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Teachers of the Left and Right Should Support Common Core

It is often difficult to find agreement between conservatives and liberals in the current American political climate, but an unlikely alliance has been made between forces on the left and the right against Common Core. As a teacher, I find this an unfortunate turn of events.

There is irony in that nearly every Republican candidate running for office is now against the Common Core, particularly considering that some of those candidates played an instrumental role in crafting and implementing the new education standards. Conservative activists and pundits have completely forgotten the actual origins of the national framework, fueling opposition to their very own program. The Brown Center for Education Policy published a paper detailing the conservative roots of Common Core, specifying some uncomfortable truths about the conservative foundations of the standards. They wrote:

In 2015, most GOP presidential candidates, as well as many Tea Party leaders, appear to have all but forgotten the conservative principles for the study of content-rich curriculum and foundational texts in civics that Secretary Bennett promoted. The Common Core State Standards are only the second set of state learning standards to explicitly call on educators to develop and use a “content-rich curriculum” in the classroom, but one wouldn’t know it from the wild claims made about the standards by a number of Republican presidential candidates. (Massachusetts was the first state to explicitly call for content-rich curriculum in state standards.) As Jeb Bush has pointed out, the CCSS literacy standards “require students to make arguments with evidence rather than just restate their own opinions and experiences.” Yet many of the GOP candidates seem to have no idea that the Common Core espouses classic conservative principles for developing literacy in American history and civics.

Many on the left were rightfully cautious of the impetus behind Common Core. The corporate connections between the program and its backers have been documented extensively. Morna McDermott mapped the initiative’s corporate links, focusing specifically on the role that the Koch brothers’ organization, American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), has played in disseminating Common Core. The corporate origins of the standards cannot be ignored, but as voices on the left begin to grow in opposition to the framework, it should not result in an abandonment of Common Core’s critical-minded approach to student learning. By joining in unison with conservative activists calling for the abandonment of the standards, we are working against the establishment of critical thinking objectives beneficial to our students and our nation.

It’s important to differentiate between the Common Core’s standards and curriculum. The standards are benchmarks students are required to demonstrate to measure mastery of specific skills. For example, my 8th grade students will be expected to “Cite the textual evidence that most strongly supports an analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text” (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.8.1) and “Write arguments to support claims with clear reasons and relevant evidence” (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.8.1). These expectations for developing critical thinking skills should not be seen as incendiary by any political stripe. In fact, these very underpinnings are the foundations to conservative Catholic and Jewish models of education.

Pundits and politicians have heavily influenced public understanding of curriculum related to Common Core with little connection to the facts. The Brown Center report states:

The problem is not simply that outlandish, paranoid claims about the Common Core are rampant on the far right (e.g., that the Common Core calls for iris scans of children and facial recognition technology to read students’ minds, that it promotes communism, homosexuality, gay marriage, teaches children Islamic vocabulary, advances global warming propaganda, equates George Washington with Palestinian terrorists, indoctrinates children into the New World Order, data-tracks students from kindergarten on, etc.). The problem instead is that the norm of public understanding of the Common Core bears little connection to the standards themselves.

A December 2014 national survey from Fairleigh Dickinson University found that two-thirds of Americans erroneously believe that sexual education, global warming, evolution, and/or the American Revolution are included in the common core. Only about one in ten Americans know these four subjects are not part of the Common Core (though the Common Core standards do require high school students to read the Declaration of Independence, and the Preamble and Bill of Rights of the U.S. Constitution).

These inaccurate assumptions about the actual content being taught in classrooms have resulted in a backlash against the framework that needs to be contested. Ironically, many schools have opted for a far more scripted pedagogy than the liberal free-for-all envisioned by conservative activists. Diane Ravitch, an education historian and opponent of the corporate influence over the education-reform movement, noted:

In some states, teachers say that the lessons are scripted and deprive them of their professional autonomy, the autonomy they need to tailor their lessons to the needs of the students in front of them. Behind the Common Core standards lies a blind faith in standardization of tests and curriculum, and perhaps, of children as well.

