I received the letter below from a teacher who wanted to share his concerns about Common Core.
My name is Stuart Harper, I am a first year high school physics teacher in St. George. I have a deep love and passion for teaching, not teaching for teaching’s sake, but actually giving meaningful education. I have only recently been introduced to common core (my first encounter with it was about two years ago) and I am gravely concerned by it. The things that concern me the most about it are: 1) the way it is presented and pushed upon us in our teacher training programs (even at BYU), 2) the lack of control we have over its content, 3) the awful quality of its math core, 4) the over-emphasis on testing, 5) the massive burdens on schools for curriculum changes and data collection, and 6) how its focus drives schools deeper into the political realm and further from real education.
Now before I dive into my points I want to address something that I had to learn from experience. Many people say “well this is just the core, you have as much freedom as you want to teach what you want.” (If I hear that overused apple analogy any more I am going to scream.) I have found that in the field that this is not true. Teachers, under pressure by superiors in government positions to perform or else, are driven more and more to teach just the core. I have seen many teachers do this, and it saddens me. I look at my own core, physics, which currently hasn’t been hit yet by common core though it is coming soon, and I see so much great physics that I would never dream of leaving out. But I have talked with a few teachers here in Utah that have confessed that they teach only the core. So anyone that tries to diminish the importance of the issue by saying the teachers have all the freedom they need to teach what they want must be unaware or totally numb to the suffocating constriction of these government restrictions.
The first time I was introduced to common core was at BYU. I was taking a class on classroom management from the Mckay School of education. The teacher, an adjunct faculty from an adjacent district, told us about this new “common core” and how it would help so many people. The thing I still remember her saying was “And we really need you to be on board with this. We are really counting on the new wave of teachers to help push this through.” I didn’t think it was too odd, simply because I did not yet know what it was. When I did about a semester later, I started vocalizing my concerns in my education classes. One of my teachers brushed aside my concerns in front of the whole class saying that it was inevitable, “that Utah will kick against the pricks but when the money starts calling it will fall right in place.” I was abashed by that. It took a long time to even convince my sister (an elementary ed major) of its flaws due to the indoctrination of some of BYU’s instructors. (Please understand, I love BYU. Their Physics Education program from the college of physical and mathematical sciences is the best in the nation for a reason, but I have many concerns about the Mckay school that I will not go into here.) Across the board I have found that those who tout Common Core’s virtues scream them out so loud that it becomes clear that they are trying to cover for it’s massive flaws, and that to me is a great concern.
Second, is the lack of control over the core’s content at the federal level. I have no control in Washington DC, and very little in Salt Lake. I would prefer having the control at the county level, where I can have a say, but that is another subject for another time. How any educator in their right mind can surrender control of what they are supposed to teach to some network of desk bureaucrats thousands of miles away from their classroom is beyond me. It is the height of insanity. Many people have said that this will make it easier for people who move from state to state. That fraction of people, compared to the national population, is laughably small, and is not worth the billions of dollars in deficit spending that we are killing ourselves with to “help.” I was raised in New Mexico, during a time when they were experimenting with a new way to teach writing and spelling. This “New English” turned out to be a dismal failure across the district, and it was very quickly changed at the state. That probably would have never been corrected under the common core system. Too much federal red tape. But even then, there was a whole generation of students, myself included, that struggled greatly with writing and spelling. In fact, it wasn’t until high school, when I finally got a private writing tutor that I actually learned the rules of English that most people I know take for granted.
This problem is already here, but not as much with English (at least as I understand) as it is with math. I am appalled by the dictatorial way that it has been changed to a sub-par system that every math teacher and principle I have talked to opposes and despises. I have yet to meet a single person who thinks this new system is a good thing, in education and out. Those students who I have talked to about it are confused, discouraged, and don’t like it at all. This concerns me greatly because as a physics teacher I count on my students on knowing algebra before they enter my class. Now I realize that I am going to have to teach two classes in one, because I have no clue how many of them know math.
The rest of the concerns that I have listed I hope are obvious to those who are knowledgeable on common core. Please, for the sake of our children let us stop this awful takeover and bring control of our classroom home.
– Stuart Harper