August 20, 2013

Common Core: Good for white boys?

There's much hubbub over the Common Core, a new set of quasi-national curriculum guidelines that have been endorsed by over 40 states. 

I'm relatively cynical about issuing new standards in education, whether state, federal, or in-between. Like all education panaceas, the Common Core is being sold as the means to Close the Gap, help American students catch up with China and Japan, improve critical thinking skills, and all other good things.

That said, from what little I've peered into the Common Core, I suspect it might conceivably benefit the most overlooked group in schooling in recent decades: white boys.

For example, for reading and literature, it emphasizes less fiction (which girls and women prefer) and more nonfiction (which males increasingly prefer as they mature).

Some of the inspiration for the Common Core appears to be the long campaign by E.D. Hirsch for "core knowledge." Hirsch has long argued that kids often lose the thread in reading when they are hit by references (e.g., "he met his Waterloo") to facts they don't know. So, rather than leach all the facts out of their readings and just emphasize feelings, use readings to teach kids more facts, especially important facts, such as what Waterloo was. The male bias in this should be obvious.

It's supposed to encourage critical analysis. If it really does that, rather than just encouraging students to complain in socially endorsed manners, white boys will do relatively better on tests.

A big deal is being made about how Common Core tests won't be just multiple choice tests, they'll include lots of essays. Which is fine, but note a big advantage of multiple choice tests: they can be graded instantly by computer, which is not just labor saving, but which allows inflight adjustments. Essay tests not only add a lot of labor (expect to see a lot of part-time jobs for Common Core essay test graders), but can take weeks or months to grade. Nobody seems terribly sure about how testing will work out under the Common Core.

37 comments:

Dan said...

Take a look at http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/

countenance said...

If that's the case, then keep the literature portion of CC. But a pedagogy which claims that 3 x 4 = 11 is correct isn't acceptable as a whole.

The people who I feel most sorry for when it comes to CC are experienced white teachers with rooms full of NAM students.

Naked Cats said...

Don't worry, it'll be chocked full of Harriet Tubman, white men as evil villains, and wise Latinas.

Education Realist said...

Standards aren't curriculum, so it's unlikely that it will have any impact one way or the other on white boys.

The Core Knowledge people are all in favor of the Common Core, but the Common Core folks repeatedly assure everyone that the standards aren't curriculum. Indeed, if the standards did push curriculum that the CK folks would approve of, then blacks and Hispanics would be all up in arms.

"The people who I feel most sorry for when it comes to CC are experienced white teachers with rooms full of NAM students."

Overwhelmingly, teachers are experienced and white.

Anonymous said...

I'd say boys do like fiction - it's just that the sort of fiction schools prefer is the sort of fiction girls prefer. Not a lot of Patrick O'Brian or Ray Bradbury or Edward Stratemeyer or Robert Howard on the school reading lists.

Those poor guys get stuck with Toni Morrison or Alice Walker. You can see why they'd turn to non-fiction as an escape.

MC said...

If CC ends up benefiting white boys relative to non-whites and (especially) girls, how long do you think it will be permitted to exist in that form? One year? Two?

There's a reason they diluted math from half of the SAT to one-third.

Eric said...

It's supposed to encourage critical analysis. If it really does that, rather than just encouraging students to complain in socially endorsed manners, white boys will do relatively better on tests.

If white boys start to do relatively better on tests Common Core won't last long at all.

Aaron Gross said...

If you listen to that great, classic pop song by Abba, you'll hear that they bring us all up to speed on the historical significance of Waterloo in the first line. Not sure whether that goes for or against Hirsch's thesis.

Anonymous said...

Common Core mandates studying Federal Reserve reports and Bernanke speeches.

What would Ron Paul think?

Anonymous said...

This explains why white people would have an advantage, because the graders themselves will more than likely be establishment white people.

They will be able to penalize FOB Asians and be passive aggressive against ghetto speak that blacks and Hispanics will use. This goes to show that the only way white people can win is by gaming the system like this to manipulate the standards.

Anonymous said...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homophobia

"Homophobia has never been listed as part of a clinical taxonomy of phobias, neither in Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) or International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD); homophobia is usually used in a non-clinical sense."

