As Arne Duncan and other unthinking vertebrates get aroused by the notion of common core standards, the rest of us should look at how stoobid the existing ones are.
Teachers in California are not only required to write the standards they are teaching on the board so that their disinterested first graders will magically achieve enlightenment, but they are forced to teach bunch ‘o crap standards like this gem from the 2nd Grade History – Social Science for California Public Schools Content Standards:
2.5 Students understand the importance of individual action and character and
explain how heroes from long ago and the recent past have made a difference in
others’ lives (e.g., from biographies of Abraham Lincoln, Louis Pasteur, Sitting
Bull, George Washington Carver, Marie Curie, Albert Einstein, Golda Meir,
Jackie Robinson, Sally Ride).
Please answer the following comprehension questions:
- Which does not belong?
- Are you kidding?
- Second grade?
Veteran educator Gary Stager, Ph.D. is the author of Twenty Things to Do with a Computer – Forward 50, co-author of Invent To Learn — Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom, publisher at Constructing Modern Knowledge Press, and the founder of the Constructing Modern Knowledge summer institute. He led professional development in the world’s first 1:1 laptop schools thirty years ago and designed one of the oldest online graduate school programs. Gary is also the curator of The Seymour Papert archives at DailyPapert.com. Learn more about Gary here.
3 thoughts on “Which does not belong? (hint: all of the above)”
Nothing woke up up earlier in the morning as a 2nd grader than the chance to read Golda Meir’s & Louis Pasteur’s biographies by candlelight.
Of course, both paled in comparison to playing with Legos and collecting baseball cards.
Potential bumpersticker: “My honor roll 2nd grader has met all state standards and also read Madame Curie’s entire published portfolio. Oh, and will put your 2nd grader out of work one day!”
As standards go, that one is pretty stoobid, as you put it.
I’d like a standard that says, “completed some homework in all classes nightly.” Because there’s nothing more dismaying than spending two hours designing a meaningful, real-world problem-solving exercise (in a history class, no less!) and coming into class the following morning to discover that all but three students didn’t even bother trying.
Three nights in a row.
As a 2nd grade teacher, I have to disagree (with the standard you chose) and say that 7- and 8- year-olds LOVE learning about people from history and making connections from the actions of historical and current heroes to the world and their own lives. Children of this age have a true sense of fairness and justice and, when designed in an age appropriate manner, lessons about people like Abraham Lincoln, Jackie Robinson, George Washington, Sally Ride, Helen Keller, etc., are fascinating, inspiring, and meaningful to children. I have used these stories to teach reading, writing, and social studies as well as to give children a sense of time (what are the 1860s, 1960s, etc.). The children begin to understand the characteristics of a good citizen through these stories and can see how their actions and the actions of those in their community are similar, in some ways, to the actions of those we read about and call heroes. As events come up later in the year, they now have a reference. For example, now when it is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, I can ask, what else was happening during this time? Who else was alive and what were they doing? Our discussions mean something to them, personally, because the people and events from history are more real and connected. You can tell by their conversations – both structured and unstructured (such as among themselves while waiting for their busses to arrive at the end of the day.)
Here is the problem: I spend months working on this one “standard.” I weave it into several content areas and revisit the concept throughout the entire year. It is not an idea that can be “covered” in one afternoon’s social studies lesson. The real problem is that in CA, as in PA, there are probably 25+ other HUGE social studies standards that are just as challenging to second graders that require just as much attention if we really want our children to understand and value the ideas that are behind the statements. And then there are the science standards, math, language arts, etc. Now we have an impossible task and now we have a situation where we are creating worksheets for the children to match the hero to the significant achievement one afternoon…OK…done…moving on…next standard…
It is how many standards that is stupid more so that the actual standards. If you really want me to teach 2nd graders to “Identify ways local businesses compete to get consumers,” (PA) I can do that. I just doubt I can do it well if there are a zillion other things dropped on my lap to “cover.” If I am going to do something, I want to do it well.
Solution? 1) Less standards, more in-depth learning and understanding. 2) Project-based learning is a way to gather up standards from several content areas and address them at once, making that overwhelming task of addressing so many standards (in a meaningful way) much more manageable.
Finally, and I hate to admit it, but I will – my second graders also LOVE having a standard posted on the board!!! Yes, it is true. We are not required to do it, although we do need to tell students what standard we are covering with each lesson/activity. Any time I have posted a standard they do get excited about it (novelty perhaps??) But, no, they do not magically absorb the material – otherwise, I would write all the standards across the boards and walls on the first day of school, have the children walk around the room, blink two times, and then I would do things my way until June…
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