Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Pick One or the Other, Please

Erik Robelsen:

Under revisions to South Carolina's social studies standards finalized last year, Mr. Huffman said, one addition was a suggested set of social studies literacy skills, some of which were derived from the common core.

Look, if you're going to adopt the Common Core Literacy Standards in History/Social Studies, that at least excludes you from having to repeat them in the social studies subject area standards. You don't have to put the chocolate in your peanut butter and the peanut butter in your chocolate.


One big change, she said, is that students are expected to tackle a higher level of text complexity than before. "You're basically bumping up things by two years in a lot of cases," she said.

That's what led her to introduce Einstein's article for Science Illustrated magazine, "E=MC²: The Most Urgent Problem of Our Time."

Using the text is "one of the best ways that we have found" to address content goals in a unit on nuclear chemistry, Ms. Poeppelman said, while also "incorporating and weaving in common-core-standards goals." In particular, she identified two reading standards, one on analyzing text structure, the other on author's purpose.

That's nice, but if you're really concerned with "college and career readiness" it makes no damn sense to turn away from reading your textbook to analyze a magazine article, even one by Einstein. Correct me if I'm wrong, but STEM majors and professionals will primarily read textbooks, technical manuals and journal articles, which have a very standard text structure and a couple utilitarian purposes.

If your goal is to get kids ready to survive freshman chemistry on their own, you'd be better off just making them read their high school chemistry textbook and skip the literary analysis, right?

And actually taking a look at the Einstein text, it is arguably more interesting as a primary source document in history than a science text. This is pretty cool but not the kind of thing you have to be able to parse to pass freshman Physics:

‘What takes place can be illustrated with the help of our rich man. The atom M is a rich miser who, during his life, gives away no money (energy). But in his will he bequeaths his fortune to his sons MÅå and MÅç, on condition that they give to the community a small amount, less than one thousandth of the whole estate (energy or mass). The sons together have somewhat less than the father had (the mass sum MÅå+ MÅç is somewhat smaller than the mass M of the radioactive atom). But the part given to the community, though relatively small, is still so enormously large (considered as kinetic energy) that it brings with it a great threat of evil. Averting that threat has become the most urgent problem of our time.”‘

If this reminds you of the current influence of ed reform philanthropy, it is not my fault.

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