Clinical term used by media non-clinically. Outrageous.

Anonymous said...

Ack. Education reform is always answering the wrong questions. Teachers training kids for jobs that don't exist and that they wouldn't be able to do anyway.

For most kids school is jail and always will be. Teachers are deluded failures who can't do anything in the real world.

(See the classic hag French teacher. Wistfully recalling her days in Paris, when she was young. And teaching kids in the Midwest a language they'll never use. (And doing so badly.)

The best reform for schools is to make them safe and recognize them as the daycares they are.

Discard said...

What's good for White boys is good for America.

Anonymous said...

" Essay tests not only add a lot of labor (expect to see a lot of part-time jobs for Common Core essay test graders), but can take weeks or months to grade. Nobody seems terribly sure about how testing will work out under the Common Core."


No matter how many times you put the cow on the scale, it isn't going to make it weigh any more.

You don't need to test kids with standardized tests every year.

I homeschool and test every other year. Third and Fifth grade with Stanford, seventh and 9th with ACT.

Essay tests are fine. They take a long time to grade, so just give them less often. Pretty simple really.

Anonymous said...

The best reform for schools is to make them safe and recognize them as the daycares they are."

No.

We need more male teachers, as in high proles, to teach boys skills for vocations like air conditioning repair, auto mechanic, etc. Those jobs will never go away. They have inherent value to the community and men of modest intellect can do them.

Students deserve to get the free appropriate education that the community is paying for.

Chicago said...

This penchant for catchy titles seems similar to the Chinese style of assigning easily remembered slogans (dealt with in previous thread). Grandiose sounding names usually cover for mundane reality.
New! Improved! Scientific! Latest studies!
Same old slack-jawed youth, same old bored teachers, yet somehow great things are just around the corner; just keep sending money.

Anonymous said...

Y'all don't listen to the Glenn Beck show.

GB has been all over Common Core like, ah, white on rice.

CC is Bill & Melinda's facsimile of Obamacare for socialized edumakashun.

Replete with massive federalized databases for tracking every single aspect of your child's anti-Soviet noncompliance.

Two words: Home. School.

Or is it one word now?

Homeschool!

Robin Buscato said...

Mr. Sailer: Disagree about the fact-based reading scheme in English. Students can get that in their history, science, government classes. Readings in English should all be from classical literature - nothing post 1950s. If white male students have any curiosity (the most intelligent students do), they will look up what they don't know. I do like the idea of essay tests, but what standard of writing will the curriculum use to grade them? If it's anything like we are asked to use to grade essays at my community college, I can't imagine we are going to get anywhere. The text lists for this curriculum - which has been introduced in my state's schools - are pretty bad. For instance, the SC history texts include one text that only examines the history of race relations in our state. Little emphasis is placed on how SC because a state.

Chambers said...

"We need more male teachers, as in high proles, to teach boys skills for vocations like air conditioning repair, auto mechanic, etc. Those jobs will never go away. They have inherent value to the community and men of modest intellect can do them.

Students deserve to get the free appropriate education that the community is paying for."


-Yes. Although in many respects, European countries are further down the liberal hellhole than we are, for many Western Euro countries their school design is much better and far cheaper.

Even though the average kid there has a higher IQ than here in the US, no one assumes that all kids are meant for college. Children are tested somewhere around 8th grade and the higher scoring portion go forward with further schooling. The other portion get vocational training for a few years, something more useful to them than further schooling.

And the ones that go ahead for further schooling get tested again near the end of HS for suitability for college.

Its wiser than watering down standards and trying to send everyone off for a bachelor's degree. Some people would be better served spending the time training for being a HVAC repairman, plumber, etc.

Z said...

I'm a heartless cynic so I'm naturally skeptical of this new education fad. I think we worked out the basics of a good education system four thousand years ago. Ever since it has been tinkering around the edges or parasitic self-dealing.

That last bit is what will kill this initiative. The teacher's union will want more staff and/or more wages to implement it. Given the state of government finance, this is an impossibility.

carol said...

ehh, CC's been around awhile, Gates just glommed onto it in desperation because his own experiments weren't working.

