Common Core: Where’s the Common Sense?

Students in non-core home economics class. Stop Common Core!

Students in non-core home economics class. Stop Common Core!

The Common Core Standards preach this:

The standards are designed to be robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers. With American students fully prepared for the future, our communities will be best positioned to compete successfully in the global economy.”

I love the way this reads (except for the global part). I want this for my child.  Unfortunately, the geniuses who wrote this have no clue how to make it happen. We do.

I was just conversing with someone on Facebook who commented that she saw more value in a student learning to weld than all of the money wasted on standardized testing, setting up data systems and buying new curricula ever two to three years.  I realized that it’s been years since I’ve heard anyone talk about taking a home economics or shop class.

Remember those days?  Kids in my high school often took one of these classes as an elective because it would be easy, when, in fact, I think they gained more than in many other “core” subject classes.

Common Core wants children learning skills that are relevant and can be applied to real-world situations. They also profess to want children to be better prepared for college and/or careers.

Then why does school reform like Common Core keep crowding out opportunities for active learning?

Take home economics, for instance.  A home economics class will probably incorporate cooking, sewing, child care, basic home repairs and improvement, house keeping topics, budgeting and smart shopping, planning menus that have healthy food choices, and running a household (which is a whole set of skills on its own).  As I am thinking about this, I see every math skill my fourth-grader is expected to have mastered by the high school represented here, as well as researching, reading, writing, presenting, critical thinking, logic and creativity.  At a minimum. What’s more, learning these skills doing something creative and fun will stick with students much better than learning the same exact skills sitting in a regular classroom.

A shop class offers the same value. Think of it in today’s terms. Again, just like in home economics (that some boys are awesome in, by they way), I see math, researching, reading, writing, planning, critical thinking, presenting, logic and creativity.

Our students should be able to choose.

High school students in non-core shop class. Stop Common Core!

High school students in non-core shop class. Stop Common Core!

Technology is now an integral part of both arenas.  Think of drafting a set of plans to build an office desk or kitchen cabinets. It might be worthwhile to teach the traditional way as well as have them learn to do so with software as well.  They could start a blog with regular posts, photographs and all.  Another great skill set.

Do you remember the first cake you baked in home ec? It doesn’t matter if it turned well or not–you did it, and chances are, you were proud.  What about the gun rack (I grew up in the South) made in shop class? I know that rocked! The confidence a student gains during a learning experience like this overflows into other areas of life.

As much as one might argue that these are all skills that parents should teach their children, the reality is many don’t. I worked as a case manager for a while, helping people who had never learned things that we did and take for granted. Quite frankly, some parents don’t bother, some families are struggling to make ends meet and there is  no time, and some parents simply don’t know how.

I’ll tell you something else about this kind of active teaching.  Teachers connect with students differently than in a traditional classroom. That connection piece alone is a prominent factor in drop-out prevention.

Common Core pundits want students “college and career ready.”  So do we.  We just know how to do it right.

Stop Common Core.



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