As the new Common Core standards render old text books and lessons obsolete, new books, curricula and worksheets are taking center stage and some of those are drawing criticism for questionable content. One example is a biography of Barack Obama included in fourth grade classrooms in Dupo, Illinois. Although the Common Core standards do not include this book specifically, it aligns with the standards – and it tells the kids that white voters were hesitant to vote for a black man.
Other examples of common core-aligned content are upsetting many around the nation. When addressing the issue, education secretary Arne Duncan labeled those who are not in support of the Common Core as ‘white suburban moms.‘ Is this the case, and what’s next in the Common Core drama?
Common Core Bringing Questionable Content Into Classrooms?
This book’s claim is not the only questionable content currently debated in the wake of the implementation of alignment with the Common Core standards. According to the Independent Sentinel, there are a variety of examples of inappropriate or inaccurate material coming home with students. For example:
- In third grade, students are reading a version of Hansel and Gretel that end up with finding a cottage made of fruits and vegetables and living happily ever after with the woman who owned the home.
- Just below that story is one teaching inferences through a wife who suspects her husband of cheating.
- Parents struggle to comprehend the changes schools are making to math curriculums in order to align them with the new standards, but when the parents go to the teachers and request the opportunity to study the textbook so that they can assist their children, the schools refuse the parents’ request.
- In some cases, students get math questions wrong because they did not write out the steps in the manner now being taught, in spite of getting the correct answer through other strategies.
- Likewise, students receive full credit for incorrect answers because they explained the steps correctly.
Understandably, many parents are increasingly alarmed by these changes in curriculum and schools tell them that the new curriculum, resources and teaching strategies are a direct result of alignment with the Common Core standards. As a result, parents, along with many teachers and even some students, now speak out against the Common Core standards based on the aligned curriculum.
Education Secretary Singles Out “White Suburban Moms”
Part of a mom’s job description is to assist her children with their homework. When confusing or inappropriate content, along with new examples of questionably-accurate history such as the example in the Obama biography, come home from school, it is the mother’s (or father’s) job to take it back to the school and advocate for her children.
This advocacy came under attack when Arne Duncan singled out white suburban moms, according to the Washington Post, stating, “It’s fascinating to me that some of the pushback is coming from, sort of, white suburban moms who — all of a sudden — their child isn’t as brilliant as they thought they were and their school isn’t quite as good as they thought they were, and that’s pretty scary.”
(Secretary Duncan has since called this comment ‘clumsy phrasing’ in a statement on the Department of Education blog.) He goes on to strongly clarify that the Common Core is not a curriculum. He’s right – it’s not a curriculum. The problem is the fact that schools explain the poorly written and often inappropriate curriculum as tied directly and explicitly to the Common Core.
The Common Core Curriculum alignment process has resulted in arguments over content, politics and age-appropriate standards, leading opponents to argue its replacement might result in something more appropriate.
Duncan vs. Moms in Common Core Debate
Mothers outraged by Duncan’s comments are responding to the presupposition that they should stop advocating for their children by pushing back against the Common Core. A Facebook page for Mothers Against Duncan (MAD) has grown to over 3500 members, with the stated goal of achieving a 10% opt out rate for the standardized testing in public schools in order to corrupt the data and begin the shut-down of the Common Core. Will the Common Core, and the debate it inspires, help or hurt our educational system and our kids? Only time will tell.
Illinois Review. St. Clair County 4th grade book says white voters rejected Obama because of race. (2013). Accessed on November 22, 2013.
Hanson, Rosalie. Common Core Reaches a New Low – Check This Out! (2013). Independent Sentinel. Accessed November 22, 2013.
Strauss, Valerie. Arne Duncan: ‘White suburban moms’ upset that Common Core shows their kids aren’t ‘brilliant’. (2013). The Washington Post. Accessed November 22, 2013.
Norris, Meg. Moms Against Duncan. (2013). Facebook. Accessed November 22, 2013.
Duncan, Arne. High Standards for All Schools and Students, Everywhere. (2013). Homeroom: The Official Blog of the USDE. Accessed November 22, 2013.