Common Core's Dirtiest Trick: Dividing Parents and Children

When you look back at New Math (ca. 1965) and Reform Math (ca. 1990), one of the most striking and persistent features was that parents could not understand the homework their children brought home.

Mystified parents were trying to advise mystified children.  The parents, presumably the wise members of the society, were helpless to say anything useful when confronted by the weird complexities of “reform” math, which has now been rolled forward into Common Core.

Here is a commonplace horror story that can stand in for millions of others: “When Mike and Camille Chudzinski tried to help their son with his homework earlier this fall, they were bewildered. The fourth-grader brought home no spelling lists, few textbooks, and a whole new approach to solving math problems. When he tackled multi-digit addition, for instance, Patrick did not just line up the two numbers and then add the columns, as his parents had been taught to do. Instead, he sketched out a graph with a series of arrows and marks that appeared at first to his parents as indecipherable as hieroglyphics.”

When we hear these stories, we typically focus on the comical oddity of adults not being able to do homework intended for children.  How is that even possible?  But the ramifications are anything but funny.  The real damage is that Reform Math opens up fractures throughout society.  Parents are cut off from their children.  Parents and schools are pitted against each other.  Students are alienated from their teachers and schools.

Sociologist James Coleman said that the most important thing in successful education is what he called "social capital."  Ideally, parents, kids, schools, and community are on the same page, working toward the same goals.  In this way the children feel they are doing appropriate and necessary things.  Energy is used to complete tasks, not to debate the merits of the tasks.

Imagine the situation in Reform Math when parents can’t do even elementary problems in arithmetic.  Adults are angry; children are stressed.  Parents have conferences with teachers, and they complain later in front of the children that the teachers couldn’t give them any satisfactory answers.  Why would children be enthusiastic about mastering something that their own parents find impossible and reprehensible? 

All of this tension and hostility adds up to the perfect excuse for the child to lose interest in math, and in school generally.  We hear lots of stories about children who are miserable at school.  We shouldn’t be surprised.

In short, Reform Math is bad not just because it doesn’t teach math; it’s bad because it’s a society-wrecker.  This is Common Core’s dirtiest trick. 

In an intelligently organized society, the schools would do everything possible to involve parents in their children’s education.  Our Education Establishment is doing the reverse.  Schools seem intent on making parents turn their backs on their children’s education.

Driving parents out of the equation means driving education out of the equation.

Today, whenever schools are not getting good results, the first excuse the Education Establishment offers is that parents don’t want to help.  This is diabolical.  The schools do everything possible to make parents give up on education, and then the schools blame the parents.

Professor Michael Toscano writes, “Educational success is also dependent upon closure between families and their schools. In the case of the CCSS, little real ‘social capital’ exists between parents and schools, because the standards were adopted out of the reach of parents and because they will remain out of their reach. This is a crucial mistake. Education must be a common good that emanates from the relations of families in a community.”

When New Math was first introduced 60 years ago and parents complained, the official propaganda was that the new methods were so sophisticated that parents simply weren’t ready for them.  Many in the community accepted the claim that children would finally benefit from being pushed in this way.  That was a mistake.  New Math was, for all practical purposes, irrational.  It soon self-destructed, and then we knew that it, not parents, had been flawed all along.

This pattern continues.  The community should use a commonsense “smell test.”  Schoolwork too complicated for parents is too complicated, period.  It’s not appropriate for children.

Common Core has embraced and recycled all the worst ideas from “reform” math.  One has to conclude that the people responsible are hopelessly incompetent or hopelessly ideological.

The more you reflect on the flood of horror stories, the more you feel that Common Core commissars must spend their time concocting ways to alienate children and defeat parents.  The basic taunt seems to be: “Hey, you parents.  You can gripe and complain and thereby look foolish in the eyes of your children, or you can cower in surrender as you learn to put up with the artificial nonsense that we have devised, thanks to millions in grants from the government (your taxes used against you).  Haha, suckers.  You can’t win.  Obama promised a fundamental transformation, and the first thing we’re going to transform is your sense of importance as parents.  You must learn that you are insignificant.”

The divide between parents and children is a far more critical issue than many imagined.  The proper priority is that homework should be specifically designed to bring parents and children together.  Common Core seems cunningly designed to do the opposite.  That’s the main reason it must be defeated.

Bruce Deitrick Price explains education theories and methods on his site

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