Spread Calm, Not Panic

The opposition to the Common Core thrives on fear, panic, and paranoia, and it’s difficult not to respond with the same. (And, you’ve got to admit, some of the things you discover by playing the Common Core Crazy Game are pretty scary. Has anybody tried Pol Pot yet?)

Sometimes I want to go all Buddhist Thunderbolt Deity on the liars and hucksters trolling the states right now (note the label describing the thunderbolt as “symbolizing the power of wisdom to penetrate ignorance and defeat evil”).

But I am heartened by the chorus of sane voices in the last week. First, there was the opinion piece by Bill Keller in the New York times last week. Then  another piece in the Times by Charles Blow.

There is a strong position statement from the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, supporting the standards while making the excellent point that their success will depend on professional development, adequate state funding, and sensible testing policies. (When critics make sarcastic reference to the standards being some kind of cure-all, I want to say “Well, duh, no.”)

Finally, over at Sybilla Beckman’s excellent Mathematics Teaching Community she has posted her open letter to the Georgia School Board. Her points ring out like the tolls of a great bell calling us to calm and collected action:

  • The CCSS-M are the strongest K–12 mathematics standards that I know of.

  • The CCSS-M were developed very carefully with repeated cycles of feedback.

  • Serious professions deserve standards that are developed nationally.

  • The presidents of all  the major national mathematical societies have expressed “strong support” for CCSS-M.

  •  Having standards does not imply losing autonomy or creativity.

  • The CCSS-M need time and support to implement.


As they say in Georgia, ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for y’all.

About Bill McCallum

I was born in Australia and came to the United States to pursue a Ph. D. in mathematics at Harvard University, met my wife, and never went back. I am a professor at the University of Arizona, working in number theory and mathematics education.

One thought on “Spread Calm, Not Panic

  1. I live in a community with a vibrant local weekly newspaper. During the summer, there was an anti-Common Core letter to the editor, full of errors and not a little paranoia. So I submitted a “Community Forum” op-ed piece, which got printed a few weeks ago. As a result, I got an email from a school board member in a neighboring town, who asked for more information. I also heard from people who sent it to friends and relatives. It’s not available on the paper’s website, but if you’re considering a similar small-scale local response and would like to see mine, feel free to contact me.

    Also, there may be people on the fence who would be interested to know that the Military Child Education Coalition supports the CCSS, and has even prepared a pamphlet, available here: http://www.militarychild.org/k-12-core-curriculum-standards

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