Sunday, March 23, 2014

Common Core and Colleges

I believe this to be true:
The Common Core's standards amount to an assault on the college curriculum. That's because colleges will have to adapt to what the Common Core teaches--and what it fails to teach. It teaches a mechanical way of reading that is poorly suited to literature, philosophy, history, and the rest of the liberal arts. It also fails to teach the math students need to begin a college-level curriculum in the sciences...

Common Core defers the teaching of algebra to the 9th grade. As a consequence, it will be difficult for schools to offer pre-calculus to students before they finish high school. There simply isn't enough time left in the curriculum to reach that level, and the Common Core poses other obstacles as well. Trigonometry is barely broached. Geometry follows an eccentric path. The result is that students who go to college hoping to study the physical sciences, computing, engineering, economics, and other math-heavy fields will be handicapped. Or they will have to scramble before they get to college to supplement what their high schools offer.

Some students will find their ways around these obstacles, but many won't, and that will leave colleges and universities with few good choices. The likeliest path will be to reduce the rigor of their science programs to accommodate students who have to spend their first year catching up on mathematics that used to be taught in high school.

Everybody acknowledges how important the STEM fields are for America's future--and few are more vocal about this than Bill Gates. One of the ironies of the Common Core is that its most lavish-spending advocate is contributing to the further erosion of our nation's strength in this area. Perhaps it is no wonder that Mr. Gates is also a major supporter of increasing the number of H-1B visas for foreign nationals who have expertise in science and engineering...

The Common Core will not make an appreciable number of students more "college ready." It may smooth the way, however, for more students to be admitted to college. President Obama and Michelle Obama have recently ratcheted up the campaign that Obama announced back in his first address to Congress in February 2009--to make America the nation with the highest percentage of college graduates. The pitch that "everyone should go to college" has been a favorite of American politicians for a long time. It is, on its face, silly. To achieve anything like it would require obliterating academic standards and wasting untold trillions of dollars. But the phrase somehow strokes the national ego.
The author of the above article is the president of the National Association of Scholars, which makes his closing line entertaining:
I await the rallies where Tea Party activists unite in uncommon cause with English and History profs.

No comments: