K-12: Does Anyone Care That Kids Cry?

In the late winter of 1964, Kitty Genovese was murdered in a residential part of Queens, New York.  Newspapers claimed that 38 witnesses saw or heard the attack but wouldn't help.  Had people become so indifferent, so cold?  This was the big question debated across the country and around the world.  Experts endlessly discussed the "bystander effect" and the "Genovese syndrome."

Later research suggested that a much smaller number were witnesses.  It was the middle of the night, there was much confusion, and many people did hear shouts but couldn't confirm what was happening.  Maybe it was a domestic dispute.

Still, the events were undeniably horrific.  The killer stalked Kitty, stabbed her in the back, and left her to die because someone yelled at him.  The victim shouted, "Oh, my God – he stabbed me!  Help me!"  The attacker returned ten minutes later, systematically searched the places where she might hide, found her, stabbed her some more, raped her, and stole $49.  She died in an ambulance on the way to the hospital.

Three years ago, a second-grader couldn't do her math homework.  The mother couldn't help her; it was Common Core homework, which baffles most adults.  The girl struggled and struggled.  Her mother, a professional photographer preparing her camera for the next day's work, took the picture seen around the country.

Photo credit: Kelly Poynter.

Here is the mother's account:

After checking her work, I had found two math problems were incorrect. I tried to help her understand where she went wrong  through her process but I don't understand it myself. I was not much help.

I told her to forget about it and we'd try again tomorrow but she became very upset that she could not get the answer and kept trying and trying to fix it. She is hard on herself as she very much wants to excel in school and not be pulled for extra help all the time. I was talking to her and clicking my camera as I changed settings... It's something that is very common in our household... And that is when I caught this image.

My daughter is incredibly strong. My daughter is a four-year cancer survivor. She is a fighter with a resilient spirit. It crushes me to see her cry; to see her struggle.

Certainly a trivial incident compared to the murder of Kitty Genovese.  On the other hand, instead of 38 witnesses, there were probably a million, as the photograph went viral for months.  All who saw the photographs felt their hearts twisted – all, apparently, except the people who control our educational system.  They would seem to be like the passive witnesses of Kitty's ordeal.  All that those 1964 witnesses had to do, to save Kitty Genovese, was to become more involved, to make a little more noise.  Same with all the people who witnessed the second-grader's tragic expression.  Her suffering is clearly genuine.  There have been many similar Common Core stories so people knew it could happen.  But here was the ultimate example.  No kid can fake that pathos.  Why do we tolerate this?  Why don't we call for help?

And so we have to confront the "bystander effect" in modern education.  How do we explain the "Common Core syndrome"?  All those bureaucrats in the Department of Education, all those professors at Harvard's Graduate School of Education, all those people in our media and foundations – they seem to have hearts made of stone.  Likewise all the politicians who saw this evidence, all the community leaders, all the pundits on CNN.  The decline and fall of our public schools is happening before our eyes.  When you look at this little girl's expression, you are witnessing that decline.  Why don't people demand that the Education Establishment stop encouraging this abuse?

According to the Independent Journal Review, "When asked to address these concerns, National Education Association secretary Arne Duncan dismissed the objections as coming from 'white suburban moms.' What does race have to do with education? We would hope nothing. Jeb Bush, who was also an advocate of Common Core, characterized opposition to the specific set of vocational standards as 'purely political.'"

Clearly, these people are as tone-deaf as they are incompetent.  On the good side, Duncan didn't last much longer.  Jeb's campaign for president was doomed from the start.

But guess who didn't flinch.  That would be the professors of education who devise this malarkey.  The order apparently went out: Don't let up.  Keep the pressure on these yokels we have to deal with. We know from plenty of experience that nobody will complain.

There's an education war going on.  It's directed at the parents, keeping them off balance and powerless.  It's directed at the children, keeping them academically enfeebled.

Do they have to be rendered innumerate and illiterate on the streets near your house?  Two thirds of fourth-graders and eighth-graders are below proficient in math.  We know that the country has more than 40 million functional illiterates.  Isn't that enough?  It's happening all around you, every day.  It will go on happening until Americans make a lot more noise.

Common Core's central gimmick is to make children struggle with complex problems before they are ready.  Force them to run before they can crawl – that's the ticket.  Some smart kids will survive.  The not so smart kids will not learn arithmetic.  They will learn to hate it. 

That's worth screaming about.

Bruce Deitrick Price's new book is Saving K-12 – What happened to our public schools? How do we fix them?  He deconstructs educational theories and methods on Improve-Education.org.