As teachers, we must oppose the boisterous emphasis placed on testing, but the scenario painted by Ravitch is the very thing Common Core standards should undermine. How can students be expected to think critically if their teachers are forced into a factory-like setting that requires little thought and engagement on their instructor’s part? Paradoxically, schools adopting this scripted approach in the name of Common Core actually undermine the framework’s objectives.

When Common Core is applied properly in a school, it can be liberating for teachers and students alike. In my 8th grade humanities classroom, students have pondered the purpose of government while engaging with primary and secondary sources ranging from John Locke and Thomas Hobbes to Carl Schmitt, Howard Zinn and St. Benedict of Nursia. They apply these thinkers to challenging social problems facing our people today, developing skills applicable to any field of study they pursue in the future. Students do not parrot ideological talking points, but cultivate their own positions grounded on their reading of the texts in question. For these aims to be achieved, it requires that administrators and parents put faith in a school’s teachers to provide a balanced and critical framework for student learning. Our school is proud of our program and the results it produces in student knowledge and engagement, and it would be remiss to see the critical thinking component present in the Common Core standards washed away in the hysteria surrounding the framework.

Education activists on the left and right should oppose top-down reforms of our education system and work to empower local communities to develop curriculum based on the culture of those residents. Yet, the standards rooted in critical thinking and application should be expected and required at all learning institutions across the nation. If those standards are in place and truly addressed, parents and students of any philosophical orientation will find something to support in their local schools.

As teachers, we need to be advocating for a classroom environment that is engaging and challenging. Classrooms need to be places where students decipher and analyze texts they would not elsewhere. By instilling critical thought at the center of our classroom’s learning expectations, we help craft an educated and engaged citizenry that can address the problems facing our nation and world today. The Common Core allows for that, and should not be abandoned by educators, administrators and parents, even if elements of its framework (such as its corporate ties and testing structure) require resistance.


Staff Writer
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Roland Dodds is an educator, researcher and father just north of San Francisco who writes about politics, culture and education. He spent his formative years in radical left wing politics, but now prefers the company of contrarians of all political stripes (assuming they aren't teetotalers). He is a regular contributor at Harry's Place and Ordinary Times.

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67 thoughts on “Teachers of the Left and Right Should Support Common Core

  1. I just find it hilarious that so many people think Common Core is a federal program, and decry it on the ground’s of “State’s Rights”.

    The Federal Government had jack-all to do with it. If anything, CC is the result of the federal government either refusing, or being Constitutionally unable, to form a national set of standards. So 30+ states got together and mutually created it.

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    • I’d say it’s on the Common Core people for doing such a bad job communicating their ideas to people. After all, I think that the various discussions about jokes and humor have firmly established the idea that if you say something and people don’t understand it, that’s *your* fault for being such a poor communicator.

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      • We’re in agreement that 30+ state governments working in concert on what they thought was a pretty unobjectionable set of standards were totally unprepared for…well, this.

        I’d say it came out of nowhere, but I’m from Texas. I’ve seen the stupid that blows in about education. The chairman of our state board of education was a YEC. I’ve seen members trying to remove “critical thinking” from the curriculum because “we already taught this in third grade”.

        I’ve seen them lose their sh*t over the idea that, in fact, the Bible is not the basis for US law (oh god, the Barton quotes…) and the less said about the changes they want to the history curriculum the better.

        And they are representing a big, loud, noisy constituency. I won’t lie. There’s a pretty big block of Americans who believe their children should be taught exactly as they were. Well, to be specific, to be taught as they fuzzily remember being taught. It’s amazing what does and doesn’t stick out about your education 30+ years later. Judging by one rant I read from an acquaintance, Texas education consists of reading Shakespeare plays, learning that the Civil War was solely about State’s Rights and started by the North, and multiplication tables and spelling drills. And some bible study. And diagramming sentences. Oh god, the epic LOVE for diagramming sentences. That’s apparently English, K-12. Spelling bees and diagramming sentences. Everything else is nonsense.

        I went to the same schools as he did. I remember it…differently. :)

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      • 30+ states decided there was a point. Go ask THEM. I’m just pointing out a basic fact: It wasn’t a federal program. It was done entirely by states for state’s and the Federal Government had jack-all to do with it.

        FWIW, that link is hilariously wrong. CC doesn’t specify a single work. That’s entirely up to the districts. CC specifies things like (for juniors and seniors) “Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text, including determining where the text leaves matters uncertain.”.

        Or, in simpler terms, “Read this book. Be able to talk about what the author says, what the author implies, and what the author leaves up the reader — and be able to discuss why the author might have chosen to do one over the other”.

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          • I did. It was hilarious.

            “We don’t read Wind in the Willow to understand it! we read it to be entertained! We’re losing the latter in schools! These schools keep insisting students READ and THINK about it!”

            The implication that understanding a work somehow cheapens it, lessens it was the funniest part of all.

            What you linked to was akin to someone, having listened to a games programmer describe the pathfinding AI for enemies in a game, complain that “All that garbage is just getting in the way of the player’s enjoyment of the enemies not running into walls”.

            Because CC is instructions for teachers — methods and evaluations of students. The students read the book. The CC stuff is designed so that teachers ensure they understand it, and don’t just read it and miss the entire point of the book.

            Which you know, strangely kids do. They’re not adults, you’d be surprised at the things they can miss. And it makes the work more meaningful, not less, for them to understand it.

            Unless, of course, you’re of the mind that literature — even ‘great literature’ — is there entirely for atmosphere. A pleasing jaunt that does not linger on the memory, nor convey, teach, or impart anything of value. But if that was the case, why would you care if they were taught it at all?

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        • , you’re wrong here. CC doesn’t specify which specific written works are to be taught, but it does specify that less emphasis should be placed on stories & poetry generally, which has the effect of reducing exposure to the classics.

          The theory, as I understand it, is that students whose education is overly focused on fiction are being short-changed. Neither reading Shakespeare nor reading Maya Angelou is going to prepare a student to read an Organic Chemistry textbook, or write an analysis contrasting America’s present-day interventions in north Africa with those of the 18th century, for example.

          Frankly, I support that change. After all Anthony Esolen presumably had an education rich in the classics, and his article reads like the ranting of a fictional aristocratic amphibian. Perhaps if he’d spend less time reading the Wind and the Willows and more time reading non-fictional texts, he could have managed to write a half-decent op ed.

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          • Eh, it can be interpreted that way — but CC is about what students should be able do, and doesn’t specify works. The author, from what I could Google, is complaining not about CC but I think New York’s state curriculum — which was developed using CC as the baseline, but begins to get specific by naming some specific works and specific results — actually developing curriculum rather standards for such.

            It’s not like you have to take my word for it — the CC stuff is freely available, and nowhere does it specify anything like that. (I mean feel free to point it out, I could have missed it!). How a given state or school district formulates it’s own curriculum is up to them, but the common core standards don’t say jack about “less poetry!” or anything like that.

            Bluntly put, works are works. The key goals of CC’s literature side is the ability to comprehend the work, which is why they spend a lot of time using highly technical words describing the sort of comprehension they have in mind.

            The idea behind the literature standards boils down to “Assign Hamlet to students who will understand Hamlet, rather than just making them read it at an arbitrary grade level just so we can say they studied Hamlet”. Which requires teaching them how to do that. Which is the sort of goal English teachers generally strive for, but the point of standards is…writing that goal down and formalizing it. You can find this particular strand of thought in some of the appendices, which notes that there’s a disconnect between works assigned and reading ability in general. Which does no one, teacher or student, any favors.

            But like I’ve said over and over — the CC package doesn’t specify a single work of literature, doesn’t talk about how much time should be devoted to poetry or writing or the study of the Civil War. It talks about what students should and shouldn’t be able to do in a given subject at a given grade level. For English, it talks about ability to assess works — but not a word on which works. The closest it comes to is mentioning complexity — which is closer to saying “Hamlet is high school material not junior high” than saying “Teach/don’t teach Hamlet”.

            Common Core isn’t “We should teach Book X rather than Story Y”. That’s curriculum, developed by your local and state school boards. Common Core are the standards for that curriculum — the goals it should be working for. CC is “you should be able to run a 5 minute mile by the end of the year”. Your state and local curriculum is the actual training plan to get you from the couch to a 5 minute mile.

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              • Also in grades 6-12, the standards for literacy in history/social studies, science, and technical subjects ensure that students can independently build knowledge in these disciplines through reading and writing. Reading, writing, speaking, and listening should span the school day from K-12 as integral parts of every subject.

                Oh, you’re reading it wrong. I know exactly what that’s about — good lord, my wife trains teachers on that. (We’re not common core, but the idea isn’t new).

                That’s talking about reading requirements in non-English classes. That is, as part of the curriculum development, classes such as “Physics”, or “Art” or “History” should be assigning non-fiction works and assessing those skills

                It’s — for lack of a better word — a holistic approach to ELA. “Reading” and “writing” aren’t subjects JUST for English class. CC — unsurprisingly — wants students to utilize those skills from reading Shakespeare when reading non-fiction (like, say, books assigned in a history class) — and when writing papers, essays, or just long-form responses in their art class.

                That’s not carving out more space in English for non-fiction — that’s encouraging science, art, history, social studies, theater, etc to assign relevant works to read. (Heck, my wife actually specializes in a writing assessment boot camp for non-ELA teachers. A down and dirty “this is the stuff you’re looking for, don’t let them slack off on written responses just because they’re not in English class”).

                It’s literally spelled out in that paragraph. It’s emphasized in the last line again.

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  2. Common Core – yet another victim of internet outrage, offense, hysteria, and mind-f*#kingly stupid memes.

    ETA By this, I mean that much of the criticism of CC comes from memes & viral posts that show some school/teacher doing something stupid or some parent misunderstanding what is being done. Those posts are then held aloft as proof of a systemic problem.

    I.E Anecdote are not data, but political internet memes live & die on the public constantly forgetting that.

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    • “My kid added two numbers together and got the right answer and the teacher marked it wrong, bluhbluhbluh Common Core!”

      “Yeah, what your kid did was like driving a screw with a hammer. Would you really say ‘well it went into the board, I dunno what your problem is’ if I said that was wrong?”

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      • “Yeah, what your kid did was like driving a screw with a hammer. Would you really say ‘well it went into the board, I dunno what your problem is’ if I said that was wrong?”

        Space awesome!

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    • I don’t think we can understate parental misunderstanding of the content and methods contributing to the outrage. Now, some of that falls on schools for not engaging in enough parent ed (which, like it or not teachers, is now part of our job description), but people were all too willing to dismiss something out of hand because they didn’t understand it.

      One thing that went viral was Louis CK ranting about how dumb the math homework his daughter had was. And it was Louis CK and he’s funny and he was ranting and everyone hates Common Core so it was super popular. But then a much less viral response emerged wherein a mathematician pointed out why what the students were being asked to do was actually superior to the method that Louis CK was advocating. But it was a math nerd supporting CC so it wasn’t very sticky.

      Have their been missteps along the way with CC? Absolutely. But so much of the outrage is A) mistaken and/or B) aimed at exactly the wrong source. It is mindboggling.

      Note: Though I am an educator, I work in private schools and therefore have no vested interest in the success of Common Core outside of being a supporter of quality education in general. From what I’ve seen of Common Core, the benchmarks are pretty solid and the implementation of the approach to achieving them vary from state to state, with some being pretty darn good and some being a bit of a headscratcher.

