regulation are the ingredients for economic growth.

    Get your kids out of public schools if you can. What the teacher is telling your kids in bible class isn’t anywhere near as bad as what the public schools are teaching kids about history, civics, etc., and life.

    1. but they’re put off by the religious nature

      Why would they be any less put off by the religious nature of big government worship being pushed in public schools?

      1. Because it seems normal to them.

        One of my sisters thought we were off our rockers for putting our kids through a Montessori elementary school. All four of them came out way ahead of the public school kids, but my sister just thought it was weird.

      2. Why would they be any less put off by the religious nature of big government worship being pushed in public schools?

        Fish, water, descriptions thereof.

    2. Get your kids out of public schools if you can.

      Almost any intact family can. Seriously. It’s just a matter of priorities. It’s really easy to live without cable TV and a smartphone, for example.

      The eclectic mix of homeschooling, homeschooling coops, private schools, and public schools that we employed for our children actually paid off for my family. Both kids went to junior college when they were 16 & 17 for “free” as dual-credit charter school students, and went on to complete bachelor degrees at 19 from the University of Texas. (It’s true that a charter school is still public school, but community college is not nearly as repressive as public high school.) I saved four years of college costs in total and the kids got degrees from the state’s best public university. Of course, one has to live in a truly progressive state like Texas to do something like that. I think that some of the more repressive states in the Northeast and West Coast do not allow parents such freedom in the education of their children.

      Wife could have worked for hire when they were kids, but I seriously doubt that, after taxes, commuting, and other costs related to her employment, our savings from her income would be enough to compensate for the additional college costs alone. But, far more importantly, the kids got a solid education without having been indoctrinated to worship the state.

      1. “Both kids went to junior college when they were 16 & 17 for “free” as dual-credit charter school students, and went on to complete bachelor degrees at 19 from the University of Texas.”

        Homeschooling is for uneducated bible-thumping rednecks.

        I know because…because…

        Intelligent design!

        I actually worked my way through a private boarding school in Virginia–and I was by no means unusual at the school. They offered classes in either the mornings or the afternoons, so you could get a job. My parents and grandparents went there–it’s a tradition.

        Your kids can still go there! Kids can still work their way through! And it’s co-ed. They’ve got that girls’ dorm locked up like Fort Knox.

        1. Your kids can still go there! Kids can still work their way through! And it’s co-ed. They’ve got that girls’ dorm locked up like Fort Knox.

          You have a link? Sounds like something that might be good for my son.

      2. Almost any intact family can. Seriously. It’s just a matter of priorities. It’s really easy to live without cable TV and a smartphone, for example.

        Present.

      3. “the kids got degrees from the state’s best public university.”

        You lost me there. Obviously your children aren’t engineers.

        1. er, what? There’s a good chance that he’s referring to Texas A&M, where there’s a very good chance his kids could become engineers.

        2. Um… I just got a BS and MS in Electrical Engineering from a state university that is regularly ranked in the top 20. Tuition/Fees are less than 5k/semester.

    3. Where I live, school choice, public charters, and vouchers are nearly in place because a concerned citizenry decided to fix “public schools” for their own good and those of future generations. Homeschooling is an option for some, but it’s not fixing the problem that everyone, regardless of income or circumstance, can deal with. I would encourage getting involved in your school board and elections to put choice back into the district. If you’re paying taxes, you’re feeding the system–demand a voice.

  5. I’m not sure why anyone today would send a child to a public school. Of course, there is the money issue and I understand that. So if I were young in this country today, I would not have children at all, unless I could send them to a private school. The only purpose of public education today seems to be to indoctrinate children in the ways of progressivism, transgendered something, politically correct bullshit, obey the state, don’t ask questions, and grow up to be a mindless revenue producing sheep for the control freaks in the bottomless money pit on the Potomac.

    1. The only purpose of public education today seems to be to indoctrinate children in the ways of progressivism

      Seems? Having seen the belly of the beast when attending an AERA conference or two, I can assure you the proper verb is “is“.

      1. Thanks for that, a cheery reality for the New Year…

        1. You have no idea. Take a look at the “special interest groups” on the American Educational Research Association’s (AERA) website. [which was founded by Dewey and others, by the way, the group…not the website]

          In addition to that that “social justice” bullshit, you have whole groups devoted to Marxist educational theory. That’s right, in 2013, in Washington DC, you have soi-disant educationists and intellectuals arguing over minute points in Das Kapital like some Maoist mandatory ideology study-session during the Cultural Revolution, instead of studying how the latest insights of neuroscience could be applied in the improvement of classroom instruction for students.

          1. Though to be fair, AERA does have a neuroscience special interest group, but I’d be really curious to compare the composition and population of each group.

    2. That’s been the goal of public education for at least a century.

    3. The money issue is the reason. Private schools cost a ton of money which and even vouchers don’t cover enough of the cost to make it financially viable for most people.

      Not really sure where you got your indoctrination BS from, though. You’re apparently making assumptions based on your own limited view of the world. I went to public schools; I don’t believe a word the state says. Regardless, how is that any better than a religious school indoctrinating its students that the Bible is literal truth?

      1. You claim that you don’t believe everything the State says but then claim that “private schools cost a ton of money”. Considering many private schools charge much less than the State spends per student, you apparently DO believe at least some of the lies.

        1. In fairness, what the public schools spend and what private schools charge are two entirely different animals, especially since you’ll pay your share of public schooling regardless.

          Unless the feds credit private schooling expenditures, but that seems way too libertarian. Unlikelier still that states do it, but I could be wrong.

      2. You know, my son is 11 and goes to a public school (we’re fortunate enough to be in one of the top districts in California, one of those suburbs that people move to ‘for the schools’) and maybe it’s just because he hears his dad talking libertarian all the time, but he already sees through the statist crap at school. I don’t think you’re giving kids enough credit to form their own opinions, regardless of what someone tries to inculcate. I would hazard a guess that most of us on this board are products of public school in at least part of our education — and we turned into the amazingly wry, dynamic conversationalists that HnR is famous for…..

        1. Yep. My daughter is 13 (public school) and argued for legalization of steriods for atheletes in her debate class. Her teacher sent me an email telling me SHE was going to rethink her opinion on the subject. Not all public educated are mindless statists. Unless the parents’ are already mindless statists.

  6. Common Core de-emphasizes correct answers by awarding kids points for reasoning, even when they don’t quite get there.

    Absolutely brilliant. “You were wrong, but we like how you got to your wrong answer, so you’re OK, close enough for us.”

    What a fucking government we have.

    1. We don’t have a government who wants kids to ‘think’. Not in the way we here at H&R think independently, that is. They want to instill group think. We’ll tell you what to think and what you need to think is that we, your betters, have to make all the decisions for you proles, so don’t think too hard now, just make sure you keep supporting big government and being a helpless and dependent sheepie so that we can stay in power and continue to rob you blind.

      1. I don’t buy it, and this sort of rhetoric just paints our movement as crazier than we already seem. Much easier to point out that agencies like the DoE are riddled with competing special interests, and the resulting bureaucratic baggage makes educating children more, not less, difficult. HM’s bit above about academics mining Marxist literature for pedagogical pointers drives home the fact that these agencies aren’t driven by some central tenant, whether good or ill, but are cesspits of narcissists and busybodies.

        1. +1

          And very applicable to most bureaucracies, which might seem overall evil, but in reality just have too much sway from noisy one-issue individuals

  7. I have way too much beer in my house because I somehow let myself get suckered into being a designated driver last night so my wife and daughter-in-law could wear funny hats, drink, and watch the fireworks down at the harbor last night. Fireworks were ok, they looked just like the ones at 4th July. Same fireworks, same water, same buildings… and no beer for me.

    So today I’m drinking beer and trying to come up with my 2014 predictions.

    Here’s the first one: Peyton Manning throws some key interceptions and the Donkeys lose in the playoffs. After, the Sea Chickens win the most boring SB in history in a better than decent defensive effort.

    Carolina seems to be hot at just the right time and sometimes when I see a team like that, I will give them my prediction. But I don’t think they will get past Seattle with Seattle playing at home.

    1. …Sea Chickens…

      That would be ‘She Chickens.’

      1. The ‘Sea Hags’

    2. If the refs would have thrown the flag in SD, the Steelers would be the #6 seed, march thru Cincy, Denver & Indy on their way to stopping the Sea Hags in the Super Bowl. Deja Vu all over again.

  8. This is certainly the nicest-job I have ever done..I earn up to 500$ per week. Im using an online business opportunity I heard about and I’ve made such great money. It feels so good making so much money when other people have to work for so much less. I work through this link, http://www.Buzz95.com

  9. Looks like I am the only one here. Everyone except the spam bots must be too hungover to type.

    1. Well that’s too bad. RIP Uncle Phil.

    2. “Fresh Prince Dad”???? That’s the fucking Shredder they’re speaking of!

  10. “Mr. Yamato’s class has 18 students. If the class counts around by a number and ends with 90, what number did they count by?”

    What’s wrong with plain, old “90/18=?”?

    1. Is that a not gender neutral word (Mr.), I see in that problem?

      SEXIST!

    2. What’s wrong with plain, old “90/18=?”?

      I’m not looking for a kick-down, screaming argument, but isn’t a word problem closer to how people encounter arithmetic in real life? My boss has never asked me “What’s ninety divided by eighteen?”

      Though, if CC were really about helping kids think more mathematically in their daily lives, they’d also teach them to do everyday operations in Base 12.

      1. Seems that way to me. I was one of those weird nerds who excelled at and even enjoyed those word problems in Algebra class that most people really hated. Of course, as a software engineer I spend a lot of time in logical and analytical thinking mode. But it seems to apply well to real life situations also. Or maybe I just think it’s the ideal way to approach things because it’s normal for me.

        But for number crunching, you have calculators anyway. How many times is someone in a situation where they need to figure out what 90/18 is, and they can’t just pull up a calculator on their phone?

        1. From what I understand, the CCS focuses on building mathematical reasoning because it recognizes that most arithmetic is done by calculator nowadays. Purportedly, the CCS tries to teach math in a similar manner as the Japanese, who also focus on using math to solve problems as opposed to studying math facts in isolation. I believe that teaching students what “tools” are appropriate to use from the “mathematical toolbox” when tackling a particular problem is a good way to teach math; however, such a teaching methodology requires teachers of high quality, which the Japanese have but we don’t, as a rule.

          1. Much of that is fair. But, it strikes me that the problem has a lot more to do with just badly worded word problems than with word problems per se.

            1. *shrugs* I didn’t see Stossel’s or Lamoreaux’s problem with it. Let’s remember that CC is not a curriculum. It doesn’t spell out how teachers must teach a particular topic. It is a group of standards that list what students are expected to be able to do after they graduate from a certain grade level. How the teachers get the students there is up to them.

