Common Sense Vs. Common Core

Well, test scores are in, the new school year is nearing and districts are analyzing what “went wrong.” Though lower scores were anticipated, they have a plan of “attack” to make sure everyone is on board, unified and ready to climb “Mount Common Core” from day one of this upcoming academic year.

As I feel somewhat informed with this, serving as a substitute teacher since retiring from teaching, I’ve followed the progress (and frustration) of this “new” philosophy.

Though it seems to have some merit, Common Core Education also seems to be taking away from what I feel is a much more effective and successful philosophy of education, that being Common Sense Education.

As I look back over my own education, I remember having to memorize a lot of information, facts, data, dates, etc., and I still remember a lot of those things I achieved by rote learning.

I used some of those things in my years in the classroom, but recently have found them to be more useful playing games like Trivia Pursuit and Jeopardy.

Please don’t get me wrong, I feel children need to know all the presidents, the state capitals, and about people honored on certain holidays, but in the bigger picture I believe it’s more important they learn why wars began, what caused them to happen, how they affected America and the world, and who the important people involved were and their part in the wars, as opposed to just learning where and when wars took place.

Students learn that through critical thinking and being introduced to as much of history, science and the arts, as possible, along with reading, writing and ‘rithmetic.

I believe in the importance of the three “Rs.” I think they’re all vital for success, but because much of learning is based on trial and error, education needs to include variety and experimentation too. Reading isn’t just saying words on paper.

It’s the understanding of different combinations of words, how they’re used and interpreted, and what they’re saying in relationship to stories, articles, and books, etc. in which they’re included. The words are like shoe trees; they’re designed to expand. Shoe trees expand your shoes, words expand the mind. When they do, it allows students to take side trips of interest to expand their horizons even more.

Writing is more than constructing sentences. It’s putting sentences together to make paragraphs, and paragraphs to make essays, articles, short stories, plays, poems, or books.

The writer must have the flexibility of which of these he/she chooses to write, and the license to choose the genre of his/her work, and not just write what he/she is told to write, and how someone sitting in an office thinks he/she should write it.

“Rithmetic” needs to be practical. Students need to learn how to use memorized multiplication facts in everyday life, in their future jobs if necessary, to figure household budgets, balance their checkbooks, and how to survive living on what their job will pay in today’s high economy costs.

Not everyone is going to have to know, or how to implement, the Pythagorean Theorem in their lives. It’s nice to know what it is, and how to figure it, but math should be taught for practical use, not just to answer a question on a test drawn up by those same people sitting in those penthouse offices telling the writers what to write and how to write it.

When students gain basic knowledge, each year should be spent trying to build on that knowledge so they can learn as much about basic skills as possible.

When students individually decide later on what they’d like to pursue in their lives, that’s when the basic skills for each personal interest need to be zeroed in on, thus practically preparing the student for his/her futures.

During their education, students should be exposed to community members, political leaders, business people, veterans, law enforcement personnel, public safety personnel, business owners, authors, etc. Their educations should be supplemented with opportunities to visit bigger cities, museums, art galleries, science centers, medical facilities, etc.

Students should be exposed to varieties of things which might influence their futures, thus letting them know what basic skills they will need to focus upon at the higher levels of their education.

In other words, pick out many applicable “Common Core” skills, and instead of just making students learn selected ones just to be able to pass a test, have them learn many skills while being introduced to many possible avenues for their own futures.

I consider that “Common Sense” education, and when students move on after school is done for them, maybe some of that common sense learning might seep into some businesses, corporations, groups, and organizations out in the real world, which seem to have lost (maybe because it wasn’t emphasized enough in earlier years of people’s lives) some of that common sense in dealing with people, or in having pride in their product or service.

Common sense education also includes more than just basic skills.

It includes pats on the back, hugs, smiles, and times to share feelings, problems, joys, and disappointments. It’s includes scoldings, “kicks in the behind,” and litanies of things that will make the student a better person, and a better student.

This and field experiences don’t seem to fit in the Common Core Education plan.

Filling in round bubbles doesn’t make children more well-rounded persons.

Being exposed to as much as possible, allowing them to experiment, opening as many doors as possible to them, throwing as much “spaghetti against the wall” and hoping that a lot of it sticks in the minds of the students, and allowing teachers to stay creative in teaching techniques so students can experience varieties of learning techniques, thus helping them experience a more well-rounded education, seems to have a better chance of creating more well-rounded lives for them. It makes common sense to me.