The Common Core State Standards Initiative is gaining increasing attention. Many people are for it, arguing it creates a basic level of education that should be taught to all students in America. Likewise, many people are against it because they don’t like a national organization dictating how and what should be taught at the local level.
One fact the second group often misses is that the federal government is not doing the mandating. Common Core was the result of a study sponsored by the National Governors Association. States would decide together that which should be taught, with the “how” being left up to local school boards.
A fact the first group missed is that the initiative only set a basic floor, with the states being able to add to those basics as they choose.
In one part of Common Core, there’s a recommendation for dropping the teaching of cursive handwriting. Some say learning cursive is a waste of students’ time because people will increasingly write with keyboards. Why work when the computer can do it for us?
Extending this reasoning, perhaps students should also stop learning how to add, subtract, multiply and divide because they simply need to key in the applicable numbers and hit the +, -, x or ÷ keys. While this would speed the creation of a work force able to work a cash register at a fast-food establishment, it would not do much for creating citizens able to think for themselves.
The reason we are taught how to do these basic mathematical operations is so that we can understand the logic involved, which actually makes us smarter, to the point where we can “do the math” in our heads.
In the past, the “dumbing-downers” questioned why high school students needed to learn algebra and other higher forms of math when most students were not going to become engineers. The answer was fairly simple: We need engineers, and one doesn’t know in high school what one’s ultimate career path might be.
We also know now that the learning experience actually makes one smarter. Recent studies show that learning a second language not only provides the ability to converse with, and possibly understand, more people (a good thing in itself) but that it also generates more brain cells and makes one smarter. Young students learning how to write in cursive is akin to learning a second language and is done when one is most able to do so.
Florida should not ignore or defund Common Core, but it should certainly consider it to be what it is: a floor on which one can build. States have the right to amend and augment their version of Common Core: to add those subjects that they feel will make their students smarter and more well rounded, and thus more able to compete in today’s complex world.
Mandating the teaching of cursive as well as offering art and music appreciation courses and promoting the teaching of a second language in all our elementary and high schools are goals which our Legislature could, and should, address. That is if enough of us would simply contact them about our concerns.
Rodger Skidmore is a resident of Siesta Key.
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