Author on Common Core: ‘A Comprehensive Dumbing Down of American Education at Every Level’

By Barbara Hollingsworth | November 17, 2015 | 6:00 PM EST

(AP photo)

(CNSNews.com) – “The Common Core is supposed to be improving state standards in education, but its bigger effect has been a comprehensive dumbing down of American education at every level, from kindergarten through graduate school,” Peter Wood, president of the National Association of  Scholars, said in an interview with CNSNews.com.

Wood is a co-author of Drilling Through the Core: Why Common Core is Bad for American Education, published in September by Pioneer Press. The book includes Wood’s history of the Common Core controversy and critical essays by more than a dozen mathematicians and English scholars.

“The major criticism coming from the scholars is that it’s lowered standards in both math and English language arts, the two parts of the K-12 curriculum that the Common Core covers,” Wood told CNSNews.com.  

“When the Common Core was being put in place, there was a large promise that it would be ‘internationally benchmarked’, meaning the standards would be as high or higher than the highest standards found around the world. And if you go into Common Core materials, you will still find that phrase.

“But the math standards are set way below all of the Asian nations, and the U.S. language arts standards are not matched to international standards,” Wood pointed out.

“The section on math is written by mathematicians who look upon the changes as a comprehensive lowering of standards so that students at the end of high school know a lot less math than they used to and are not prepared for college-level math,” he said.

Scholars also panned the curriculum’s major de-emphasis of English literature.

 “The teaching of literature is not abandoned, it’s downgraded, so you end up with a very fragmentary and impoverished view of what language can do,” he continued.

“The Common Core has this peculiar emphasis that language exists to convey information. One of the results of fetishizing information is that the texts get fragmented… and there’s no distinction made between work of imaginative power and work that’s purely utilitarian in order to treat everything as a kind of encyclopedia entry.

“So in your English language instruction, you can and do get things like EPA regulations and repair manuals read alongside excerpts of the works of Robert Frost and Jane Austen.”

 “I started writing about Common Core in 2009 before the standards themselves had actually been adopted and the public backlash was something I anticipated because the public never got the chance to assess it until after it was already implemented,” Wood told CNSNews.com. “Bringing the primary stakeholders in only after the bridge is built is highly questionable public policy.”

“The problems with Common Core math start in first grade and accumulate from there. So the only way that students who plan on getting STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] degrees in college can catch up is to take math instruction outside their high school,” he noted.

“As far as English language arts, it puts a big burden on families to introduce their children to a more systematic and richer reading program than they’re going to get in school.

“I fully understand that not every parent is in the position to effectively counter what goes on in the schools, but the only option for most parents is Do It Yourself – teach it yourself, find a family friend or hire a tutor who can do it for you. In the meantime, cry bloody murder to your school board.”

Forty-two states and the District of Columbia adopted “this breathtakingly comprehensive reform of our nation’s schools before there were any standards that people could evaluate,” he noted.

“Now we’ve got the standards and the results of the tests that go with the standards. And [National Assessment of Educational Progress] NAEP scores nationwide show that the states that most strongly endorsed the Common Core have seen some of the biggest drops. So the governors of many states are now trying to dance their way out of a situation they helped to create.”

Wood predicted that during the next three or four years, more states will become disenchanted with Common Core because “it is way more expensive than advertised and the results are much worse than anyone had expected.”

“Inventing a one-size-fits-all curriculum for the country, pretending it’s a state-level initiative while ceding enormous power to the federal government and private corporations that actually run the Common Core, that experiment will wind down. It clearly is something that the American public is going to resist tooth and nail, and that makes it politically unsalvageable. But the costs of extraction are high, so we will extract slowly instead of all at once.”

However, by then the damage to the U.S. economy will have been done, he said. “To the extent that we’re a nation that is in a tight competitive position with other developed nations that depend on well-educated engineers, scientists and other technologists for whom math is a basic tool, this puts us in a terrible position.

“Common Core will extract a major price for the U.S. in international competitiveness, but it will be a delayed reaction until the generation that has been Common Core-ized enters the job market, at which time the people who invented it and the politicians who implemented it will be gone from the scene and it will be somebody else’s problem.”

Related: Poll: Only 40% of Teachers Support Common Core

Related: Opt-Out Movement Accelerates Amid Common Core Testing