Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The next battle in the academic left's War on Knowledge: Social studies standards

Another tentacle has reportedly grown on the Common Core monster that promises to suck even more knowledge out of the minds of your children.

We go now to Frederick M. Hess at the Enterprise Institute for an update:
Yesterday, on Constitution Day, a coalition of social studies organizations issued their “College, Career and Civic Life (C3) Framework for State Social Studies Standards.” One of the partner organizations was the Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools co-chaired by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and former Congressman Lee Hamilton. Now, the exercise had more than a little irony, given that the organizations went out of their way to ensure that these “social studies standards” make no mention of the U.S. Constitution—or other historical events, dates, or persons. 
Susan Griffin, executive director of the National Council of Social Studies (NCSS), explained, “Many state standards in social studies are overwhelmed with lists of dates, places and names to memorize – information students quickly forget.” Instead, she said, the new framework would help states establish “fewer, higher, and clearer standards for instruction in civics, economics, geography, and history,” the standards emphasize “critical thinking, collaboration, and inquiry.” Without delving into what students should actually know, the new C3 framework, explains an accompanying fact sheet, “Intentionally envisions social studies instruction as an inquiry arc of interlocking and mutually reinforcing elements that speak to the intersection of ideas and learners.” 
... 
Frederick? Frederick? Are you still there? Well, we've lost Frederick. But you can get the rest of his report on the new social studies standards here.

I have said before that the people who talk the most about "critical thinking skills" are the least able to explain exactly what they are. But we may now have a breakthrough.

What the permissivist educational establishment appears to mean by "critical thinking skills" is the process of eliminating content knowledge from the minds of children. So when you hear them using contentless expressions such as "critical thinking, collaboration, and inquiry," pack up the minivan and flee to the hills before your children's minds are turned into mush by the Common Core monster.

23 comments:

Rob Mattheu said...

It's certainly understandable why the right might fear more critical thinkers in the world.

Anonymous said...

Critical thought is a process of evaluation of specific CONTENT, Rob. Unless your goal is to brain wash or propagandize, content matters. Any avoidance on specific content is naive at best and dishonest and perhaps evil at worst.

Martin Cothran said...

Rob,

Maybe you could explain to us what "critical thinking" means and how it can be done without anything to critically think about.

Rob said...

Critical thinking, in part, would be analyzing information for proper context, expertise, and bias among other things.

As someone lucky enough to go through an excellent gifted and talented program at an excellent set of public schools, I can tell you that my education was much more than memorizing a series of dates, It involved research, study, writing, analysis, and many other skills that were built at an early age.

As a critical thinker, I look at your article with several things in mind.

1) I know you're a person who produces home school materials for Christians. I know from my reading that Christian homeschoolers often have a worldview that rejects certain scientific principals and has views on history, government, and civics that differ from consensus view. I also know that you have something to sell, so creating a USP for your stuff is beneficial to you.

2) You present an analysis of a document by a secondary source from a neoconservative "think tank". Neither you nor he provide a link to the full document. This is usually a clear indication that someone doesn't want to make it easy to review the document themselves.

Patches said...

ok. no data...no critical thinking...not data...nothing to compare or contrast. ? ya think?

Rob said...

3) I went to the actual statement: http://www.ccss.org/Resources/Documents/conf2013/C3%20Vision%20Statement.pdf

Reading the full 8 pages, it is clear that the desire is not to ignore content, but to present content in a much fuller context and with much more thought behind it than simple rote memorization of dates, facts, and figures.

One has to wonder why both you and Hess are worried about learning being content free and yet you refuse to link to the content you're disturbed about. The critical thinker realizes there's a motivation behind this misrepresentation. A child trained to review materials like this in such a manner can make much more educated decisions on their validity than someone who decides to trust you or Frederick Hess to do their heavy lifting for them.

Martin Cothran said...

Rob,

So you're idea of critical thinking application would be always accepting the majority opinions ("...that differ from the consensus view ...") and questioning people's motives ("...you have something to sell ...")?

