Thursday, January 16, 2014

What's Wrong With A Common Core?

Some thoughts on education . . .  even if they are not mine.

At our most recent Patriots meeting about the Common Core State Standards, one person in attendance asked, "What's wrong with a common core, one that all students must learn?" Well, in theory, nothing. 

The idea of a common core curriculum has been around for years. Its most well known advocate is E. D. Hirsch of the University of Virginia and author of Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know. The basic idea is that education should be content based--every branch of knowledge has core ideas that every student should know. Moreover, the curriculum should be cumulative--each step in the curriculum sequence should build coherently upon earlier steps. In other words, knowledge builds upon knowledge. He established the Core Knowledge Foundation and now over 1,000 schools participate using the Core Knowledge standards and the Core Knowledge curriculum developed by the foundation. For an overview, see here.

Hirsch's approach won him the animus of progressive educators, who seem to think that content based education is elitist--if not racist. Progressive educators sometimes contrast content-based learning with the teaching of "critical thinking" skills. Hirsch does sees them as complementary. Before one can think critically, one must have some content about which to think 

Progressives immediately linked him with conservatives Alan Bloom and William Bennett, although Hirsch is a liberal Democrat.

The Manhattan Institute's City Journal has featured several articles of Hirsch and the success of his Core Knowledge program. One writer's experience with progressive education at his son's school here. And on E. D. Hirsch's take on what went wrong with American education and the improvements made in some of New York City's school through  E. D. Hirsch's Core Knowledge standards and Core Knowledge curriculum see here.

And here is E. D. Hirsch on the importance of vocabulary in educational success and economic mobility.

                                                            Look!   It's E. D. Hirsch

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