            2. It was a problem for 4th graders IIRC.

              Is that an age appropriate wording for 4th graders ?

              I have no clue but I think that was the gist of the statement.

              1. Watch the video. It isn’t an issue of problem wording, but that there is a required method of solving the problem. If I simply said “oh, that is just 90/18”, then I would be marked incorrect under CCS. The only correct solution method under CCS is to make a bunch of boxes and hash marks and then count them to come up with the solution.

          2. The problem is, this has nothing to do with teaching a person to reason. It has everything to do with requiring the student to follow extraneous, tedious, asinine steps to solve a problem. It’s not hard to figure out the answer to this problem through simple division, but that’s not what the students were expected to do. In order to correctly answer, they have to start out by drawing a bunch of little circles. Huh?

      2. I’m not looking for a kick-down, screaming argument, but isn’t a word problem closer to how people encounter arithmetic in real life?

        I’ve always thought word problems to be an artifact of truly classical (like rewind to Euclid) mathematical education. There was no way for those guys to express ’90/18′ because they did not have a symbolic system to do so. Hence, word problems.

        If you make it ’92/18,’ the answer to that problem incidentally leads to another antique artifact: Fractions. Fractions themselves exist because the ancients had no decimals. Seventy-fifths of one is a much clunkier way of saying ‘0.75.’ But it’s all they had. And education being so progressive, we still waste time with fractions today.

      3. I’m not looking for a kick-down, screaming argument, but isn’t a word problem closer to how people encounter arithmetic in real life?

        I’ve always thought word problems to be an artifact of truly classical (like rewind to Euclid) mathematical education. There was no way for those guys to express ’90/18′ because they did not have a symbolic system to do so. Hence, word problems.

        If you make it ’92/18,’ the answer to that problem incidentally leads to another antique artifact: Fractions. Fractions themselves exist because the ancients had no decimals. Seventy-fifths of one is a much clunkier way of saying ‘0.75.’ But it’s all they had. And education being so progressive, we still waste time with fractions today.

        1. Sorry about the double post. Reason’s commenting system choked. Ugh.

        2. I disagree. Again, outside of a elementary school math teacher, no one has asked me “what is 90 divided by 18”. On the other hand, people have asked me things like, “Ok, I got 100 tiles. The tiles are 2 feet by 3 feet, yeah? Now the floor is like 40 feet by 53 feet, and that ell part is another 10 feet by 10 feet. So about how many titles do we need and do I have to cut some?”

          Again, with fractions, the ancients might not have had decimals and decimals might be easier to deal with in some problems, but when I’m cutting a pizza or a cake, personally, it’s easier for me to think in fractions. 1 slice out of 8 slices is easier for my mind’s eye to grasp than 0.125 of a whole pizza pie. YMMV, of course.

          1. When I think of the (lack of) utility of fractions, and how sophistication of symbolic systems is such a time saver, I always think of poor Archimedes. His method of exhaustion for pi yielded something like 22/7. And in the Sand Reckoner he had to literally invent a rhetorical scheme just to describe numbers bigger than a myriad (way bigger than a myriad).

            I believe that is one of the reasons the Greeks were so accomplished at visual things like geometry but missed the boat on things like algebra – you literally needed a better system of expression to elucidate those concepts beyond a lone genius’s internal perception.

            And speaking of perceptions, your pizza example is apt. When I think of dividing the proverbial pizza, my first thought is how many slices are needed to serve however many people?

            Once that is done, in your example eight slices, the base ‘number system’ in my mind becomes the number of slices, where each equals one. I do not think of the pizza as one subdivided per se, but a pile of eight to be separated.

            That illustrates a problem inherent with public education, where one perception is ‘wrong’ and the other ‘right’ despite them yielding equally valid answers.

          2. If a pizza has a radius Z and a depth A, its volume is Pi*Z*Z*A.

        3. Seventy-fifths of one is NOT a much clunkier way of saying ‘0.75’. Seventy-fifths = 14, and seventy-fifths (a fifth being a portion of one already) of one = 14 also. OTOH a seventy-fifth = 0.01333… anyway, just goes to show the importance of verbal expression in math.

          And education being so progressive, we still waste time with fractions today.

          For a button pusher, perhaps. In the real world, fractions are critical. From food or maid service, farming, carpentry and construction all the way to architecture, visual arts, medicine, engineering, electronic design, and statistics; it is important to be able to think or visualize in fractions.

          Not that pushing buttons after-the-fact is wrong; just that accounting or calculating doesn’t work across many, many other disciplines.

          1. Long time ago, I use to support AutoCAD and Bentley Microstation (architecture). No fractions, no problem. Ditto with engineering (Mechanical Desktop). No fractions, no problem.

            And for a good contrast in verbally describing the physical world (the ‘real’ one vs. button pushing), take English units and metric units. When was the last time you ever heard anyone talk about 3/4 of a centimeter or a 7/8 of a kilogram? Exactly.

            Using the metric system, fractions become redundant expressing the world – in your head or on paper – in all the fields you mention with the possible exception of statistics.

            1. but then the coordinate system had a finite range, and you had to piss with whether the seed file was lower left or center/center. I worked many years with KORK that has a floating center to the design space.

              1. but then the coordinate system had a finite range, and you had to piss with whether the seed file was lower left or center/center.