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  3. I’m of two minds about this: In principle, there seems to be nothing wrong with teaching certain basic facts and skills to everyone (though we might quibble about the scope of this common core). Yet, things like critical thinking are not basic skills. Most people do just fine in their lives without critically thinking about anything. i.e. there seems to be an uncritical (or perhaps inadequately critical) acceptance of the value of critical thinking. This critical thinking orthodoxy (which is what it is) is an illiberal imposition on communitarian and hierarchical modes of lives. It is akin to teaching Jews how to worship Christ. Or perhaps more accurately it is the imposition of a particular bourgeois paradigm on others for whom it has little relevance.

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        • Teaching critical thinking is not just showing the farm kid Paris, it is also saying that because Paris therefore farm may be wrong. You could after all show Paris as an example of dissolute vice.

          Also you are assuming that it is wrong to keep them down on the farm or that such an ideal has no place in a liberal society. But this latter assumption itself is not without unfounded premises. The notion that it is wrong to have a parochial outlook is itself a notion that is founded on the ideals of a particular time and place.

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          • You are bringing up some very good points that I have kicked around in my head over the last year. As I started writing for OT with a piece about a turn towards conservatism with the birth of my daughter, clearly my views on what I want for my child’s education has taken a few twists and turns as of late.

            I think I will need to reflect and write a longer post addressing points.

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          • I’m sorry – we’ll just have to agree to disagree on this.

            If someone freely consents, without coercion, to enter such a tradition, more power to them. I don’t believe that someone who has been a victim of such indoctrination is necessarily capable of giving said free consent.

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            • I’m wishing CK was here right now because he would have a sophisticated way of saying something which I will state very crudely: You only say that because you are blind to the things that you have been indoctrinated into believing. They are just so obvious to you that anyone who could believe otherwise is monstrous or stupid or monstrously stupid.

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              • I think there’s also a case to be made that modernity (especially the communications platforms leaping forward), while they can be used to steer people to only certain sources, remains likely to confront most people with beliefs that challenge their communal traditions, like it or not. Therefore, communities should be identifying how their traditions can, at minimum, retain meaning and coherence in the face of other facts – which a neutrally-framed sense of critical thinking can support. Critical thinking does presume “think for yourself” in ways that may not fit all parents’ values, but I don’t see the pressure in that direction as coming from the education system, and I don’t see that emphasis as integral to the premise – you can think critically about the idea that “you” should be the key decider about the things you think about.

                And frankly, people who can do better critical thinking and have been asked to build those skills are also, I’d submit, better able to resolve conflicts through reasoning and peaceful dialogue, without the expectation that conflicts are only resolved through agreement with “right ideas” (a premise that lurks on both ends of the political spectrum these days). It’s a pathway toward compromise and non-violent accommodation. And with the political environment as it is, that seems vital right now.

                So I would take your points on critical thinking as a useful critique of how some of the educational standards are realized, and our own lack of critical thinking about them, rather than inherent to the topic. Similar to the OP!

                Or, in the analogy terms, even if someone wants to keep them on the farm, their best bet is to help them explain to people with different priors why they like farm living and value that for themselves in a world where they also appreciate Paris – not to attempt to control the way they’re exposed to Paris or how it’s characterized.

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      • In such modes of life, questioning the words, norms and authorities of the community are vices, not virtues. Teaching that questioning authority is good is the imposition of a particular ideal on students. An ideal that not all communities or peoples in a pluralistic society will necessarily share.

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        • I can agree with this partially. I am using the term “critical thinking” in a broader sense than is often applied by liberals/leftists. Rather than seeing education solely as a way to challenge dominate society, I define critical thinking as the ability to rationally support ones’ conclusion with reasoned, researched evidence. Perhaps that mere pedagogical approach could threaten certain cultures and regimes, but I can see how said skills could also fit into their conservative cultural framework.

          Thus, when I look at religious schools friends teach for (Jewish and Catholic specifically) I see that those skills are absolutely honored and instilled, even if the institution has a stated, conservative goal more aligned with instilling specific moral and values in their students. Those two things are surely not exclusive and segregated.

