A major “hot button” topic in education today is the Common Core initiative. Like it or not, most states have adopted it and the resulting implementation of this initiative has led to much debate.
The purpose of this article is to explain the controversy surrounding Common Core. And, rather than persuade you to adopt a particular point of view, our goal is simply to arm you with knowledge to help you form your own opinions and make your own decisions regarding Common Core and your child’s education.
Common Core 101
In an effort to improve U.S. educational performance and to prepare students for college and career, a group of state governors expressing a desire to create learning and educational milestones came together to develop educational standards designed to help students become college- and career-ready. These standards were meant to act as a guideline to assure that the education received by U.S. students was uniform from state to state, specifically in the areas of mathematics and English language arts.
In theory, the idea of improving educational performance sounds like a good one. But somewhere between inspiration and implementation, issues both practical and philosophical in nature have resulted.
Common Core Concerns
Here are several of the major concerns with Common Core:
Centralized Approach Threatens Individual Needs. Many are worried that the establishment and management of standards at the national level takes the decision-making power away from those who have a much greater pulse on the needs at the local level, including parents and taxpayers.
Government/Business Involvement in Schools. Local governments are dependent upon federal funding to meet the educational needs of their constituents. As a result, some fear that Common Core adoption may be more a result of the threat of monetary penalties for non-compliance as opposed to agreement with the initiative. In addition, some worry that private businesses have unduly influenced the development and implementation of Common Core through the offering of monetary support and incentives.
The Impact of Standards on Curriculum and Testing. While Common Core was designed to be a set of standards and not a curriculum, these standards are indeed affecting curriculum and subsequently the supporting learning materials. For example, textbooks and tests are being written to reflect the standards. Concerns abound that there is now an overemphasis of skills over content knowledge. In addition, these standards have affected teaching methodology. As an illustration, to support Common Core goals, methods of teaching math that are more reliant upon theory than rote memorization have been introduced and have sparked much controversy.
Standards Do Not Guarantee Educational Performance. Along with the impact the standards are having on curriculum come the following questions: Is the quality of education being compromised? Is Common Core forcing educators to teach to a test and not for the sake of learning? At the end of the day, will the education our students are receiving provide them with the skills, knowledge and experience required to survive and thrive in the real world?
A Christian Approach to Common Core
So how as Christian parents are we to respond to Common Core? Before we answer that question, let’s take a step back and take a look at education from a Christian perspective.
What is the purpose of education? Ultimately, a valuable education will help students develop their reasoning capacities so they can discern truth and live according to it. Whose truth? God’s truth. The reading and writing skills children learn give them the technical knowledge necessary to communicate in this world, God’s world. The study of literature provides cultural knowledge of His world. The study of mathematics and science fosters an appreciation of His world. Study in these areas leads to a development of critical thinking skills and to a better understanding of God’s world and God’s laws.
“Train a child up in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it” Proverbs 22:6
“Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” Deuteronomy 11:19
As Christian parents, our children’s education ultimately rests in our hands. As such, it is our responsibility to take an active role in our children’s education to ensure what they are learning renders them capable of understanding truth, loving God and reflecting His goodness.
All that said, here are some suggestions on what Christian parents can do in response to Common Core, especially if your child attends a school where Common Core has been adopted:
Do Your Homework. Do the necessary research to aquaint yourself with Common Core to identify which aspects of it may be beneficial or detrimental to your child’s overall education.
Discuss Questionable Content With Your Child. As curriculum content taught in the classroom may be designed by others who do not hold Christian beliefs or values, it is important that you be aware of what your child is learning in the classroom and ensure your child understands how to view that content through a Christian worldview lens.
Supplement What is Being Taught in School. If the curriculum being taught to your child does not approach learning from a Biblical perspective, provide your child with additional learning opportunities outside of the classroom, such as at home, through your church or other Christian organizations.
Seek Alternative Schooling Options. First and foremost, understand that you have a choice. If you’ve done the due diligence in researching Common Core and discover the minuses outweigh the pluses, prayerfully consider alternative eductional options, such as homeschooling or enrollment in a private school that does not follow Common Core standards and whose curriculum is aligned with your Christian values.
Regardless of the latest fads or trends in education, as a Christian parent, it is your right and responsibility to train your child up in the way he or she should go. In doing so, you will help your child discern God’s truth and live a life that glorifies Him.
Resources for further research: