Common Core Standards

by Jeff Bloom

excerpted from Jeff Bloom's Blog:

The Common Core Standards — Keeping Our Kids Dumb

Originally posted: July 2, 2011

It may be a knee-jerk reaction on my part, but I’m suspicious of political efforts in education. Fundamentally, I don’t think the real intent and motivation is to help children. The quote from the Standards web site (below) brings up a number of questions and thoughts.

The Common Core State Standards provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, so teachers and parents know what they need to do to help them. The standards are designed to be robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers. With American students fully prepared for the future, our communities will be best positioned to compete successfully in the global economy.


  • Why do we want all students to learn the same things?
  • Do children who are homeless need to learn the same things as others?
  • Do children living in big cities need to learn the same things as others?
  • How can the same content be relevant and meaningful to all students?
  • Why is content (information) the most important thing to learn?
  • Shouldn’t we be teaching children how to find and evaluate information, rather than having them learn this content?
  • Shouldn’t we be valuing children’s diverse styles, interests, individual personalities, contexts, etc?
  • Why is certain knowledge (and there’s a lot) not addressed in the core standards?
  • Who decides (I couldn’t find the list of people involved in developing the standards, but the “voices of support” are politicians and business people with one exception) what content to include?
  • What is their agenda?
  • Who is going to benefit from demanding one set of standards for all children?
  • What are their philosophical orientations?
  • What is the depth and extent of their experience and knowledge of child development, child psychology, learning and cognition, teaching, curriculum theory, cultural epistemology, and so forth?
  • How can anyone think that they know what is “good” for all children (seems like an error of hubris to me)?
  • While stating a desire to help children succeed in “college and careers,”
    • how do they know what each child needs to succeed (whatever that means)?
    • why is education about “success”; what does “success” mean?
    • why is education about careers and what careers are valued? Is waste disposal (garbage collector) a valued career
    • why should all children go to college?
  • What would happen if all kids were “successful” at the school game? What would this look like? Who would benefit?

The key to understanding this effort is found in the last sentence. The entire political motivation is about money, about economic competitiveness, or about economic domination. The whole approach is based in a global corporate agenda. I couldn’t find any reference to social justice, ecology, or the environment. These ideas are not of concern to the corporate agenda. In fact, they are a threat to this agenda.

The approach is mechanistic (as if children were little non-human robots) and positivistic. We’re in the middle of a revolution as the worldviews of positivism and mechanism, having created life-threatening and culturally disconnecting problems, are being challenged by more holistic and complex worldviews. We’re witnessing the kicking and screaming of positivists and mechanists as their materialistic and narrow views of power and control are being undermined. It’s the middle of a revolution. Our consumerism is eating back on itself. Within the context of economic growth, consumerism, and materialism, we’re destroying families, cultures, and the environment upon which we depend for our very survival.

The "Common Core" of Ignorance

Originally posted: December 8, 2012

For decades, but actually for centuries, educational scholars have been pushing for ways of teaching that engage children and contribute to their growth and development as thoughtful participants in society. However, corporate and political forces always seem to win out in the battles between thoughtful and thoughtless schooling.

Thoughtless schooling has been empowered from the positivist and mechanist thrusts developed and propagated by Descartes and Newton. Although positivism and mechanism may have removed a veil of ignorance and introduced revolutionary ways of thinking and of relating to the world, they have had their negative effects over the last few centuries. In a way, these Cartesian ways of thinking have led to the development of their own veil of ignorance. (By "ignorance" I mean "being in a state of ignoring" rather than a sense of stupidity. In fact, ignorance may be quite smart, as we actively avoid seeing "something," that is usually something we don't want to see or take into account. Ignorance usually involves being stuck in a set of assumptions.)

Just as the pre-Cartesian peoples of the West were guided by superstitions and myths of various kinds, we post-Cartesianists have our own set of superstitions and myths that guide our thinking, actions, and decision-making. We think that everything can be reduced to a number and that numbers are truth. We think that all people are equal (or the same…), rather than as different. From this view we think that all children can conform to the same ways of learning and thinking. We believe that there is a linear and sequential pattern of cause and effect and that thinking and learning should occur in linear and sequential ways. We also continue to see learning as something static. We think of learning as the acquisition of a body of unchanging knowledge.

At the same time, researchers and scholars have been suggesting very different approaches to understanding the world and to thinking and learning. Such alternatives are closely aligned to more recent understandings of the complexity sciences, as well as the psychology of social constructivism and distributed learning. From such perspectives, learning is not viewed as linear and sequential or as static. Instead, learning is viewed as recursive (looping around in complex interconnections) and ever-changing. Learning is seen as a social process, where ideas are shared, negotiated, and argued. Even though each individual may put his or her own “spin” on particular ideas, the ideas have been a product of the social dynamic.

