How 10 Troubling Homework Assignments Reveal the Truth About Common Core
Editor’s Note: This article was first published in October of 2013. It is being reprinted as part of a new weekend series at PJ Lifestyle collecting and organizing the top 50 best lists. Where will this great piece end up on the list? Reader feedback will be factored in when the PJ Lifestyle Top 50 List Collection is completed in a few months…
Now that school is in session, parents have begun sharing on Facebook and other social media outlets some of the Common Core homework assignments their children are bringing home. Below are ten really bad ones that will give you an idea of the direction education is going under Common Core. All of these assignments were shared recently on social media sites dedicated to informing parents about Common Core.
1. Star citizen: quiet, sitting, neat
This paper came from a Rhode Island first grade classroom. One mother commented, "I went to elementary school in Poland during communism. This is exactly what I was forced to learn." It's a step in the right direction for those who want a compliant, obedient citizenry. That said, this is not new to schools and we shouldn't necessarily blame Common Core. Children -- boys in particular -- have been taught for decades that being "good" means being quiet and compliant. The link to good citizenry is something I haven't seen before, however.
2. It's not about the right answer -- it's about the journey.
This poor Florida first grader thought she was following instructions by coloring in all seven segments of the bar to "make 7." Unfortunately, she was supposed to divine that an equation was required. In Common Core, the journey is more important than the correct answer, it seems.
3. The Supreme Court "says if laws are fair."
An Iowa second grader brought this assignment home. The mother disagreed with the teacher's call on whether or not the "government settles disagreements" -- and after the recent events related to the budget, almost no one would disagree with her! (And obviously, the undefined use of the term "government" implies that the government is a monolithic body that rules over us.)
But even more problematic is the matching question at the top of the page. "The Supreme Court --- says if laws are fair." If by "fair" they mean "constitutional," I might be inclined to agree. However, in the context of a "government" that makes laws and settles disagreement, I suspect they mean "fair" in the way most 2nd graders would interpret the word -- everyone gets an equal amount of ice cream after dinner.
4. Why make math easy when it can be hard?
Could this fourth grade worksheet from Louisiana make simple addition any more complicated? How about they just line those numbers up in columns and, like, add them? I fear for the future of science in the United States when I see things like this. Postmodernism and math do not mix.
5. The new new math
This fourth grade math homework assignment from California is typical of the new way math is taught in Common Core. Students must first divide numbers into hundreds, tens, and ones, then round them, then add the rounded numbers together, spin around three times and stir until thickened. Or something. It's like flying from New York to California by way of New Jersey, Bangkok, and Alaska. Again, just put the blasted numbers in a column and add them!
6. There is no work for this problem!
Irini has a favorite day of the week. She chose this day because it is the only day that has an i in it. What is Irini's favorite day of the week? Show your work in the tank.
The basic message Common Core seems to be teaching children is: "When in doubt, add extra steps to make math as complicated as possible." An Arizona mom posted this "problem" from her second grader's math homework. (The mom added the handwritten comments saying, "There is no work."
I suppose they were hoping for something along the lines of this:
First, I wrote down a list of all the days of the week. Then I researched the letter i on my school-issued iPad to see exactly what it looked like and then looked at my list and noticed that there were similarities between the i I found on the internet and the i in the word Friday on my list of days of the week. Then, to my surprise, I discovered that no other days of the week contained a letter with the shape of the letter i that I found on the internet. So then, I texted Irena to ask her what her favorite day of the week is. Sure enough, she said it is Friday, therefore, the correct answer is Friday.
7. The Quran calls for Muslims to be peaceful, not to kill.
On 9/11, a class of 8-year-olds in Las Vegas watched an animated video from BrainPOP about the attacks -- twice. One parent reported that her daughter came home crying and had nightmares. The characters in the video, Tim and Moby (a robot), give a cheery view of Islam:
Oh! Islam is a popular religion in the world!...The vast majority of Muslims are non-violent and they do not agree with al Qaeda or its actions. In fact, the Quran, the holy book of Islam, calls for Muslims to be peaceful, not to kill! However, al Qaeda wants to rid the Islamic world of Western ideas, especially of anything from the United States. They also want Muslim countries to be led by fundamentalist rule.
Tim goes on to explain that "fundamentalism" is a radical form of any religion that follows a strict interpretation of their religious rules. "It usually gives power to some and denies basic civil liberties to everyone else."
Aside from the fact that the "religion of peace" narrative is not true, I'm sure they are hoping your Christian kids are getting the message about your family's "strict interpretation" of your religious rules.
BrainPop boasts that their materials, aligned to Common Core standards, are used in 20% of American schools.
8. Explain what you will say when you are caught cheating.
Assuming your child is a cheater, this seventh grade language arts assignment from Orlando helps him to work through how he will explain his crime when he gets caught.
Scenario: You decided to cheat on an assignment by copying something directly from the encyclopedia and saying it was your own thinking and you were caught by your teacher. You realize that plagiarism is unethical and what you have done is wrong. On the graphic organizer below, list words and phrases you would use, and attitudes you would take as you explained what happened to each of the audiences.
Students then must show how they would explain their plagiarism to their vice principal, their parents, and their best friend. This will come in handy when they are in police custody some day.
If this were my kid, the only acceptable answer would be, "I cheated. I was wrong. I'm sorry." Maybe he could add, "It won't happen again." No graphic organizer needed for this conversation. There is no need for a child who cheated to explain "what happened." But moreover, the suggestion that children are cheaters who need help to explain their crimes shows how low the bar is set for them. Instead of inspiring them with tales of the valiant acts of heroes, as schools did in past generations, students now receive early training to prepare them for a future of crime.
9. Make up some lies about yourself...
More from the criminal training department. The mom of this little 8-year old girl in Ohio said her daughter "wasn't comfortable with making something up about herself because it would be a lie."
Write an exaggeration about something you did or about one of your personal characteristics.
She helped her daughter explain that to the teacher on the worksheet. While hyperbole is an accepted literary device and children should learn about its role in literature, the mother didn't like her daughter being encouraged to fib about herself. "My issue is with asking the student to write something exaggerating something she did or of her personal characteristics. She is not a fictional character in a story and while I encourage literary imagination, I do not encourage exaggerating (lying) in real life."
10. Jack has better ideas than grandma.
When Jack's grandmother came to visit, she spent lots of time writing letters to her friends at home. Then she would ask Jack to run to the post office, buy stamps, and mail her letters. Jack had a better idea. He showed grandma how to use email. Then he offered to recycle his old computer by sending it home with her. Grandma was happy to discover that many of her friends use email too. She was also happy to learn a new skill.
Jack had a "better idea" than grandma's beautiful, handwritten letters (and her big carbon footprint from all that post office business). My techie husband noted what likely happened next: Jack's dad forevermore regretted the decision to "recycle" their old computer by donating it to granny. Dad spent every family holiday from then on cleaning viruses off of grandma's computer after she got addicted to online poker. (Not that my husband would have any personal experience with this.)
The moral of this story is to know what your children are being taught at school. Unfortunately, the Common Core train has left the station and reversing course will be difficult and will take time. In the meantime, if your children are under the influence of this curriculum, you may need to spend a significant amount of time debriefing them after school. Not only that, you may find you need to teach very basic skills that the schools are no longer teaching. Of course, Common Core or not, parents should always have this mindset when sending their kids to public school. They alone -- not the schools -- are ultimately responsible for the education of their children.