Thursday, April 10, 2014

A Mom's Point of View on Common Core

The very moment that my first child was born, I took on this title of Mother. My heart was bursting with unexplainable joy as I often caught myself staring into the face of this beautiful baby boy, this miracle that God gave me. I learned a quick lesson once I assumed this role as Mother and that was that I was always needed. This especially became true as God blessed us with 3 additional children. As a mother of four, there is never a time in my day that I am not needed. I set my alarm and get up hours before the rest of my family and I am often the last one to close my eyes and go to sleep at night. 

The truth is, being a parent is a full time job that never ends. I work 24 hour a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. There are no days off. No vacation days. And sick days are out of the question. Everybody knows that Moms aren’t allowed to get sick! We are always needed. Being a parent brings along many other titles as well. I’m a cook, a taxi driver, a housekeeper, a teacher, a nurse, a CEO and an animal keeper just to name a few. As a matter of fact, a study by Salary.Com estimates that the replacement cost of a mother would be around $113,000 a year to cover all of the titles that she holds. I think it should be even higher than that! 

Being a mother means a lot of things to me but the number one duty that I take the most seriously is that of a protector. I can go from a quiet, calm, normal human being to a crazy, overprotective beast when I see my kids are in harm’s way. I remember a time not long ago when we were playing baseball in the backyard. Our youngest child who was 2 at the time was riding bikes right behind us on the sidewalk with his big sister. I remember turning my head for just a second and when I turned around, to my horror, I saw my toddler heading into the street. I had nightmares for months after that day, seeing one of my most precious gifts in life standing there, not understanding or knowing the danger he was in as a semi truck came barreling down the street. Things could have ended much differently that day and I thank God still today that he kept his hand of protection over my son and I was able to take him back into the house that day unharmed. 

Back in the fall, my 3rd grader began to struggle in school. He has always been a good student who catches on to concepts rather quickly and he always has excelled, especially in math. I began to ask questions and every answer came back to this Common Core. I am an involved mother. I volunteer on a regular basis in my children’s schools so I was really confused. What was this Common Core and how had I not heard about it before? So I started to dig around. I spent months researching and educating myself and every time I did, my Mom radar would go off, signaling that something just wasn’t right. And as most of you who are reading this right now can probably attest to, our radars rarely steer us wrong. What I found about Common Core left my stomach in knots. After I really “got it” and understood it for what it really was, I knew that my kids were in serious danger. Those who did not understand would say things to me like, “Sarah, it’s not that bad. It’s just a set of academic standards. It’s going to make our kids smarter. It’s going to make them better. It’s going to prepare them to be workers in the 21st century global economy.” But my heart just wouldn’t accept that. The Mom inside of me knew better. You see, the word “Standards” has gotten approval from the public and most educators because we all want higher learning for our children but as we know, there is also another meaning of the word standard and that is “like everybody else” and standardizing minds is what Common Core is trying to do. I once read that standardized minds are as far out of sync with deep-seated American values as it’s possible to get and I have to agree. As a mother of four, I can tell you how different each child’s mind works. My youngest child receives special education for a severe delay in speech. My oldest is an amazing speaker and is in the gifted program at school. He wants to become an engineer and play baseball for the Cincinnati Reds someday. My 8 year old doesn’t care too much for school and speaks of his dreams of doing something in his future that involves fixing things and using his hands. Our only daughter is a great student who wants to own her own beauty salon someday. I know these things with my children might change but giving them the freedom to choose their own path is such an important thing to me as a Mom. Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” I am a mother who believes in letting her children choose their own path, with a little guidance and Mom wisdom, of course. 

One of the greatest childhood psychologists of all time, Jean Piaget, studied the cognitive development of children for decades and he identified stages of said development that children go through as they mature. I think Piaget said it best when he said “Children are not mini adults. If a child is not developmentally ready these problems will likely lead to frustration, discouragement and negative emotional reactions—which is exactly what parents are reporting. There is a time to help our students develop high level thinking skills that require manipulation of multiple symbols and the use of deductive logic. Childhood is not that time. What they are doing is rushing the most important season of a person’s life—their childhood."

