There`s much hubbub over the Common Core, a new set of quasi-national curriculum guidelines that have been endorsed by over 40 states.
I`m relatively cynical about issuing new standards in education, whether state, federal, or in-between. Like all education panaceas, the Common Core is being sold as the means to Close the Gap, help American students catch up with China and Japan, improve critical thinking skills, and all other good things.
That said, from what little I`ve peered into the Common Core, I suspect it might conceivably benefit the most overlooked group in schooling in recent decades: white boys.
For example, for reading and literature, it emphasizes less fiction (which girls and women prefer) and more nonfiction (which males increasingly prefer as they mature).
Some of the inspiration for the Common Core appears to be the long campaign by E.D. Hirsch for "core knowledge." Hirsch has long argued that kids often lose the thread in reading when they are hit by references (e.g., "he met his Waterloo") to facts they don`t know. So, rather than leach all the facts out of their readings and just emphasize feelings, use readings to teach kids more facts, especially important facts, such as what Waterloo was. The male bias in this should be obvious.
It`s supposed to encourage critical analysis. If it really does that, rather than just encouraging students to complain in socially endorsed manners, white boys will do relatively better on tests.
A big deal is being made about how Common Core tests won`t be just multiple choice tests, they`ll include lots of essays. Which is fine, but note a big advantage of multiple choice tests: they can be graded instantly by computer, which is not just labor saving, but which allows inflight adjustments. Essay tests not only add a lot of labor (expect to see a lot of part-time jobs for Common Core essay test graders), but can take weeks or months to grade. Nobody seems terribly sure about how testing will work out under the Common Core.