                How many times did you need fractions to piss, as you say? Zero? That sounds about right.

                1. ok, the user always had to worry about whether the correct global origin was selected in the seed file, or else the photogrammetric mapping data wouldn’t fit in the design space. KORK would take the first point entered as a global origin and build out to the magic number around that. Need ground coordinates to 3 decimals. Some highway or pipeline projects can cover up to 100 miles in length.

      4. This is nonsense. There is absolutely no reason why people should use base 12.

        However, people should base 8. Think of the enormous computing savings that could be realized if humanity were to adopt base 8 instead of base 10.

        1. Why choose? Use different bases for different things.

      5. I’m not looking for a kick-down, screaming argument, but isn’t a word problem closer to how people encounter arithmetic in real life? My boss has never asked me “What’s ninety divided by eighteen?”

        I’m guessing that most of the commentariat (and Stossel) didn’t actually watch the video.

        The mother’s problem with the question was NOT that they were asked it in that form.

        Her problem was that the way they were taught to solve the problem was by drawing circles and making hash-marks to figure out the answer, instead of just learning how to fucking divide like kids have since forever. The problem was the the method the school was teaching was a 90-step process, instead of the 1-step process the answser actually requires.

        1. Her problem was that the way they were taught to solve the problem was by drawing circles and making hash-marks to figure out the answer, instead of just learning how to fucking divide like kids have since forever.

          Interesting. The hash-marks and circles stuff is our attempt to copy Asian mathematics instruction. My daughter does Singapore Math and that’s exactly how it works. While memorizing times-tables has its merits, the greater understanding of mathematical concepts and their utilization by students in Asian countries like China, Japan, South Korea, and Singapore cannot be denied.

          Ultimately, it is similar to the false dilemma of “whole language vs. phonics”. You can’t learn to read well just by memorizing common words; likewise reading only though phonics is laborious and unnecessary. What you do is memorize the most common words while mastering the rules of phonics so that when you encounter a word you don’t know, you have the skill and knowledge to sound it out. I don’t see why this wouldn’t hold true for elementary mathematics.

          1. it is similar to the false dilemma of “whole language vs. phonics”. You can’t learn to read well just by memorizing common words; likewise reading only though phonics is laborious and unnecessary. What you do is memorize the most common words while mastering the rules of phonics so that when you encounter a word you don’t know, you have the skill and knowledge to sound it out.

            But what you correctly describe as the best method is BOTH phonics and memorizing common words. Whole language doesn’t teach phonics, so you can’t do what you and I did when we grew up and read many words with which we were unfamiliar, which is, as you say, “sound it out”. When you teach phonics, you then get to fall back on the old reliable, “look it up” if they can’t sound it out.

            1. Right. And Singapore Math, for example, doesn’t discourage you from memorizing math facts. The focus on circles and hashes in the early levels at least, is to drive home the concept of place value, which in my opinion, as a parent (I don’t claim to be an expert in mathematics teaching), is one of the things American pedagogy stinks at and East Asian pedagogy excels. The theory is that eventually the kid will start thinking in those circles and hashes and be able to manipulate numbers and place value in their head. Or in Ed-speak, the idea is that by breaking down larger numbers into units that can be subitized, mental manipulation of the numbers will be quicker and easier when it comes to the big stuff.

  11. Shut up the Winter Classic is on.

    1. WTH is a Winter Classic? Is that a Canuckistania thing?

      1. Outdoor NHL Game.
        Today’s is at the U of Michigan Football Satdium in Ann Arbor.

        1. Ahhh, ok. Hockey is a game I’ve never really watched. I had no idea that they ever played outside.

          I really only have time for one sport, so it’s NFL. Although I will watch ‘futebol’ with the wife when Brazil is playing in a big match. I still don’t understand all of the rules, but I’m learning.

          1. Australian football is a good drug to wean oneself from the NFL at season’s end.

  12. and central planning rarely works.

    I beg to differ. Central planning by a state never works.

    She read to the Board this question: “Mr. Yamato’s class has 18 students. If the class counts around by a number and ends with 90, what number did they count by?”

    That number would be 5.

    5 x 18 = 90

    Or, 90/18 = 5

    1. Why would anybody count individual things by 5? The exercise makes no sense, so the kids learn that math is good for nonsensical activities.

      It really is a crappy formulation of a problem.

      It would be much better if they were to count the fingers on each student’s left hand. However, that would offend Muslims and amputees.

      1. Why would anybody count individual things by 5?

        Why does anyone count anything using different bases? As I noted up-thread. many folks argue that for everyday life, Base 12 is superior in that, for example, it provides a way to deal with fractions in that they can be decimalize into easier to comprehend “numbers”. For example in decimal “1/3” is 0.33333333(forever repeating), in dozenal it is simply 0.4. Easier to grasp and manipulate, yes?

        Though, I get your point about how the problem would be improved by using fingers and hands, which would make it clearer to see. Or 5 dollar bills, maybe.

        1. Base 12 problem:

          Q: How many 12-ers do we need for the party if each of our 13 guests drinks 7 beers?

          Answer: Fifteen. We’ll be too hung over to get to the store tomorrow before the game.

  13. If a train is headed from Cincinnati to Cleveland at 50mph and another train is going the opposite direction at 45 mph, where will the trains collide, and how much money would you make after expenses if you sold tickets to the collision at$30 per head?

    1. If the Cleveland Browns are in one of the trains, how much would it cost to let them down for the last time?

      1. Is there a universal constant for Sadness? Such a value would be needed for Brownian computations.

        1. Is there a universal constant for Sadness

          I think it is called the Yglesias Number.

          1. +3.14159265….

  14. Mr. Yamoto’s class has 18 students. If he teaches public school in Wisconsin, then after that fascist Scott Walker takes away his benefits, how much dog food can he afford to eat for a month, assuming he has only one meal a day, and how many yachts could the Koch Brothers afford with all the money they took from the tachers?

    /Educating for Social Justice

  15. How many licks does it take to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop? Calculate the answer in base 2.

    1. Well the Owl said “11”. I once did that experiment as a kid and got about “11110”.

      1. You just made that shit up, HM.

          1. Well then, I guess that Mrs. HM is a lucky lady!

    2. One… a … Two … a … Three …. *crunch*

      A Three.

  16. Examine this equation. On the graph paper, draw a picture of how you think the equation feels.

  17. Rev. Fred Lucas Jr., a Brooklyn-based pastor who serves as a chaplain for the Department of Sanitation referred to New York City as a plantation during the inauguration ceremonies for Mayor Bill de Blasio

    1. Well, there sure a lot of people trying to escape.

      But try getting a New Yorker to pick cotton. “Yo, I thought cotton candy came in red and blue, but this stuff is white and it tastes terrible!

      Alternate joke: Cotton Comes to Harlem –

      http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0065579/

    2. I appreciate sanitation workers from protecting us from wallowing in our own filth and dying of some nasty disease, but I have to wonder what kind of prayers the chaplain says:

      “O, Lord, this garbage may stink, but it is the stench of sin which truly offends God’s nostrils! Stuff Satan in a garbage can, Lord, and cast him into a landfill to rot eternally, amen!”

    3. The NYC garbage men need their own chaplain? How dangerous is that job, anyway?

  18. List the Presidents of the United States. What percentage were minorities? What percentage were women? GROUP PROJECT: Hold a Primal Screamnsession to express your rage st racism and sexism.

    1. There has only ever been one, the greatest president of all time, who was to become known as Teleprompter Jesus, and who would save the children and rescue womens vaginas from Rethuglican chains.

      1. Teleprompter Jesus

        /thread

  19. I was one of those weird nerds who excelled at and even enjoyed those word problems in Algebra class that most people really hated. Of course, as a software engineer I spend a lot of time in logical and analytical thinking mode. But it seems to apply well to real life situations also. Or maybe I just think it’s the ideal way to approach things because it’s normal for me.

    I never really “enjoyed” math classes, but it wasn’t especially difficult for me. Looking back, I think the real value of high school algebra and trigonometry is that they teach a structured thought process. Learning to do “proofs” is the foundation of logical thought processes, I’d say. Apparently, all that has been banned in favor of emotive a priori cognition.

    1. Proofs? We don’t need no stinking proofs, just put that there website in production already, and anyone who says it doesn’t work, is a racist!

      1. I read that op-ed before and here is what made me rage:

        The aim would be to treat mathematics as a liberal art, making it as accessible and welcoming as sculpture or ballet.

        First of all, mathematics, traditionally, is one of the liberal arts as arithmetic and geometry were two out of the four disciplines of the quadrivium. Secondly, the two examples he gives are from the Fine Arts, which are neither accessible nor welcoming. Sculpture? Really? Just anyone can take a hammer and chisel in hand and hack away at stone? And ballet? Who else can dance ballet except skinny, ectomorphic chicks in their early twenties?

        1. Barishnakov?

          1. True, but still an ectomorph.

            1. “Mesomorphic.” Maybe I’ll update my okcupid profile.

        2. That’s fair, but what do you make of his premise? It doesn’t seem outlandish to me that algebra is a tremendous stumbling block for younger students. If it’s a matter of exposing the students who can and perhaps will benefit from a math-focused education, there must be better ways than pushing all students through the meatgrinder.

          Unlike many here, I don’t see students failing as primarily an issue with public education. Public education has many intractable problems, but it’s also burdened with impossible mandates. It’s inevitable that many students will fail to excel, and (of course) half are below average. In a sane world we would channel brighter students into calculus and competent students through algebra, and the students who can’t or won’t would still find technical trades, writing craft, arts, or whathaveyou. But mandating that all students pass an abstruse subject like algebra makes that sorting difficult.

          1. In a sane world we would channel brighter students into calculus and competent students through algebra

            That sounds a lot like Churchill’s teach them all English, the bright ones Latin and Greek as a treat. In HMtopia, a school’s curriculum would be student-guided, that is, if one is interested in learning algebra, that class would be open to him or her. If not, then the student could take something else. In the current world, the conceit they used to sell public education was that it would produce knowledgeable people that would be able to meaningfully participate in our republican form of government. Personally, I don’t find algebra to be abstruse; I find it a fundamental. (and I say that as someone with dyscalculia). Algebra is just arithmetic with variables, right? We encounter variables in our everyday lives, regardless of profession. To be numerate, I argue that an understanding of elementary algebra is needed.

            1. We encounter variables in our everyday lives, regardless of profession. To be numerate, I argue that an understanding of elementary algebra is needed.

              I’ve always found it funny that people in their everyday lives do algebra, but do not even realize it, while computing things like buy quantity X of item N at Y price in the grocery store, versus buying quantity P of item N at price Z at Costco to figure out the better deal.

