Thursday, August 1, 2013


The Report Card

Fitzhugh: The Common Core Promotes Skills, Not Knowledge

Posted on 24 July 2013

Tags: curriculum reform, educational standards, failure of common core standard, The Concord Review, Will Fitzhugh

by Will Fitzhugh

(Editor—William Korach: The Common Core Standard (CCSS) has had increasing opposition in recent month across America, but Will Fitzhugh has the best reason to oppose it. He says it does not teach knowledge-just skills or learning how to learn. Will Fitzhugh publishes a quarterly of the best high school papers in America (and 38 other countries),. Mr. Fitzhugh is concerned that CCSS has “no standards about what students should know.”)

The Common Core is not a curriculum—that is plainly stated, again and again. That means that they do not tell teachers what books to teach, for example in history and literature classes. They say that a few United States founding documents would be nice to offer students and that someone should teach some other nonfiction.

The Founding Documents they suggest could be read by a good ‘B’ high school student in one afternoon, so presumably they would want more history than that, although they do not specify any (Common Core is not a curriculum, they keep saying).

Because they offer no curriculum in history and literature, teachers across the country will vary in the poems, plays, novels, nonfiction articles and the history books (if any) which they assign students to read and study. Common Core follows Kipling’s notion that “There are 97 ways to compose tribal lays, and every single one of them is right.”

This is very progressive, of course, but it makes for an insuperable problem for the National Testing Consortia which are preparing to examine students prepared to meet the Common Core Standards.

Because students will have read and even, perhaps, written about and/or discussed many different examples of history and literature, the Common Core Assessments can not ask them about what they have learned, because they will have learned (or not) many different things from the sources they have been offered.

As a result, the Common Core National Assessment Consortia can only test students for their critical thinking, deeper reading, and other analytic “skills” which do not require that them to show that they actually know anything about anything.

So, even though supporters of the Common Core often make the mistake of saying it raises standards for what students “know” and can do, it really says nothing about what they should know.

The application of the Common Core to American students is thus directed at enabling students to be ignoramuses who may be able to talk glibly about their instant critical analysis of selected test passages, but they will not have enough knowledge to do them a bit of good in college or at any workplace. And, if E.D. Hirsch is right (and he is), they won’t be able to understand what they read much either (because they don't know anything).


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