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        • This seems like the kind of argument that proves too much–in particular, it seems to suggest that one should teach virtually nothing, as there is virtually nothing that can be taught that members of some communities in a pluralistic culture won’t conceivably object to.

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            • So?

              Or to be less terse, the mere fact that such beliefs are harmful to those who possess them does not give us the right to interfere with their right to propagate it to their children.

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              • That’s where we disagree, Murali. I definitely do not agree that parents – for whatever reason – have a right to knowingly and intentionally propagate actual harm to their children.

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                • They are not knowingly and intentionally propagating actual harm. That requires that they know that such beliefs are harmful. They are knowingly and intentionally propagating a belief which is, unknown to them, actually harmful. Think about it this way. If Sam Harris is right, religious belief harms the believer. Combined with your understanding of when we can interfere, parents should not be allowed to raise their children in any particular religious belief. Centuries ago, Protestants were worried that Catholic parents were harming their children by raising them Catholic and Catholics were in turn worried that Protestant parents were similarly harming their children. Not to mention what they thought about Muslims, Jews, Hindus and Buddhists. Liberal society only managed to get off the ground when everyone decided that the truth (or at least their own account of what the truth was) was not enough to license interference. Its easy enough to forget the problems with such sectarian zeal when it appears to you that your sectarian views are the ones which are obviously right and only benighted heathens and uneducated rubes could believe otherwise.

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                  • I have, though we fundamentally disagree even in our principal axioms, tried to engage with you in the best traditions of my worldview. If I had failed to do that, I apologize, and did not intend to insult you openly.

                    I wish you had respected me enough to do the same.

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              • Or to be less terse, the mere fact that such beliefs are harmful to those who possess them does not give us the right to interfere with their right to propagate it to their children.

                The problem with that view is that it implies that people should enjoy despotic powers over their children. They do, but we place limits on those despotic powers. Parents have rights with regards to their children, but children have rights with regards to themselves.

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          • Perhaps. What it is more likely to imply is a radical decentralisation of education. Each individual community having full freedom to brainwash its members in whichever way they wish provided that each community allows its members to leave. Remember, I’m not arguing that nothing controversial should ever be taught. I’m arguing that we cannot insist that everyone teach controversial things. I also think that a distinction can be made between matters of fact (and science) which can be subject to a consensus based on the public use of reason and fundamental matters of value, which apart from affirming support for basic liberal institutions cannot generate any further consensus.

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            • The obvious retort is that a child who has been “brainwashed” will have their freedom and resources limited. Their choice was proscribed before they could even conceive of it. The child is unlikely to be able to use their freedom since they don’t even know they have it or what it means.

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              • The problem with that obvious retort is that it seems to lead to the obvious conclusion that we, as a society, therefore have the right to make sure that your child gets proper indoctrination over your objections.

                And that’s why you should not be allowed to teach your child about (insert thing “everybody knew” 40 years ago here).

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                • sigh…i didn’t state that of course and you didn’t’ answer my point. Parents can always indoctrinate their kids. That is the fun of being a parent. Parents can a do limit their children’s freedom and often their options as adults by raising them in certain ways. Raising a girl by teaching her she should always be subservient to men and must be a house wife is completely legal and currently on going. Does that likely limit the girls horizons by the time she is an adult. Of course.

                  The question is more about public schools and should they never teach anything anybody might not like. That sounds like the recipe for a deeply oversensitive society where people get out raged over everything.

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                • I admit, I am somewhat disquieted by thinking about it from this end. As I watch from the sidelines the ongoing horrors of A Beka and ACE (and, sadly, even worse!), I’m becoming more and more cynical about where the line between “bringing them up in our traditions” and “pathologically indoctrinating them in a cult” lies in the real world.

                  Basically, when there’s a choice to be made between “circumscribe” and “expand horizons”, I’ll always not just support the “expand” side but also be a little suspicious of the “circumscribe” side. I understand that people who want authority to be respected might oppose the idea of questioning it – but how can you respect it if you’ve never questioned it or even considered the alternative? Critical thinking skills aren’t the least important thing you can pass on – they’re the most important.

