K-12: Comedy Core
Abbott and Costello, zany comic geniuses, are enjoying a big second act 75 years after their original success.
That's because people need easy ways to describe the pretentious but ultimately silly Common Core. Abbott and Costello cooked up some mad math that sounds strangely like C.C. homework, such as "Loan Me Fifty Cents" (2 minutes):
Common Core is a challenge for the normal mind because it is unnecessarily complicated, pompous, and dishonest, all at the same instant.
There are many scores of videos trying to illuminate the tangled web known as Common Core. This one has the virtue of being only 96 seconds.
Here's how a C.C. shill defends the indefensible: "[E]ven if they said 3 times 4 was 11, if they were able to explain their reasoning and explain how they came up with their answer really in words and oral explanations and they showed it in the picture but they just got the final number wrong, we're really more focusing on the how[.]"
Does it matter what the student "explains"? This woman thinks so. And there we enter the Comedy Zone. Abbott and Costello were there first, as we see in "Two Tens for a Five."
Common Core is a mix of implausible and impossible. W.C. Fields, with his famously stunned expression, could be the poster boy for hifalutin stuff that doesn't make sense. (I used him years ago to create a character called Captain Dolch, AKA The Father of Sight-Words, because phony reading instruction and phony math instruction start from the same impulse: to befuddle children.)
Or remember Mr. Ed (which surely stands for "Education"). His equine mug is pure Comedy Core.
But maybe Jack Nicholson does it best. In The Shining, he's crazy but also dangerous. Give him long enough, and he's going to hurt you, just like Common Core.
Common Core makes little children cry. It exasperates parents eager to help, even parents with degrees in scientific subjects. And it depresses mathematical knowledge throughout the population, to a point lower than anyone thought possible. A terrorist trifecta like this is hardly imaginable. One has to assume years of research funded by your taxes. Or did they go directly to Abbott and Costello for guidance? These guys easily prove 13×7 is 28.
There are lots of videos promoting Common Core. One expert might brag about how children are taught to look for "multiple strategies." Why not the best one? Another official says it didn't matter if students can't find the right answer and wander hopelessly. What matters is the search. Getting the correct answer quickly is so 19th century. Yet another professor raves on about "multi-dimension mathematics" and "rich, open tasks." Apparently, students should struggle to find the correct answer, and that struggle is supposed to be the genius of Common Core.
Common Core is a cheap trick. When fourth-grade questions are given to second-graders, you're almost guaranteed bewilderment. That's the basic gimmick all the way through New Math, Reform Math, and Common Core Math. Go over their heads, make them feel helpless, so they give up.
Advocates talk about how Common Core is more rigorous, collaborative, and creative. No, it's just confusing. Wags and wits on the internet compete to capture the nutty essence of Common Core. For example: "If you have four pencils and seven apples, how many pancakes will fit on a roof? Purple. Because aliens don't wear hats."
The word because is especially delicious. Normally, because requires a smidgen of logic. But here, "because" is spoken by a crazy drunk guy who never makes sense. Abbott and Costello don't hesitate to prove that two bananas equal three bananas.
Almost as offensive as the faux math itself is the pretentious professors who try to intimidate anyone who scorns Common Core. These annoying trolls chat smugly about how when they took advanced grad school courses, they perceived the full beauty of the Common Core approach, and you would, too, if you were that smart! Superciliousness is rarely more irritating.
Here is a golden moment. A Common Core question wants the student to say 5 + 5 + 5 = 15. Sorry, that's the wrong answer. The third-grader should have figured out the correct answer — namely, 3 + 3 + 3 + 3 + 3 = 15.
This stuff is so annoying, but if you can stand a heavy dose, here is a six-minute video that shows the Common Core Two-Step: start with simple arithmetic; add complexity. Just the way Abbott and Costello would do it.
We are told that, thanks to Common Core, students will learn to think like mathematicians. This is the central nonsense. Manifestly, there is no need for that in elementary school, even if it could be done. First, children should be taught to do basic arithmetic with confidence. Then, and only then, teachers might begin explaining the depths. That's the natural sequence. Common Core violates it from the first day.
Where is common sense in our Congress? Where are people willing to oppose destructively complex instruction of elementary topics? There could be no more obvious battle lines.
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.