Wednesday, January 01, 2014

The CC Math Politics is Completely Different from the CC ELA/Literacy Politics

Paul Michael Goldenberg, commenting on Crazy Crawfish:

But what’s particularly unsettling here is that as I have repeatedly pointed out, the ideas under attack are not, as is often claimed, new or peculiar to CCSSI. Whether they are good or bad, the issue is NOT in these instances the Common Core or the emotions people are bringing to the table, including their negative feelings about President Obama (particularly feelings that have nothing to do with his generally horrific educational policies). But my knowing that and repeating it is not an adequate safety net for truth, unfortunately. And that’s at times more than a bit frustrating.

And it’s even more frustrating because I hate the educational and political policies at work here, so my initial impulse was to be glad when I saw folks on the Right starting to express opposition to the Common Core. But it’s become glaringly obvious to me that in many instances, their late-arriving opposition is founded far more in the sense that they’ve found another wedge issue, another opportunity to undermine all of Obama’s policies, appointments, etc. And that’s why they are willing to throw out anything negative they can think of or come across, regardless of truth, plausibility, or relevance, in regard to the Common Core. Even when what they are trashing happens to be ideas that I’ve personally fought for over the past 20+ years, back when the vast majority of Americans really didn’t spend a lot of time discussing K-12 mathematics curricular materials, pedagogy, etc.

That is why we keep hearing about “these NEW Common Core math ideas” even though the ideas are NOT new, and weren’t in nearly all cases new when they were appearing in the late 1980s/early 1990s wave of curricular materials related to the 1989-94 NCTM Standards volumes. Indeed, according to Robert B. Davis, late of Rutgers University, many of these ideas weren’t new when he and other mathematicians and mathematics educators were playing with them in the late 1950s through the early 1970s in various projects affiliated with “the” New Math (and as he pointed out, there never was a single “New Math.” Nor was there a single “New-New Math” in the last 20 years or so, and neither is there a “Common Core Math.” Just some standards that have been rewritten, shuffled around, for good or ill, by another bizarre conglomeration of mathematicians and mathematics educators who had and continue to have very conflicting ideas about what to put into a single major document on K-12 math content, teaching, and learning. In other words, it’s a hash, and had to be given the committees involved. And they are still fighting with each other and will be indefinitely.

The Math Wars are alive and sick, have been for a long time, will be for the foreseeable future. And angry parents and teachers who choose to glom onto a deeply flawed analysis of effective math teaching that has been promoted by very educationally conservative (and mostly politically conservative) elitists since the early 1990s or so is only going to make things worse. I’ve written blog pieces on @the Chalk Face and elsewhere to this effect: the winning of the battle against the Common Core will not actually make things better in and of itself. And it may, in the long run, simply bring about many of the same disastrous results for kids and teachers. But the most vocal, narrow-minded parents will be happy, because math materials and teaching methods will look close enough to the unenlightened approaches and books that many of them actually suffered through themselves in K-12 or beyond. But like old frat and sorority folks who were hazed and hated it, they won’t be happy unless what was bad enough for them is made bad enough for their own children.

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