I cannot understand all of the complaining regarding the PARCC Test, Common Core Standards and graduation requirements. I am especially concerned with some ideas promulgated by those who minimize the importance of math. Many individuals espouse the belief that history, for example, is as important as math and science. Don’t get me wrong, I think history is nice. But, let’s be honest, historians do not cure cancer or put people on the moon. In addition, most people know that stuff already.
As a child I loved to hear how Columbus sailed the ocean blue with his three ships – the Nina, Pinta and Andrea Doria. This led the way for others like Henry Hudson, Rocky Balboa and Hernando Cortez. I especially enjoyed participating in school field trips to places like Plymouth Rock. If it were not for the Indians we would never have corn on the cob or Thanksgiving football games.
As you can tell, I do love history. In fact, some of my favorite movies, like The Patriot, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and Oliver Stone’s JFK, teach us a lot about who we are. Again, I support all of this stuff, but not at the expense of math. Kids today need to understand that without calculus and trigonometry they might wind up being drug counselors, history teachers, artists, in the armed services, or, in some cases, small business owners. This might sound harsh, but let us be real.
What good will it do to know that George Washington Carver was the Father of Our Country? What good will it do for us to know that Jefferson Davis wrote the Declaration of Independence? And finally, who cares if you can tell how Franklin Roosevelt rolled up San Juan Hill to win the Cuban Missile Crisis? All of this might make for interesting dinner chat, but learning history is like learning about art, cooking, music, sociology and health. What is next, philosophy?
I really like the whole idea of the Common Core standards. In fact, preparing kids for academic rigor is the best way to get them engaged with the real world. This needs to begin with kindergarten. For us to keep up with the medical advances made by China, we need to get these kids of ours in shape. For us to keep up with Finland’s space program we need kids doing more in preschool than taking naps, socializing and reading. Finally, if we do not enhance our school curriculums, American kids just might run off and attend colleges in Russia, China, Finland, Taiwan, etc. This could happen.
Now, I understand that as a nation we have been referred to as a great smelting pot. America is made up of diverse peoples with a rich history. Ever since Manifold Dynasty encouraged us to go West, do in the Indians, as well as Mexicans (remember the Alamo with Davy Crockett, Randy Travis and David Bowie), our citizenry has become known for excellence. We should cherish folks like Sacajawea, Jim Thorpe, Mario Cuomo, Martin Luther King, Sandy Koufax and Rosie O’Donnell (for refusing to give up her seat on the bus). These folks, and others from numerous backgrounds, became a part of our fabric. One of my favorites has always been Sugar Ray Robinson, who broke the sound barrier in baseball. All important people and events – but these along with two bucks will not buy a cup of coffee today. Because of this, it is important that we set aside sentimentality and begin signing our kids up for classes they might not be ready for (along with some tutoring).
Some might agree, like Carlos Santana, that “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” While this is a good argument, it has little to do with us keeping up with China, Finland and Barrington. Worse still, history cannot be used to enhance real estate value. What is the purpose of studying why Andrew Johnson escalated military action in Vietnam or signed Civil Rights legislation? Would we not be better served weeding out those kids who fail math on a standardized test? Those kids do not try hard enough anyway. Also, teachers better improve as well. Don’t they understand just how brilliant our kids are?
Again, please do not think that I am against history or those other nice subjects. However, such learning is impractical. What does freeing the slaves and civil rights have to do with today? Who really cares about the genesis of political parties or the Bill of Rights? That stuff happened hundreds of years ago. How to get into college, making money and doing well on tests is what we should be teaching kids. I am sorry if I have offended anyone, but like Abraham Lincoln reportedly once said commemorating April Fool’s Day, “You can fool all of the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.” Don’t be fooled by those opposing education reform with their broad-based, age-appropriate, diverse-learning stuff. Do we want good people or do you want good test scores?
Luckily, we live at a time when information is readily accessible. The present world has given us gifts like Brian Williams and Wikipedia – both resources provide accurate accounts of current events and history. Because of these, wasting time on memorizing dates and why the United States dropped the “bomb” on the Nazis is no longer necessary. To meet the demands of tomorrow more time must be placed on pushing our children towards success. That success means doing what we are told by the Rhode Island Department of Education. Working together we can achieve this.
– A.P. Testa
A.P. Testa is presently employed as a drug counselor for a local community. He also has served on a school committee and worked for the RI Department of Education. His ideas are not his own, but merely the product of someone’s imagination.