                  However, I can’t prove that the things I believe are objectively true – I like to think that it’s more likely than not that my beliefs are more true than not – but in this realm there is no objective reality. Thus the dilemma. The problem is similar to Chicken v. Egg (split 4-4, lower court ruling retained, no precedent) – can we respect a choice made by someone who was never allowed the proper toolkit to make that choice? And if not, are we justified in overriding the people who have already made the choice?

                  I know which way I’d still go – but it’s Tuesday, and I’m only a cultural relativist on weekends (guess I lost a bit of liberal non-street cred there).

                  Full disclosure: my upbringing was atypical, and that probably colors my views. Both my parents were freethinkers who not only never imposed their beliefs on me (in fact, modulo never attending church, I have no idea what either of them actually even believed in their heart of hearts), but gave me the freest possible access to information. I was allowed to read any book I could get my hands on (if it was above my reading level, I knew that I was on my own – so I had a misapprehension as to what a “pimp” was for years). I (fraudulently) subscribed to Playboy at 14 (with no PO box, it was delivered to our house). We had plenty of encyclopedias around the house (mostly A-B or A-D, whatever was free before we had to pay for the rest, since we couldn’t afford full runs of all of them), and I was encouraged to use them as much as possible (I successfully defended markdowns on a number of tests, which didn’t endear me to my third-grade teacher). This is my normal. YMMV.

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                  • Hey, I was raised to be a Young Earth Creationist.

                    I did a good job of learning all of the dialectical tools that I needed to deconstruct the arguments given by the evolutionists (who only learned enough biology to pass the multiple choice tests).

                    My problem was that the whole “THE TRUTH IS IMPORTANT” thing was slammed into me hard enough that I eventually saw a bunch of cracks in the whole YEC thing and went where the cracks took me.

                    I am totally down with the whole “give people the tools to read, write, and think and point them at the library” thing.

                    But I also know that I might be an outlier in how I learn things and that what worked for me might not work for everybody.

                    And I don’t know what or how to come up with a policy that would work for a good chunk of people. I only know what worked for me.

                    And I’m not sure that I would wish what worked for me on another person.

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            • Murali:
              Perhaps. What it is more likely to imply is a radical decentralisation of education. Each individual community having full freedom to brainwash its members in whichever way they wish provided that each community allows its members to leave.

              That’s great if you’re talking about adults, but we’re talking about kids here, and, almost definitionally, they can’t just get up and leave if they’re being ill-served by their educations, nor are they really in any position to know when they’re being well-served by their educations.

              Consider a community where they believe that girls should have a sharply constrained education compared to boys, for reasons which surely make sense to them. Should we accede to their wishes, or are we just negotiating price?

              Remember, I’m not arguing that nothing controversial should ever be taught. I’m arguing that we cannot insist that everyone teach controversial things. I also think that a distinction can be made between matters of fact (and science) which can be subject to a consensus based on the public use of reason and fundamental matters of value, which apart from affirming support for basic liberal institutions cannot generate any further consensus.

              This strikes me as incoherent. The idea that we can make this distinction between matters of fact and science and fundamental matters of value is, in and of itself, making a determination based on a set of values. Certainly, some people believe that matters of morality are matters of fact, and others believe that, given the choice between believing (say) religious scripture and your own lying eyes, you should choose scripture every time.

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    • Hell, from what I’m seeing sent home and how it’s being taught, the end game is homeschool.

      Are we sure teachers are learning decimals, ratios and fractions before trying to teach them to students?

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    • I used to be down on homeschooling when I was younger and farther to the left, but after working in some tougher public school environments, I can absolutely understand why parents would find it a good option. Although it is not likely in the cards for my children, my distaste for mass, common culture and the placidness of some school’s bureaucracy makes me wish it was a possibility for my family.

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      • Roland,

        I understand. As to the issue of “possibilities”, life’s all about choices. And one of the reasons I didn’t have kids was I knew what I wanted with my life…and it didn’t include kids.

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