Is Common Core Standards a good thing or a bad thing for public education? Nobody seems to know the answer to that questions. Common Core sounds like a great step forward to promote better learning for all students, but if you are anything like me, the whole movement leaves me a little uneasy. Why? Because Common Come means just that, common standards for all. But in America, we have a long tradition of individuality and self-direction. The ability to “go one’s own way” has long been the foundation of innovation, creativity and outstanding achievement in America.
In Europe, the tradition is quite different. They have a long history of a Caste System. Students are vigorously tested and “tracked” to an academic or vocational route, usually before the age of 14. It serves its purpose, and everyone ultimately acquires the learning they need to secure employment, but there are no second chances, no new directions. Non-traditional learners and late-bloomers often fall behind, unlike in the U.S. Our “forgiving” nature is one of the facts that has made our educational system long regarded as the best the the world. With a little motivation, anyone can overcome a past of poor performance and move on to achieve great things.
But are we moving closer to the European model? Will students who fall behind others on a standardized scale be deemed less able to achieve?. Will their test scores do them in? I certainly hope not. Instead of making learning more of the same, we need to make learning more different, more individualized. And technology can help us do that. With distance learning and project-based learning, people can truly design their own paths and identity their strengths. The ability to properly direct one’s own learning, can’t be done at a young age, but after the age of 15, it can be. Why not have Common Core Standards until the age of 15. After that time, standardized curriculum and testing should be finished. Let students find what is best for them, and the best ways for them to achieve. Finding an area of learning that truly excites is one of the greatest pleasures in life. Why take that away with a nationalized curriculum. Let students have some freedom in their learning and it will never be a bore.