              1. I’ll try to find the study, but I can’t guarantee that I’ll find it in a timely fashion; however, remember reading that some researchers went to some third world country (I want to say in Latin America but I’m not certain) and gave marketplace sellers an pre-algebra and algebra test, of which they all flunked. Then they reworded those same problems in word problems based on what they do everyday, like the example you gave above and almost all of them scored 100 percent.

            2. In HMtopia, a school’s curriculum would be student-guided

              Having home schooled two children for almost 10 years, this is simply the most important factor.

              Collectivized education will always fail to be optimal because human beings are individuals. To be “equal” and “fair” collectivization always seeks the lowest common denominator. The very term “grade” places all individuals at a certain age as being the same, and it is pervasive. But guess what, some children who are the same age will actually have different abilities!

              Equality under Law is a principle to which all should aspire. Equality, for human beings, is EVIL. The only way to keep the trees, or people, equal, is by hatchet, axe, and saw.

              1. Guillotines work, too.

                1. I will never be Kevin Durant’s equal on the basketball court. I will never hold a candle to Thomas Sowell’s intellect. I will never have the balls of Felix Baumgartner. Since the magic does not exist to make me as great as these in their areas of expertise, the only way that equality could be achieved would be to bring them down to my level. Stealing, destroying, and denying greatness is also part and parcel of the Socialist way.

          2. Unlike many here, I don’t see students failing as primarily an issue with public education. Public education has many intractable problems, but it’s also burdened with impossible mandates.

            See, these two things are connected. The fact that public education has intractable problems is a direct result of impossible mandates, which are part and parcel of anything “universal”. Public education CAN. NOT. WORK.

            When you think that maybe you believe that public education can be fixed, call it what it is, socialist indoctrination and then ask yourself if you still believe it can work.

            Don’t believe that it is socialist indoctrination? How in the fuck do you think we got the point with AGW we did if people were actually being educated? The parade of ignorance on that subject alone should be enough to convince anyone.

            1. Oh, I don’t think it can be fixed. And really, it’s an opportunity to critique the fundamental idea of universal education from both ends: like any government program, it’s terminally infected by special-interest pandering (as I noted earlier) and fatally hobbled by busybodies with the best of intentions. On the flipside, even if we purge it of those restraints, it’s trying to achieve the impossible: homogenizing education across an extremely heterogenous population. Reforms might help, if those reforms take the form of busting unions, breaking up districts, dissolving federal oversight, and allowing experimentation to flourish, but those aren’t the reforms we’ll ever see. “Reforms” like Common Core and NCLB merely double down on the problems rendering the system intractable.

              1. I have recently come to the conclusion that the ultimate battle is one of individualism versus collectivism and that “universal education” is one of the most powerful and effective weapons of the collectivists.

                Individuals, families, co-ops are the places where one should educate their children. Liberty through free association, not the collective bottom through coercion.

                For several years now I have been unable to imagine not home schooling my children. I would work two jobs, go without any luxury, or even a kidney, I might even cross the NAP, to keep from having them assimilated to the Borg.

                1. I have recently come to the conclusion that the ultimate battle is one of individualism versus collectivism and that “universal education” is one of the most powerful and effective weapons of the collectivists.

                  Individuals, families, co-ops are the places where one should educate their children. Liberty through free association, not the collective bottom through coercion.

                  Then you’ll love Saving Schools by Paul Peterson. I highly recommend it as a history to understand how we got to where we are.

    2. I never really “enjoyed” math classes, but it wasn’t especially difficult for me. Looking back, I think the real value of high school algebra and trigonometry is that they teach a structured thought process.

      I was one of those kids who kept getting in trouble because I would do the problem in my head and never was ‘showing my work.’

      1. That’s intended as a way of rewarding unintelligent grinds. Show your work, even if you’re not terribly bright, and you get good grades. It’s why grades aren’t an indicator of much anymore.

        1. It is also used to discourage cheating.

      2. This. I would get questions marked wrong for not showing work, and I’d go all Good Will Hunting on them and say “I’m sorry if you can’t do this in your head, but I can. I can’t show my work, because I didn’t do all of that work. My work was to read the question, and answer it”.

        They tried to hold me back in 1st grade, and skip me forward in 2nd. Even at the time, I was fairly convinced they didn’t have their shit together.

  20. just put that there website in production already, and anyone who says it doesn’t work, is a racist!

    I think we all agree reliance on structured arguments and “proof” is UNFAIR.

  21. Shirley Bagwell, a longtime Tennessee teacher, warns that “to expect all students to master algebra will cause more students to drop out.”

    Gosh, Shirley, what are the chances you’re teaching it wrong?

    1. One thing Common Core does get wrong is expecting algebra mastery by all students, which is just impossible. So, maybe she is, maybe she isn’t teaching it wrong. If she’s dealing with a lot of sub-100 IQ people, not her fault.

      1. Well, Common Core is built upon the bones of NCLB.

  22. Little flashback moment with Julie Borowski about Common Core
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lX7ddVUuf-E

    1. It’s unfortunate that Ms. Borowski (unknowingly?) perpetuates the “2+2=5” myth. Attacks that the CC lacks in rigor and is touchy-feely are bullshit. The origin of this is that standards-based education was a “conservative” (mostly of the “neo” flavor) plank originally pushed for by the Reagan administration and supported by conservative educationists like Benjamin Bloom and William Bennett until they fumbled the ball with NCLB and via Marc Tucker the Democrats took it and ran.

      1. Don’t you be giving my crush a hard time!
        If I was 20 years younger and single I’d try to court this wonderful lass.
        I do sometimes get distracted by the cleft in her chin — it seems to be off center and pointed somewhat sideways. Or is that just my computer?

        1. She is cute and her chin is a bit asymmetrical.

      2. Attacks that the CC lacks in rigor and is touchy-feely are bullshit

        Really? I assume that you know more about the specifics than I but I also assumed that lacking in rigor and touchy-feely were pretty much a given.

        I seem to have heard/read that math was going to be moved back two full years. Instead of teaching long division in the 3rd grade they would teach it in the 5th. (just an example I don’t remember specifics)

        1. You can read the standards here. And as standards, I like them. However, I agree with educational theorist Yong Zhao that the Common Core would be great if it wasn’t “common” nor “core”. The problem for me is the FedGov’s heavy-handed and immoral manner of pushing them onto the states by tying Race to the Top grant money to their adoption–even before they finished writing the CC standards. I mean, even if you think caviar and truffles are great, no one wants to be force-fed them.

          I feel the correct way to attack CC is to rightly point out the privacy concerns, which Borowski did, and how one-size-fits-all stifles innovation.

          1. “And as standards, I like them. However, I agree with educational theorist Yong Zhao that the Common Core would be great if it wasn’t “common” nor “core”. The problem for me is the FedGov’s heavy-handed and immoral manner of pushing them onto the states by tying Race to the Top grant money to their adoption–even before they finished writing the CC standards.”

            Well said throughout.

  23. Algebra is just arithmetic with variables, right? We encounter variables in our everyday lives, regardless of profession. To be numerate, I argue that an understanding of elementary algebra is needed.

    It’s all about framing the question, and structuring the equation. But those are not skills transferable to other real life situations.

    We’ll create a nation of “Math is Hard” Barbies. What could possibly go wrong?

    1. According to Andrew Hacker in the op-ed I linked above, we already have. We emphasize standardized competence in a subject that many of us, perhaps even most of us, find a simple exercise and (as HM states) an essential factor of basic numeracy. Unfortunately, this standard derails education for the bottom 40 or so percent of students who end up dropping out over their inadequate drive or competence in pursuing scholastic subjects. I don’t think it’s entirely attributable to algebra, and I don’t think Hacker thinks it is, but algebra is an instantly recognizable stumbling block.

      I see it in terms of Thomas Sowell’s admonitions against sending black students to prestigious universities to pad equalitarian credentials: it’s a disservice to smart young blacks who may have graduated top of their class at state universities, but end up in the bottom quartile at an ivy league institution. This doesn’t mean that blacks are incapable of attaining elite educations, merely that displacing students even for the best of intentions has drastic implications for their futures. It sets the bar absurdly high. At the other end of the spectrum, but driven by the same exceedingly kind intentions, requiring algebra bars many otherwise competent students from graduating.

      1. Also well said throughout.

  24. Skwerlz et muh comment.

  25. According to Andrew Hacker in the op-ed I linked above

    I read the first page, and was not sufficiently impressed to read farther. It sounded too much like, “If we find out which questions they can’t answer, we’ll take them off the test, and scores will go up.”

    Even in grade school, I thought the way math was taught was screwy, because there was too much emphasis on disembodied formulae. Word problems (assuming they were cogently written) made more sense, because they revealed the nature of math as a problem solving tool.

    1. The flaw in Hacker’s piece is thinking that the system as a whole is workable if only we modify the curricula, but at least he recognizes that not all students are best served by the standardized approach meant to ensure that algebra is learned, but which in reality only means that algebra is taught. Those who don’t learn, leave.

  26. at least he recognizes that not all students are best served by the standardized approach meant to ensure that algebra is learned

    I have no objection to this, and I suspect algebra as conceptualized by the High Priests of the Educratocracy is largely irrelevant, if not specifically useless, in the real world of barista-ing. I still lay the blame for poor mathematical skills at the feet of those who are tasked with teaching them.

    As long as children are herded like cattle into classes segregated by age rather than ability, public schools will fail.

  27. Have I mentioned I like Stossel?

  28. I was really optimistic when I saw that a major investigative reporter had taken up this issue. Unfortunately, Stossel has neglected to delve the MAJOR concerns of those opposing the core.

    First, over a hundred years of scientific research have taught us how the human brain develops and learns. The CCSS do not take ANY of this research into account – most prominently, the work of Piaget, who outlined the cognitive stages of development. The cognitive processes expected of the youngest learners by the Common Core Standards are physiological impossible. It’s like trying to push a toddler down the stairs because they will need to learn how to alternate feet. They will get it when their brains are developed sufficiently to do so, and no sooner.

    The unfortunate blunder of the architects of the CCSS – none of whom actually had any background in teaching and learning (google “the secret sixty”) – was to back-map the curriculum. This is akin to building a house from the roof down. What we are left with, then, are expectations requiring operations of a pre-frontal cortex that is not physically developed yet. This is why parents of students in the primary grades are seeing such frustration from these children. While there may be some valuable material within the standards, when the foundation is un-sound, the walls will crumble.
    I have more, but the system says I have to break it up because it is too long…

    1. cont.
      In fact, There is NO RESEARCH whatsoever supporting the supposition that these standards are effective. Bill Gates – THE major financial contributor to the development of the standards – has been quoted as saying, “We won’t know for another 10 years whether our education stuff worked.” David Coleman, the “architect” of the Common Core State Standards was quoted as saying: “we’re composed of that collection of unqualified people who were involved in developing the standards…I probably spend more time on literacy because as weak as my qualifications are there, in math they’re even more desperate in their lacking.” This is the person who has just been appointed to upend the SAT to make it Common Core aligned! He was introduced by Lauren Resnick as having “been involved in virtually every step of setting the national standards and he doesn’t have a single credential for it.”