Even more concerning, I am worried about the instruction time that my children are missing out on in the classroom because of the standardized testing. It seems like every time I turn around my kids are telling me that they are working on practice tests and taking assessments. It makes me wonder how much knowledge our children are missing out on because our teachers are teaching to the test. I listened to expert testimony about the harmful side effects of standardized testing and what I found was scary. This type of instruction might benefit the average and below average student because they have less information to process but what does it do to our above average and gifted students? They will forever be held back from ever achieving their potential because of the mediocrity of the information they are being exposed to. This ultimately means that any goal of producing brighter and higher achieving young people will never be reached. These tests do not measure the abilities of a student. They measure how good a school is at teaching curriculum that produces good test takers. I recently read that we must return to teaching curriculum that prepares students for a wide range of opportunities instead of teaching them how to know the answers to tests that really only benefit the vendors that create them. I wanted to give someone a high five when I read that because as a mother, I couldn't agree more. 

Is it really that important to compete with other countries when it comes to education? Why can't our kids be good for America instead of good for a "global economy." Why can't we  let the teachers do what they have been trained to do and let them teach creativity and beautiful things that will create lifelong learners? Why must we rush the childhoods of millions of children, making them miss out on the most influential years of their lives? 

I'm not in favor of national anything because the truth is, every state is different. The people in one state don't hold the same values as the residents of other states. What we do have in common, however, is that we are seeing states all across our country now springing to life and threatening to dismantle what is known as the Common Core and it's it's not because of these great speakers or experts who are speaking out against the standards. It's because of the real experts--the Moms and Dads. The Grandmas and Grandpas. The Aunts and Uncles. The concerned citizens. The taxpayers. It's those who believe in the principles that our country was founded upon. It's those who want to keep our freedoms in tact and not hand those precious gifts over to the government. It's those who love and care about children and want to see a generation of bright, free-thinkers who understand the history of our great country and the sacrifices that were made to be able to live in the land of the free, the home of the brave. It's the educators like the 42,000+ in the Bad Ass Teachers organization (BAT) who are starting to stand up and say "not in my class." 

Recently I had the opportunity to join the group of nearly 600 BAT's from Ohio and words could never even begin to express the gratitude I have for these teachers who truly want to make a difference in the lives of children. I asked one of them to share their opinion with me for a presentation I was working on and I was so touched by the responses.  "From the perspective of an educator who has been teaching for almost a decade, the Common Core is one of the worst educational reforms to ever rear its ugly head in this state and across the nation. It is a set of standards that trumpets the glib buzzwords “rigor” and “grit” with one side of its mouth while laughing in the face of a diverse and accommodating education for students with the other. How can any educator, administrator, parent or student champion a set of standards that turns children into data rather than seeing them as individuals with specific needs, interests, strengths and learning styles? How can any right-thinking or remotely compassionate person declare a set of standards that mercilessly labels a child from a young age, breaking them into “successful” or “failure” based on a single test, a triumph of reform and a panacea to the education gap in this country? How can any person who remembers the joy of learning through a multitude of different experiences, subjects and activities ever see standards that demand hyper-focus on hours of test preparation for the majority of the school year a worthwhile educational experience? How can any citizen look at the immense amount of preparation that goes into a teacher’s day, dedicated to helping each student as an individual, the projects that are created to get them to imagine and think beyond their boundaries, and the experiences that are brought to them to enrich their minds and see that measurable by a single, obtuse test? The answer is clear. Only someone with no common sense, someone with no understanding of how people think, learn and develop, someone who has NEVER stepped foot into a classroom to see what real learning and teaching looks like, someone who has found a way to make money from the failure of children and teachers and someone with little real desire to provide the BEST education a child can have. This is the kind of person who develops a set of standards as deeply flawed as the Common Core is. And it needs to be done away with before untold damage is done to the emotional and educational growth of students now and for generations to come."

Thank God for these teachers who are speaking up. Thank God for the parents speaking up. It might not be tomorrow but I think we are going to see something HUGE happening across America very soon.

Let's face it. We all want higher standards. We all want an excellent education for our children. Let the states go back to the drawing board and create truly higher standards that still allow children to be children because after all, they are humans, not machines. Prepare them for life, not the workforce. And for the love of God, let's push to make sure the federal government and social elites are never allowed to interfere with our children's education ever again. 


  1. I love this post. One of your best =)

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