Monday, April 21, 2014

The ORIGINAL common core

The Common Core is obviously a divisive subject in the US today. It's definitely been overly politicized and probably over criticized. In a world as grey as ours, to think social issue is completely black or white is incredibly naïve.

The Common Core State Standards are imperfect, to be sure. I for one do not want increased standardized testing, which seems likely under CCSS. I am also a proponent of literature, something deemphasized in the CCSS. But are they as bad as opponents charge? Is it really a case of social experimentation?

Perhaps the better question might be this: Since the demise of classical education, what isn't social experimentation?

How many of you recall learning Latin (or possibly Greek) in high school or university? I'm too young to recall that era (though I did study a year of Greek during university), but it was not long ago that such was the standard.

Two or three years ago I read Who killed Homer: The demise of classical education and the recovery of Greek wisdom, which was the first time (other than the first day of class in Dead Poets Society) that I ever thought about how it was once the norm for students to labor over Latin declensions. Recently, while reading The story of ain't: America, its language, and the most controversial dictionary ever published, I was reminded of this part of US history. What ever happened to Latin in schools?

Like the United States itself, modern educational theory informed by Dewey is a social experiment. Montessori schools and charter schools are social experiments. Homeschooling in it's present-day form is a social experiment. Pretty much anything not considered classical education are social experiments. As some point out, classical education is possibly still superior to any modern alternative.

Why is virtually no one clamoring for classical education? Why is no one up in arms demanding a return to obligatory high school Latin classes? It seems no one wants the original common core: Latin, Greek, and mathematics.

I'm not asking anyone to support the Common Core. I'm not asking anyone to oppose the Common Core. It may be good to remember, however, that education since the 1960s (at the very latest) has been one reform after another, one experiment after another. Unless we plan to go back to classical education, let's have everyone take a breath and get some perspective: People decried the loss of Latin, yet students have continued to be educated.

The Common Core is imperfect, as is any education theory and all education methods, but it is no more than the downfall education or society than was the loss of Latin class. (Though, I'd be in favor of bringing that back, too.)

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