College Math Teaching

November 19, 2013

I hear you Secretary Duncan

Filed under: academia, editorial — Tags: — collegemathteaching @ 1:27 pm

I won’t weigh in on the merits of “common core standards” as I have no evidence one way or the other. But I’ll remark on this remark:

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan told a group of state schools superintendents Friday that he found it “fascinating” that some of the opposition to the Common Core State Standards has come from “white suburban moms who — all of a sudden — their child isn’t as brilliant as they thought they were, and their school isn’t quite as good as they thought they were.”
Yes, he really said that. But he has said similar things before. What, exactly, is he talking about?
In his cheerleading for the controversial Common Core State Standards — which were approved by 45 states and the District of Columbia and are now being implemented across the country (though some states are reconsidering) — Duncan has repeatedly noted that the standards and the standardized testing that goes along with them are more difficult than students in most states have confronted.

Emphasis mine.

I don’t know about “white and suburban” but as far as parents having an inflated opinion of their kid’s abilities and the incoming students themselves: oh my goodness yes.

In some ways, university administration doesn’t help. I understand: to GET students to come to your university, you have to massage their egos a bit. No new freshmen means “no jobs for the professors”, at least at the smaller, “undergraduate education oriented” schools.

But…well, many of these students did well at their high schools and yes, they probably think that their high school is “one of the best” and they don’t seem to understand is that most of the incoming class has roughly the same level of talent.

Most have not been around a truly brilliant person and have no conception of what true brilliance is. Hey, if they…gasp…differentiated a polynomial in high school, they “know calculus”, right? 🙂

Rant to follow
It is my opinion (based only on my limited experience, not evidence), that most really don’t want an objective evaluation of their abilities and accomplishments; they want PRAISE, period.

And yes, there have been rare occasions when I’ve thought “so and so won’t make it” when, in fact, they had more talent that I’ve realized. But, surprise to surprise, most students have…uh…average talent. Judging from the boasting that I’ve seen on the social media sites, their respective parents will never believe that in a million years though. 🙂

Note: a reader pointed out that he thinks that the resistance to “common core” comes from the widespread belief that “local control is best”. That may well be true. This post does not mean that I think that Secretary Duncan is correct in the reasons that “common core” is resisted but rather that I agree with his assessment that many overestimate the intelligence of their kids.


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