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Common Core’s Little Green Soldiers

Posted By Mary Grabar On March 4, 2014 @ 12:46 am In Daily Mailer,FrontPage | 27 Comments

Remember the children singing praise songs to Obama back in 2008?  Remember young teenage boys marching in formation and shouting out thanks to Obama for their promising futures?

The appointment of Arne Duncan as Secretary of Education initially was seen as a savvy bipartisan move.  But under his watch the Department of Education has become a propaganda arm used to influence the next generation to accept the idea of catastrophic man-made climate change as per the UN, the Environmental Protection Agency, and such groups as the National Wildlife Federation.

In a multi-pronged approach, the Department is teaming up with various non-profit and government organizations and curriculum companies to promote “fun” contests and activities for students, while promoting the next phase of Common Core “State Standards”—in science.

For example, the Department’s latest Green Strides newsletter (February 28) announced three contests for K-12 students who display their agreement with the government’s position on climate change.

In that newsletter, the Department of Education announced that another federal agency, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and its National Environmental Education Foundation, have “launched an exciting video challenge for middle school students called Climate Change in Focus.”  In this contest, middle school students are asked to make a video that “expresses why they care about climate change and what they are doing to reduce emissions or to prepare for its impacts.”  To win loyalty to the EPA, it is announced that winning videos will be highlighted on the EPA website.  The effort sounds like the kids’ cereal box promotions of yore: the top three entries will receive “cool prizes like a solar charging backpack,” winning class projects will receive special recognition for their school, and the first 100 entrants will receive a year’s subscription to National Geographic Kids Magazine.

Another contest, National Wildlife Federation’s Young Reporters for the Environment, invites students “between the ages of 13-21 to report on an environmental issue in their community in an article, photo or photo essay, or short video.”  Entries should “reflect firsthand investigation of topics related to the environment and sustainability in the students’ own communities, draw connections between local and global perspectives, and propose solutions.”

Students are also encouraged to make nominations for “Champions of the Earth,” a “UN-sponsored award for environment, Green Economy, and sustainability.”  Among the 2013 laureates are Martha Isabel Ruiz Corzo, who orchestrated a public-private biosphere reserve status for a region in Mexico, and Brian McLendon, of Google Earth.

Students already get exposed to climate change and sustainability in textbooks which are bought with taxpayer funds, as well as in videos and online materials produced by taxpayer-supported Public Broadcasting.  Many students, of course, have had to sit through Al Gore’s documentary, An Inconvenient Truth.

Quite obviously, a middle school student does not have the necessary scientific knowledge to make videos about climate change—a particularly challenging scientific problem.

The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)—the next phase of Common Core—will make the situation worse, however.  Students will be even less capable of distinguishing science from propaganda.  These standards, like those for math and English Language Arts, were produced by Achieve, a nonprofit education group started by corporate leaders and some governors.

As in the standards for English Language Arts and math, the NGSS are intended to be transformative, or as Appendix A states, “to reflect a new vision for American science education.”  They call for new “performance expectations” that “focus on understanding and applications as opposed to memorization of facts devoid of context.”

It is precisely such short shrift to knowledge (dismissively referred to as “memorization”) to which science professors Lawrence S. Lerner and Paul Gross object.  The standards bypass essential math skills in favor of “process,” they asserted last fall at the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation blog.

Common Core standards, in all disciplines, are written with a lot of fluff to conceal their emptiness.

Lerner and Gross discovered “inconsistency between strong NGSS (and Appendix C) assertions and what was actually found by the mathematicians, among others, of our reviewing group.”

(The Common Core math standards themselves have garnered much criticism among teachers, parents, and students; focusing so much on “process,” they make simple problems bizarrely confusing, as a collection of examples illustrates.)

Lerner and Gross condemn the “Slighting of mathematics,” which does “increasing mischief as grade level rises, especially in the physical sciences.”  Physics is “effectively absent” at the high school level.

“Several devout declarations” appear, however, the authors sardonically point out, as they note this one from Appendix C:

In particular, the best science education seems to be one based on integrating rigorous content with the practices that scientists and engineers routinely use in their work—including application of mathematics.

Lerner and Gross attack the “practices” strategy, as an extension of the “inquiry learning” of the early 1990s, which had “no notable effect on the (mediocre) performance of American students in national and international science assessments.”

With some sarcasm, they write, “It is charming to say ‘. . . students learn science effectively when they actively engage in the practices of science.’”  However,

Students will not learn best if they practice science exactly as do real scientists.  A firm conclusion in cognitive science contradicts that claim.  Beginners don’t and can’t ‘practice’ as do experts.  The practices of experts exploit prior experience and extensive build-up in long-term memory of scaffolding: facts, procedures, technical know-how, solutions to standard problems in the field, vocabularies—of knowledge in short.

Not only do the Next Generation Science Standards shirk the necessary foundations in math and science knowledge, but they explicitly call for including ideological lessons, such as “Human impacts on Earth systems.”  For grades K-2, students are to understand, “Things people do can affect the environment but they can make choices to reduce their impact.” In grades 3 through 5, students will learn “Societal activities have had major effects on the land, ocean, atmosphere, and even outer space.  Societal activities can also help protect Earth’s resources and environments.”  This is from part ESS3.C of the NGSS standards.

“Human impacts on Earth systems” are huge topics, when approached legitimately.  They present quandaries to scientists at the top levels.  Yet NGSS imposes them on kindergartners.  The objective, of course, is not teaching legitimate science, but indoctrination.

Amazingly, ten states have already voluntarily adopted the Standards.

Such efforts, coordinated by the Department of Education, threaten the future of science itself.

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