Loaded questions are a great way of winning an argument. It puts your opponent on the defensive and frames the discussion in a way that makes it almost impossible for him or her to win. Supporters of the Common Core State Standards have used this tactic time and again. They ask, “Why don’t you like rigorous standards?”
Most recently, the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education posted a video using this tactic – “What Would You Say to a Critic of Higher Standards?” In the video, a few of Missouri’s teachers of the year answer the question. How can someone argue with them? How can you argue against higher standards?
There is just one problem, I don’t know of anyone who argues against the Common Core State Standards because they are too rigorous. In fact, most arguments against the standards call into question the quality of the standards. Take, for instance, Sandy Stotsky. She was a member of the Common Core validation team and refused to sign off on the standards.
“Everyone was willing to believe that the Common Core standards are ‘rigorous,’ ‘competitive,’ ‘internationally benchmarked,’ and ‘research-based.’ They are not,” Stotsky said.
But according to DESE, it is not possible to question the quality of the standards. What’s more, apparently we are supposed to be in awe of the standards as well. In the video, Robert Becker, the 2010-11 Missouri Teacher of the Year, says, “If you actually sit down and read them, they’re beautiful. There’s no way you could object to them. You could do nothing but admire them.”
Let’s try it out. Here are a couple of standards:
CCSS.Math.Content.1.MD.A.2 Express the length of an object as a whole number of length units, by laying multiple copies of a shorter object (the length unit) end to end; understand that the length measurement of an object is the number of same-size length units that span it with no gaps or overlaps.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.3.3 Ask and answer questions about information from a speaker, offering appropriate elaboration and detail.
Are they beautiful? Do you want to sit back and admire them?
We cannot have a serious discussion about the Common Core until proponents recognize that questions of their “rigor” and their “beauty” are debatable. Reputable scholars disagree on the matter. Instead of asking the loaded question, “Why don’t you like rigorous standards?” Common Core supporters should open up to real dialogue. They could start by asking, “Could the standards be improved?”