Imagine my surprise when I read that Dr. Terrence Moore, a speaker at a local meeting, asserted that in using Common Core standards, teachers are subverting traditional marriage and religious values (see story). Dare I admit that I taught “The Story of an Hour” before retiring?
Teaching with the Common Core standards promises to be yet another divisive issue for the Georgia legislature. Rather than relying on the opinions of outside experts, everyone, especially legislators, should inform themselves before deciding what stance to take on this issue. Begin by reading the standards, and remember that the standards are guidelines. They don’t mandate what selections an English teacher chooses.
In some high school English standards, there are suggested selections, but generally, what drives choices for the English teachers whom I know is what’s available at each school and what’s appropriate for the age of the students.
One standard for American literature, for example, suggests Washington’s Farewell Address, Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms speech and King’s Letter from Birmingham Jail as possible selections for addressing the standard. I chose the Gettysburg Address and Letter from Birmingham Jail because both were in the text that I was using and, most importantly, because both are timeless, beautiful expressions of the concepts we strive to uphold as a nation.
How do school systems determine whether their students are mastering the standards? Test them, of course, and test and test and test. Too much testing is the biggest argument against standards-based teaching. We want data to determine the best schools, the best teachers, the best communities in which to live, and the best states in which to do business.
No test, however, can measure the compassionate hearts of middle school students who unite behind their fellow student who is battling cancer. No test can determine which teachers have spent hours in the morning or afternoon to help struggling students or which teachers have spent hours at home grading papers or preparing to teach.
Nevertheless, testing is not going away, even if Common Core standards do. People make good money stirring controversies, whether the controversies are about Common Core or some other issue. Rather than marching in lockstep loyalty to the loud voices calling for abolishing Common Core in Georgia, read the standards, inform yourself and then decide. Talk to the teachers and administrators whom you know. Understand that those teachers and administrators don’t have hidden agendas to destroy students’ values or religious beliefs through Common Core standards.
On the contrary, they want their schools to be places where students are given tools that they need for work, for college, and for life. There’s nothing subversive about that.