Now, we have returned to yet another veil of ignorance under the guise of the Common Core standards. All students are supposed to learn the same material from a list of concepts. Science learning in the early grades, where children’s curiosity is at its peak, is relegated to reading about science rather than exploring, testing, and playing with “stuff” and ideas. We’re yet again returning to a system of schooling that kills children – kills their inquisitiveness—curiosity, playfulness, creativity, and deeper intelligence. They are pounded into a state of ignorance by an adult world steeped in ignorance. The designers of the Common Core, bless their hearts, are so deeply embedded in our cultural state of ignorance, they actually think they are doing some good for the children.

Children desperately need to experience deep, meaningful, and relevant learning. But, all of schooling is based on shallow, meaningless, irrelevant, and fragmented “learning,” all of which seems to be reduced to “memorization.” It really doesn’t much matter what children learn as long as they can learn something in great depth. Once they experience learning of this sort, where they not only learn a set of interconnected concepts, but learn how to evaluate that knowledge and how that knowledge works and relates to a variety of contexts (e.g., how the concept of energy relates to ecological, social, political, and economic contexts). This level of learning is what Gregory Bateson referred to as Learning III (Bateson, 1972/2000). Learning at this level of complexity is what children need to experience and practice. In fact, this type of learning is what is going to be necessary for our children's survival in a very uncertain future.

In addition, the idea that children need to continue to learn a broad spectrum of ideas is silly. We have such easy access to information that it makes more sense to have children experience real in-depth learning, so they know what this kind of learning “feels like” and then learn how to find and evaluate knowledge claims in relevant contexts.

We’ve also lost all sense of children as being “producers” of knowledge rather than just “consumers” of knowledge (Marshall, 1992). They need to be engaged in constructing and evaluating their own knowledge claims. They do this informally in their everyday lives, but we fail to take advantage of this pattern of learning to help them hone these skills.

At present, we are facing the dire ecological consequences of our previous states of Cartesian ignorance. We are not only in a state of “peak” oil, but also in a state of peak everything… water, soil, and resources of all kinds. Our children are going to be confronted with collapse on many fronts, yet we continue to teach them material that is irrelevant to their futures. We continue to emphasize approaches and knowledge that don't provide them with the knowledge and skills to survive or thrive in the future.

For whatever reasons, but probably those that come from the pressures of corporate greed and its consequent ideas of economic growth, global competition, mass conformity, and keeping the populace in a state of shared ignorance, we continue to push a variation of the a same approach to education that has gotten nowhere. The approaches that seem to have always taken over are deeply embedded in what Bateson would call Level 0 or proto—learning, otherwise known as rote learning. As long as we try to quantify learning, which is not quantifiable (there is no “quantity” of learning), along with high stakes tests and corporatized curriculum, our children will not learn at the levels of which they are so capable.

So, what are we to do?


For those of you interested in a more in-depth analysis of the problems with the Common Core, download the following paper: "Common Core State Standards: An Example of Data-less Decision Making" by Christopher H. Tienken (2011), in the Journal of Scholarship and Practice


Bateson, G. (1972/2000). Steps to an ecology of mind. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Marshall, H. H. (1992). Seeing, redefining, and supporting student learning. In H. H. Marshall (Ed.), Redefining student learning: Roots of educational change (pp. 1—32). Ablex

More on the Common Core: Who Decides?

Originally posted: March 10, 2013

At the moment, Arizona is pursuing legislation that will require all faculty members in colleges of education to receive training in the Common Core Standards and that will require the Common Core to be included in their teacher education courses. Such a move is frightening at so many levels, I barely know where to start. This move is just another indication that Academic Freedom (i.e., a subset of freedom of speech that has been a foundation for intellectual inquiry among teachers and students) is disappearing. Next, we’ll be burning books and firing teachers for teaching critically important ideas and ways of thinking that are not in the Common Core. Does this sound familiar to anyone? Or, have the limitations of school curriculum already omitted knowledge that is not a part of the agenda running this country?

We seem to be putting the Common Core on a pedestal with no memory as to how this set of standards is yet another educational fad. In a few more years, we’ll come up with another one, and another after that. But, this fad is seriously flawed to the point of actually being dangerous. On top of the inherent dangers of the Common Core Standards themselves (which will be discussed further here and in future blog entries), politicians are compounding the dangers by mandating their use at multiple levels of education. These very same politicians have failed at schooling. In Arizona, only about 16% of the legislators have a college degree. Nationwide the average is 25%. (SEE this New York Times article for further details: Yet, these politicians continue to make decisions about education as if they are the experts. Of course, the rampant misconception across the country is the notion that we are all experts in schooling, since all but a few of us have attended school, and therefore we all know about teaching and learning. However, what legislators and the general public don’t know includes: the psychology of learning, motivation, and thinking; the dynamics and theoretical foundations of teaching and schooling; the theoretical foundations and analysis of curriculum; creating classroom communities where children are active producers of knowledge, rather than passive consumers of disconnected knowledge; the social foundations of teaching, learning, and schooling; and the wide array of teaching approaches and techniques for various subject matter areas. We have highly educated teachers who have learned the foundational knowledge and skills in these areas and who continue to learn from their own practices and the literature about teaching and learning. But, unlike places like Finland (Why Are Finland Schools Successful?), we don’t trust our teachers and we don’t allow them to make decisions about what children need to learn. We’ve tied their hands behind their backs. The Common Core and the onslaught of prescribed curriculums that are sure to follow are more knots.