I used to support CC, but now think because of the cognitive differences by race and region, it should be local control.

Booker started tuskegee because he knew blacks couldn;t keep up, so they needed their own standards, teachers and curriculum. No difference now.

candid_observer said...

"Those poor guys get stuck with Toni Morrison or Alice Walker."

I reside in a blindingly white, very liberal town in very liberal Massachusetts with arguably the most elite public school system in the Commonwealth.

In the halls where English is taught at our HS there is a mural obviously intended to depict the greatest icons of American literature.

Who has been chosen?

Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, Joyce Carol Oates, and, somehow squeezing in, William Faulkner and Earnest Hemingway.

pat said...

Essay questions are favored by the innumerate teacher and school administrator. There are some stand up comedians who also think multiple choice tests are inherently easy.

Cisco, Novell and Microsoft all employ multiple choice testing. Some of their technical tests routinely flunk 90%+ of the test takers. A good test constructor can set the pass-fail threshold anywhere he wants.

It's like the Raven's Progressive Matrices - there are easy ones and very, very hard ones.

Many multiple choice tests are stupidly easy because the test constructor is stupid. The most common mistake is to reveal the answer to one question in another subsequent question. If the test is given with pencil and paper the clever test taker just goes back and changes his previous guess. This usually isn't possible with a computer administered test.

Microsoft tests often have questions for which there are an indeterminate number of correct answers. If there are five choices for example maybe the correct answers are 'B' and 'D'. All choices of only one answer and three or more answers are wrong as are those with the wrong two. So on a simple one correct answer out of five choices test you can guess right 20% of the time but on this kind of test you will get the right answer by guess less that 4% of the time. (If I did the math right).

You won't do well just guessing on this kind of test. If there are three correct answers and you get two of them right your answer is still wrong. You have to know why each suggested answer is right or wrong. You can't just spot one you think is right. In most multiple choice tests you can usually spot a best answer and a worst answer - that won't be enough in this kind of test.

Microsoft also employs 'scenario' questions. These are long winded questions filled with irrelevant details. Since their test are both 'speed' and 'power' tests you need to be able to parse the choices quickly or you run out of time.

Making up a good multiple choice battery of questions is hard work but grading it is easy. So you have to be careful about security if you ever want to use your tests again. Most classroom teachers are not well organized enough to do any of this. They just walk in unprepared and write an essay question on the blackboard.

Public school teachers are paid too much.

Albertosaurus

Anonymous said...

If you're administering wide-scale multiple choice tests responsibly, they will still take weeks or months to grade because you'll be running statistics on the results to eliminate biased or bad questions.

Paul Mendez said...

Two words: Home. School.

Admittedly this is an N=1, but I have a friend who homeschooled a son and a daughter up until high school. While the kids turned out well enough education-wise, they came to absolutely hate her and blame being home schooled for every real and imagined problem in their lives. She's very depressed that her sacrificed career is not only unappreciated, but vilified.

I'd say the answer is not home schooling. It's single-sex schools, with lots of male teachers in the boys schools. Let the boys act like boys, and learn from men. Pair schools up for regular social events, so the sexes can mingle, but in a controlled environment.

David said...

>nonfiction (which males increasingly prefer as they mature)<

True in my case. I went through all the Bradbury etc., but at a certain point (age 20?) it no longer held any interest for me. Now I read biographies of great figures, and tech manuals for work.

Fiction is just...unnatural. Imprecise, nonfactual, irrelevant. It's all lies and emoting. Infantile! (And I'm beginning to see the same problem in biographies...)

One quirk with the US South seems to be that it's a storytelling culture. The default mode of the average Southerner is to spin a tale, even when the question is yes/no. "Did you go to the store this morning?" "Well, I got out of bed and washed up, then I got in my old truck and tried to start her up. It took three tries before the engine turned over. On the way, I saw some ducks flying overhead. No, not ducks - I believe they were Canadian geese. Then, coming up the road toward me was a brand-new shiny car. You know, one of those new Chevys? The driver was old Mr. Mapple. Wonder what he's doing these days. Poor old guy. Anyway, I got down to the stop sign and turned right on to the main highway..." etc. It can quickly become maddening. There is a certain amount of inarticulacy built into storytelling and fiction generally.

