The Dehumanizing Effect of Common Core

During the final House hearing, lawmakers heard testimony in favor of common core standards from Brigadier General Stone of the Michigan Army National Guard.  His argument centered around the need for better recruits and the education struggles faced by military families that frequently relocate.  (Video here.)

As a military mom with two sons currently serving in the US Marine Corps, I am very sympathetic to the struggles of military families.  In 2010, my sons encountered enlistment barriers because they were homeschooled.   Military recruiters were adamant that our sons did not possess a “valid diploma.”  The recruiters erroneously believed that our sons should abide by the same homeschool laws as a recruit from Virginia or Massachusetts, even though we reside in Michigan.  Home education is handled at the state level.   I couldn’t help but wonder if our experience foreshadowed what may eventually happen to all families that educate outside the common core standard.

A few weeks ago, I attempted to discuss our experience and the chilling effect Common Core State Standards will have on homeschoolers,with Rep. Kelly.   He was very dismissive.   He told me that our struggles enlisting were not because of common standards but because “Obama was President.”  He asked, “Wouldn’t you agree that if we had a Republican in the White House things would be different?”

“No.”  I emphatically replied.   “Jeb Bush, Mike Huckabee, and Gov. Snyder are all for the Common Core. If any of these men were President things would not be any different.”

Rep. Kelly scoffed and walked away.  Strangely at the hearing, I did not hear Rep. Kelly ask the invited military guests if their experience would be different if we had a Republican in the White House.

Brig. General Stone testified that the Army is struggling to find good recruits.   I struggled to contain my frustration as I listened to his testimony in light of our own experience. Somewhere in the recruiting process my sons became a number with a file of forms that had to be filled out and passed up the chain of command for approval.  The recruiter no longer viewed my sons as a capable men with college credit who exceeded the academic and physical requirements for enlistment in the US Marines.  Military recruiters have a common standard imposed from “higher ups” that must be obeyed.  That’s the dehumanizing effect of common standards.

Common standards demand conformity without regard for the individual.

The military treat their families much the same way.   Often,  military families are ordered to move from base to base to accomplish the mission with little consideration for a family’s well-being or their children’s education.    The needs of the military are the priority and families obediently pack-up and go where they are told, even if it means another school transfer.

Brig. General Stone believes that the Common Core Standards will solve the education dilemma for military families.  It won’t.  Schools use different materials, children learn at different rates, teachers teach in different ways, and tests are administered at different times.  Transferring from one school to the next will not be eased by the Common Core; in fact, common standards and assessments could potentially burden military children even more.

If child does not finish his math homework, is it because he lacks perseverance or because he spent the evening on Skype with his dad for the first time in months?  Is it right to compare the test score of a student with a mom in Afghanistan to another student whose mom will be home from work that evening?  Does a “cut score” on a high-stakes test compensate for a hurting heart?

Common standards demand conformity without regard for the individual.

At the hearing, Representative Rogers quipped that the military doesn’t have a 50 standards for how to build a tank; he was obviously implying that we should not have 50 standards for educating children either.  But what works for a tank does not work for child!

Sadly, that’s the dehumanizing effect of Common Core — standards that meet the demands of the state but leave the dreams of the child out in the cold.