Here is another true story from a friend.
Her son was reading an instructional text assigned by his school about Timbuktu. The text mentioned
that Timbuktu was in North Africa. Her son received an assignment asking him where was Timbuktu located. So being an industrious student, he went to a map, looked it up and saw that Timbuktu is in Mali, a country located in North Africa.
So that is what he wrote down. And his teacher marked the answer wrong. Because it was not the answer written within the four corners of the text.
Common Core focuses on the skill of “Close Reading.” Close reading trains kids to focus on the “four corners of the text” and respond to questions about the text. They are not to extract information and create “musings” about what it might mean in relation to their own lives. And apparently, kids aren’t allowed to give more precise answers than what the text provides.
Why do I think this is a problem?
It is a boring and frankly weird way to interact with a piece of material. It is the way they trained us in law school to interpret a contract. It also allows for the curriculum to “chop up” literature, feed it to students in bites, and then call it a day if they can answer specific questions drawn from the words of the page. Meanwhile, the entire thrust of the writers work may be completely lost or ignored because books are more than the sum of their parts.
Come on now. You know this isn’t the kind of thinking that made America great.
Did Samuel Adams look for answers within the four corners of the Tea Act before he organized the Boston Tea Party?
Did Thomas Jefferson stay within the four corners of the Magna Carta when he penned the Declaration of Independence?
Did the American Revolutionaries compliantly read the Intolerable Acts imposed upon them by the British and just regurgitate the information whenever they thought about it?
No. This is not American. This is not the way Americans think or behave. Obedience is not our birthright. To borrow a motto from my neighbors, Live Free or Die, gosh darn it.
I don’t want my kids trained to answers factual questions about a text like dull sheep. I want them educated so that they question the text, question the canon, question everything.
A new ballot measure has been filed that would end the Common Core in Massachusetts. http://learninglab.wbur.org/2015/07/09/group-launches-end-common-core-ballot-effort/