Asher said...

In my experience "critical thinking" is about as teachable as running. The human brain is primed to engage in critical thinking* and the only thing that unlocks it is knowing lots of stuff.

* And, like running, it is not equally distributed.

Anonymous said...

OT: Looks like an ex-Obama official supports hereditary ID by way of hereditary athletic ability.

http://mobile.bloomberg.com/news/2013-08-20/practice-makes-perfect-if-your-genes-play-along.html

Anonymous said...

Isn't Waterloo where the white imperialists who like to oppress other white people helped the white imperialists who like to oppress black people defeat the white imperialists who like to cook?

Eric said...

In my experience "critical thinking" is about as teachable as running. The human brain is primed to engage in critical thinking* and the only thing that unlocks it is knowing lots of stuff.

Critical thinking is one of those skills teachers (especially at the college level) like to say they impart. Because there's no way you can prove them wrong.

Anonymous said...

Steve,

You and others, normally not so naive, are emphasizing and conceptualizing the CORE, investing it with content, meaning, and efficacy. The important aspect of CC is the COMMON, not the core. The aim of the exercise is to produce a smoothly operation bureaucracy that executes a top-down system of instruction of WHATEVER the "core" is determined to be at any given time. Once the mechanics are in place, the content will matched to the objective by those worldly, caring, honest educrats you have spent so much time and effort lauding over the years. Get real and get smart!

Anonymous said...

The important aspect of CC is the COMMON, not the core. The aim of the exercise is to produce a smoothly operation bureaucracy that executes a top-down system of instruction of WHATEVER the "core" is determined to be at any given time. Once the mechanics are in place, the content will matched to the objective by those worldly, caring, honest educrats you have spent so much time and effort lauding over the years.

Bravo.

Interesting comments also from Mike Farris:


July 29, 2013

Dear HSLDA members and friends,

David Coleman, president of the College Board, is the acknowledged principal leader of the effort to create and implement the Common Core. And he wanted to talk with me about Home School Legal Defense Association’s position. I was very willing.

We spent about an hour together on the phone. The conversation was very cordial. Both of us showed that we truly listened to and heard the other person’s position. And both of us stood strongly on our principles and core positions. I was really glad that we talked.

His initial presentation walked me through several features of the Common Core. From a pedagogical perspective, there are clearly some good ideas contained in it. When it came time for me to respond, I began with a story. I once testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee when Senator Joseph Biden was chairing a hearing on a Supreme Court nominee. Before I began, Biden asked me, “I have a question for you. Is it your idea to force everyone to homeschool?”


I told Senator Biden that such an idea would be anathema to HSLDA and to me. We simply want to protect the right to choose homeschooling for those who wish to pursue it.

I told Mr. Coleman that the point of the story was this: Just because you have a good idea (homeschooling in my case, Common Core in his case), it doesn’t mean that it is appropriate to force everyone in the country to follow your idea. And that is my central problem with the Common Core and all forms of centralized educational planning.

To his credit, Mr. Coleman noted that he was not acting in a vacuum. There are centralized mandates for education in play virtually everywhere. And many of them have very marginal educational utility. I agreed with his assessment of many current centralized standards.
However, my response was that the solution is not a national set of standards, but allowing each state to develop its own standards. Competing standards from all 50 states would be likely to create more innovations—although my clear preference is to do away with all forms of centralized government standards. (I believe that public schools should form their own local standards.)

When he asked me why I thought that the Common Core was worse than other standards, I indicated that one of my chief concerns was the creation of the database that would track students throughout their educational career.

His answer surprised me. He didn’t like the database all that well. It was not originally part of the Common Core, but other people have seized the opportunity to make a centralized data collection effort through the implementation of the Common Core.

We talked about many other details, but these were some of the most important.

I walked away wishing that more political conversations could be like this one. Polite. Professional. Helpful.

He acknowledged some good ideas that I shared, and I did the same.