Among most of us who actually study and critically analyze education, teaching, learning, and curriculum, there are basic questions that we always ask. In this and later blog entries, I will introduce and ponder some of these basic questions. The first question follows:

Who decides what knowledge is worth learning?

In the case of the Common Core, one person is responsible: David Coleman, a multi-millionaire from the corporate sector. He has single-handedly, with the financial help of GE Foundation’s $18,000,000 and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s $4,100,000, taken over the reigns of American education. The Common Core Standards are not the result of educators coming together to write what they consider to be important knowledge. The Common Core is the result of one man’s effort, with the help of 27 complicit individuals, mostly from the political and business sectors. The National Governors Association also was heavily involved. This organization created the Common Core and has pushed for states to adopt the standards without ever having seen them (

In addition to taking over American K—12 education, Coleman has taken over the presidency of the College Board. He plans on re-aligning the SAT’s to reflect the Common Core. The whole of American education is now under the control of one person. Almost all of the state governors have bought into the Common Core. Teacher educators and college and university presidents have sold out. And, now conformity to the Common Core is being legislated.

Many of the top educational researchers have been co-opted into this massive brainwashing machine as a review committee. I’m greatly saddened to see some of the some of the researchers I’ve admired on the list of the brainwashed and co-opted. What a disappointment. Education is now officially a corporate entity.

There is no room for creativity, critical thinking, environmental literacy, social justice, and education for and about democracy. Teachers and children are about to be reduced to automatons. No thinking allowed. Just learn how to take 20 times more high-stakes tests!

For further information, look at some of these links:

Diane Ravitch’s article:
"Guinea Pigs for Common Core Standards”

Diane Ravitch’s blog:
David Coleman will Change the SAT to Align with Common Core

Substance News:
“Common Hard Core? … David Coleman, architect of the ‘Common Core’ and now President of the College Board, just loves dropping tough-guy F-bombs on staid audiences”

Susan Ohanian’s commentary:
“Common Core State (sic) Standards”

Joseph Lucedo's comment to Susan Ohanian's blog:
Common Core instead of NCLB!

More on the Common Core: Who Benefits?

Originally posted: March 16, 2013

Who is going to benefit from the Common Core Standards?

Children are not going to benefit. In fact, they are likely to suffer from the effects of severe psychological violence. Children’s inherent creativity, curiosity, love of learning, and complex and complicated ways of thinking are going to suffer the most. Children are not going to experience what it is like to learn something in depth. They are not going to learn about issues and topics that will be critically important to them as adults. They are not going to develop emotionally and socially, because teachers will not be able to take the time to help them develop in these areas.

Teachers and the profession of teaching are not going to benefit. Competent to excellent teachers (note: the vast majority of our teachers probably fall within this range of expertise) are going to leave in droves. Those good teachers who remain are going to face the effects of psychological violence, as well. Their creativity about how to teach in ways that engage and stimulate children and their insightfulness about how to best help children grow and learn are going to be suppressed by the pressures inflicted by the Common Core Standards and by increased high-stakes testing.

Schools are not going to benefit. They will continue on a downward spiral as they trip over their own feet… caught between good intensions and mindless political forces.

Communities are not going to benefit. Students will continue to hate going to school. They will not be engaged. They will not feel connected to learning, to one another, to schools, or to their communities. In some neighborhoods, such disconnections may manifest in a variety of anti-social actions. Children’s desire to learn and find the limits of what is possible, which can serve as positive attribute within school classrooms, may manifest as criminal and other anti-social behaviors in local communities.

Society will not benefit. As with communities, many children will be disconnected from society as a whole. They will not have learned how to participate thoughtfully in a democratic society. Many others who may have been encouraged to follow their passions in the arts will find no support in schools. The heart of our culture and society will crumble. Even children who are interested in math and the sciences will be “turned off” by teaching approaches that are meaningless and irrelevant.

Corporations, much to their surprise, will not benefit. They may think they will benefit by highly controlled and dumbed down approaches to schooling, but they will only get employees who are unable to think creatively and critically and who lack any sense of inspiration.

Power-hungry politicians and business people may benefit. They will have a population that will be easy to control. The power-elite will continue to sell our citizens a bill of goods and take advantage of them. Even now, those in power have already been able to brainwash a significant proportion of society, including school leaders, teachers, researchers, and well-meaning state and local politicians. The power-elite, which in the case of the Common Core involves David Coleman, repeat the same misinformed ideas over and over again to the point where people actually begin to think these statements are true. Such approaches are brainwashing. And, as a society, we seemed to have fallen for these very dangerous ideas.

We’ve been duped. And, we’re bending over asking for more.


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