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'Common Core' Seeks to Rescue Liberal Arts

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The debate over whether NCLB has narrowed schools' curricula has a new player—a group called Common Core.

"Everyone’s children deserve to receive a comprehensive, content-rich education in the liberal arts and sciences," Lynne Munson, the group's executive director, writes in the introduction of a report released by the group today. "Of course they must be able to read and compute. But they must also possess real knowledge about important things, knowledge of civics, biology, geography, art history, languages—the full range of subjects that comprise a complete education."

Among the group's trustees are Antonia Cortese, an executive vice president of the American Federation of Teachers, and Diane Ravitch, a noted author and half of the dynamic duo on Education Week's Bridging Differences blog.

See this USA Today story presenting what Common Core found when it asked 17-year-olds some basic historical questions. Take the quiz yourself.

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The merits of a vigorous debate about NCLB and school testing notwithstanding, this "report" is embarrassingly shoddy scholarship.

They mysteriously offer not one valid comparison. What were scores on previous surveys? What are the scores of adults? What does it mean that "only 45% of 17 year-olds can correctly identify Oedipus?

And, so what? How are children better off having read, specifically, the Scarlet Letter? How is knowledge of these particular subjects and cultural (whose culture?) artifacts correlated with some objective measure of better-offness?

This publication-length brochure, with overly dramatic photos of beleaguered children by Common Core is total nonsense, deeply flawed methodologically, and has no business being reported on as if it were a study or news.

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