I strongly oppose the Common Core for reasons I shared with him in detail. But I want to do my best to avoid demonizing those who promote it. He is motivated by what he truly thinks is best for education and for kids. I think his plans are unwise, especially when coupled with government coercion. But I will not question either his motives or his character.

We came away believing that each of us is acting in good faith. I think we make better policy decisions when we avoid the invective and simply look to the substance. That much, David Coleman and I have in common.

For Liberty,

Mike Farris

Anonymous said...

From what I've seen, a lot of fluff will be taken out. Those who want common core to be about purely core learning will be disappointed. There will still be plenty of space for marxist indoctrination.

But the conservative education specialists(I hesitate to call them experts because I don't think anyone can claim that title in that murky business) have mostly been tepidly supportive.

Nevertheless, from what I've seen there is a push towards the more technical/nonfiction material. This suits someone like me who primarily reads nonfiction but good nonfiction(like Tom Wolfe) is also necessary although we all know the only nonfiction you'd gonna get is either old classics they HAVE to incorporate(but with usual smearing sidecommentary) or it's the Toni Morrison black nationalist agenda.

Ultimately, however, a common core is good because it reduces the chances for certain states to inflate their progress when you have a centralized measure.

Anonymous said...

"If CC ends up benefiting white boys relative to non-whites and (especially) girls, how long do you think it will be permitted to exist in that form? One year? Two?

There's a reason they diluted math from half of the SAT to one-third."

You haven't done your homework.

Blacks have higher math scores than verbal scores, same is true for hispanics.

People have also found that raising your math score is easier for NAMs than raising their verbal score.

Finally, verbal IQ is more correlated with high IQ than math IQ even though this sounds competely opposite to what we've been led to believe. The reason is that someone with a 130 IQ in verbal ability will have a higher math IQ than someone who has 130 IQ in math will have a verbal IQ.

anonyias said...


"Blacks have higher math scores than verbal scores, same is true for hispanics."

I'm not surprised if this is the case. I've had more success tutoring Math than Reading/Writing.

Anonymous said...

For example, for reading and literature, it emphasizes less fiction (which girls and women prefer) and more nonfiction (which males increasingly prefer as they mature).

How about less romance and more science-fiction, the "harder" the better?

Anonymous said...

Common Core will have about the same effect on education that all of its predecessor's have had--nothing. People who can think don't really need a lot of schooling, and people who can't don't really need a lot either (or, rather, they could benefit from vocational schooling, which we provide precious little of).

My dad taught high school during the '60s, '70s and '80s. There was always some new "revolutionary" educational program, none of which ever came to anything.

Unlike most of you (I suspect), I've actually homeschooled my daughter for many years, and am still homeschooling her in her senior year of high school (she's mostly taking MOOCs this year; edX and Coursera). She learns in a few hours what her peers learn in 7 hours of school. She's very bright, though; I doubt most kids have the motivation necessary for homeschooling (I know I didn't at her age).

There's too much stress among highschoolers about getting into college today. A lot of this, I think (in California, anyway), has to do with competition generated by the massive numbers of overachieving Asians who've swamped the state. From what I've seen, they're actually not as smart as the top tier white kids, except at math, which I think is highly overrated in educational importance. They're distorting our culture in a negative way by generating huge amounts of unneccessary stress among teens, and they're elbowing out the sons and daughters of the people who created and paid for the educational institutions in the first place.

The HSLDA guy sounds like a politician rather than a fighter (or maybe he's just naive). "Common Core" and "Homeschooling" are not compatible concepts. One is top-down control, the other is bottom-up freedom. No Common Core supporter is a friend of homeschooling, no matter how many nice words come from his mouth. It's government control versus individual freedom, and Western culture has been all about maximizing individual freedom.

I'm a male in my 50's and I read plenty of fiction as well as nonfiction. What I think is that it really doesn't matter much whether Common Core emphasizes fiction or nonfiction, because whatever it promotes will be bland and boring pap, except when it has an anti-white bias.

Common Core will not raise black or brown test scores, and so in ten years it, too, will be abandoned for the next new great educational scheme.