And did I mention stereotyping? Can I go ahead and make some generalizations about publicly schooled kids and apply them to you?

Rob said...

Martin,
Feel free to generalize about me, Martin. But you can ask me specific questions and I'll answer them if you'd like. And I won't talk in riddles like you seem to enjoy doing.

My thought is that if you're arguing against a consensus expert opinion, you better a) show you understand the expert opinion and b) demostrate compelling evidence against it.

Rob said...

I notice you didn't bother to dispute or explain why you didn't link to or provide analysis of the entire paper mentioned in your blog post.

Martin Cothran said...

Rob,

Reading the full 8 pages, it is clear that the desire is not to ignore content ...

Can you tell me any particular content it says it will expect children to know? In fact, what would you say (applying your critical thinking skills here) it indicates about whether it will expect students to know anything content knowledge in particular?

Martin Cothran said...

Rob,

Neither you nor he provide a link to the full document.

There's this thing called "Google" out there. It's very useful. Even NGSS advocates can operate it.

Rob said...

Martin,
There is indeed a thing callee Google, and it is indeed so easy that even the far right anti-education wing can use it. But be honest. Did YOU read it? Because I don't think you did, nor do you understand it's purpose, since you don't seem to grasp what a "vision statement" is. Odd that a "senior policy analyst" would have such a difficult time with simple concepts. Or seeking out material to read.

I'll also note hyperlinks and copy and paste are easy. In my experience, not using them means you are either lazy or intellectually dishonest, in my experience.

That's my last comment on here for awhile. Just note that there are louder and more intelligent voices than the Family Foundation of Kentucky out there, and we'll always prevail over the forces that aim to keep Kentucky in the dark.

Soap said...

Rob, disregarding that you are ignoring the set of rules required to post, as a former agnostic turned faithful myself, your assumption that all Christians do not believe in evolution is false. Evolution does not negate the existence of a creator. Additionally, it is still called the "theory" of evolution. If you're referring to Darwinian Evolution, it is not proven by the scientific method, it is not observable and no species has changed its kind. Adapted yes, changed species, no.

Further, atheists believe in magic, that the universe just "poofed" or "evolved" from nothing, without intelligent forethought, into a complex intricate world. Humans cannot even make a blade of grass from nothing. Christians believe in a higher intelligence that created it all.

I'm still waiting for a convertible BMW to evolve in my driveway w/ my name on the title.

Singring said...

'Additionally, it is still called the "theory" of evolution. If you're referring to Darwinian Evolution, it is not proven by the scientific method, it is not observable and no species has changed its kind. Adapted yes, changed species, no.'

A perfect example of what we're dealing with here in terms of education and why there's a desperate need to strengthen science education everywhere, especially in places like Kentucky.

Are you going to at least have the integrity to join us in setting Soap right on these points, Martin? Or are you going to fall back on the 'I have no opinion at all' soundbyte.



Singring said...

@ Soap:

'I'm still waiting for a convertible BMW to evolve in my driveway w/ my name on the title.'

Soap, could you please explain to me how a convertible BMW is related to evolutionary theory and why you would expect a BMW to 'evolve' in your driveway based on that theory?

'Further, atheists believe in magic, that the universe just "poofed" or "evolved" from nothing'

Accepting your gross misrepresentation of the origin of the universe for a moment: Theists believe the universe 'poofed' into existence from nothing as well. They just think that God 'poofed' it from nothing. Where's the difference?

'Additionally, it is still called the "theory" of evolution.'

Do you know what a 'theory' is in science? Have you heard of the 'theory' of gravitation, for example? Do you not accpet gravitation because it is 'just a theory'?

'If you're referring to Darwinian Evolution, it is not proven by the scientific method,...'

The scientific method cannot 'prove' and does not 'prove' anything. 'Proofs' are for mathematicians.

'...it is not observable and no species has changed its kind.'

Could you please define for me what you mean by 'species' and 'kind', Soap?