      One more break…

  29. cont.
    Further, two major educational leaders, who were on the validation panel for the standards REFUSED to VALIDATE them. Dr. Sandra Stotsky – the writer of the ELA Standards for Massachusetts reiterated that the standards were developmentally inappropriate and do not focus on literature enough to effectuate the “critical thinking and analysis” that the CCSS purport. Dr. James Milgram, the ONLY mathematician on the panel advised that the standards would leave students 2 years behind in math by grade 7 – ensuring that most students would not have the background courses needed to attend a 4-year University. In fact, the creator of the math standards, Jason Zimba admitted this inconvenient truth – that our students will be prepared only for Community College. Those of us who have been paying our school taxes to ensure that our children get a great education and go on to excellent colleges should be OUTRAGED by this!
    and lastly…

  30. cont.
    So why rush headlong into adopting these poorly constructed, developmentally inappropriate, and ultimately inadequate “standards”? Follow the MONEY. Gates, Pearson, the Waltons, Murdoch, and their ilk stand to make BILLIONS by siphoning off money earmarked for public education into private, corporate hands. Gates was clear about this at the 2009 National Conference of State Legislators, while speaking of Common Core: “For the first time, there will be a large uniform base of customers eager to buy products.”

    1. Fascinating information, MC. I’d like to read more. If you can supply some links to the best stuff, I’d appreciate it.

      Thanks!

      1. I have attached several videos as I tend to prefer citing primary sources.
        The “Secret Sixty”
        http://blogs.edweek.org/teache…..s_ign.html
        Jason Zimba admits student will not be prepared for universities
        http://www.youtube.com/watch?
        v=eJZY4mh2rt8&feature=youtu.be
        can only do 2 links…

      2. and two more…
        Bill Gates explains how common core IS, in its very essences, teaching to a test and is designed to create a marketplace for corporations to peddle their wares
        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v…..e=youtu.be
        Dr. James Milgram speaks about why he refused to validate
        common core math standards
        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MuexIMWBOQY

      3. and two more…
        Dr. Meghan Koschnick explains why Common Core is developmentally inappropriate
        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7tSQlJE6VuA
        Dr. Sandra Stotsky explain why she refused to validate the ELA standards
        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7tSQlJE6VuA

      4. and another…
        Joint Statement of Early Childhood Health and Education Professionals
        on the Common Core Standards Initiative – “grave concerns”
        http://www.edweek.org/media/jo…..ndards.pdf

        That should be a good start 🙂

      5. oops, almost forgot the BEST one, CCSS architect David Coleman speaking about his lack of credentials for the CCSS project (there’s video and transcript- the video is long, but primary source): http://atthechalkface.com/2013…..u-support/

  31. The myth that government standards can create a better product may be true when talking about a product. But one size never fits all when talking about people, and children are people – not products.

    The idea that only one size is needed is ridiculous when talking about clothes – the external. But children are just as different internally. Common Core is a direct denial of the value of different educational content, and so worsens rather than enhances the American educational experience.

    When there’s a choice of approaches, parents usually choose the best for their children, which is probably why President Obama chose to send his children to a private school. It seems he already realizes any government-run system – including education – inherently has poor quality and produces badly educated children. see http://www.LifeStrategies.net/education

  32. “This is good news. Vouchers, Education Savings Accounts and tax credits create competition and choice.”

    But only if you can afford it. Students who’s parents live near to or below the poverty line still have no choice.

  33. I appreciate that John Stossel is shedding some light on this, but he misses some key points. For instance, the complaint by the mother in Arkansas wasn’t just that the math was worded in a confusing way, but that you had to take so many steps to solve a rather simple problem, starting with drawing circles. Huh? This isn’t teaching reasoning at all. It’s teaching that you must obey tedious, asinine rules in order to solve a division problem. Also, how are vouchers and tax credits supposed to help when private schools are also using Common Core? That doesn’t create competition at all. It just supports more of the same.

  34. From an educator’s perspective, I agree with many of your comments that federal programs have jumped the shark and are demanding unrealistic programming from local school districts. Common Core, however, is actually an initiative that helps to clarify what students should know when leaving school. We have been working under sets of standards in each state that are huge volumes and we are to guess what will be tested at the end of the year. Common core allows us to focus on a set of, what Ainsworth calls “power standards” that students will need going forward. We are not told how to teach these standards and we are not required to teach only these standards, excluding all other information. In my school we have a standard curriculum which includes the Common Core standards, but also includes other standards. We are to make sure students know the Common Core as they will be tested on those and future teachers will have the expectation that the students will have an understanding of those standards. We also provide advanced classes in each subject area to push our students to their potential by going far above the Common Core.

    Like many, I am wary of federal involvement in education, but, in this case, I think Common Core delivers a clarity of expectations that education has been seeking for years.

  35. But although the Feds say Common Core is voluntary, and give big money to States that “voluntarily” adopt it, they get that money from the tax-payers in those States coercively! If you cooperate, we’ll give you back some of your own people’s money…

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