Martin Cothran said...

Singring,

Setting other people right always takes second priority after setting you right, and that sometimes seems like a full time job!

The only thing I would say in this instance is that the whole "theory" argument is merely a matter of semantics.

The problem is that the word is equivocal. I think a better term for how evolution operates within the scientific community (and I'm pulling from Kuhn here) is "paradigm."

Neo-Darwinianism is the current paradigm in the sciences. That doesn't mean it's an accurate portrayal of development, but it is the general intellectual framework within which all the evidence fits (and into which anamolies are forced).

I suspect that it will someday be swept away by another paradigm or itself evolve into another scientific species (like all scientific paradigms eventually do), but that is only speculation.

Singring said...

'The only thing I would say in this instance...'

Really?! That's the only thing you would say to Soap?

So, your only response to someone who claims evolution is 'only a theory', that it has ,not [been] proven by the scientific method', who says it is 'not observable', that 'no species has changed its kind' and that evolution predicts that BMW's 'evolve' in driveways is to say that the 'theory' issue is only one of semantics? All that other stuff...is OK? Or you just ignore it? Or you have no opinion on it whatsoever?

That's all you can come up with? And then you rake your hair in frustration when scientists don't take you seriously? When they just roll their eyes when you start telling them what they should be teaching in science class, especially on the topic of evolution?

I think it's time you put 2 and 2 together.

Martin Cothran said...

Singring,

If you're done raking your hair in frustration, I'll repeat something that I keep repeating on this blog over and over again: I am not a scientist and so I am hesitant to make assertions in an area in which I have no expertise.

I characterized evolution as a "paradigm" in science, which is actually a stronger term than even the scientist's characterization of the word "theory." I would have thought you would be thankful.

But I make that statement because it is in the realm of the philosophy (and sociology) of science.

You want me to make statements that involve technical aspects of science which I guess you want me to just take on the basis of authority, which you scientific materialists are always warning against.

I would no more make definitive statements on those issue than you should make philosophical assertions.

I mean, after all, we've seen what happens when you do.

Singring said...

' I am not a scientist and so I am hesitant to make assertions in an area in which I have no expertise.'

And yet you're perfectly comfortable telling scientists how they should be teaching science and what science they should be teaching and have no qualms whatsoever about glowingly linking to and endorsing posts from climate science deniers.

Maybe this makes sense to people like Soap, but I'm afraid it doesn't make sense to me.

Martin Cothran said...

Singring,

You're merely proving my point. You can't seem to tell the difference between a scientific and a philosophical question--because the distinction between disciplines is a philosophical question and you have a hard time negotiating those.

Questions concerning the ends and aims of science are not scientific questions. And if you think they are, maybe you could tell us what scientific procedure is involved in answering such questions.

Tell us how the question "What should science teach?" can be answered in the laboratory. Do you boil it over a low flame and see what color it turns?

Singring said...

'You can't seem to tell the difference between a scientific and a philosophical question--because the distinction between disciplines is a philosophical question and you have a hard time negotiating those.'

I think the one who has trouble negotiating things is you, Martin.

The distinction between disciplines may well be a philosophical question (a discussion for another time), but how did we suddenly get there from the question of what should and shouldn't be taught within the discipline of science? Did I miss something or are we off on one of your merry topic-hopping adventures again?

Let's remind ourselves: You are not merely arguing that we shouldn't be teaching phys ed in science class.

No - you are trying to tell the scientists who wrote the science standards not only how to teach within their discipline (facts over concepts), but also what to teach in their discipline (not so much of that horrible evolution that you have no actual opinion on whatsoever, maybe a little more of that lovely ID?...not so much of that horrible climate change, more about amphibians and mammals...)

Or are you now stepping away from those bold statements that just a few days ago you were so proud of to have plastered all over the local media?

'Questions concerning the ends and aims of science are not scientific questions.'

What does that have to do with the science standards and the present debate? Deciding what science to teach in schools has less to do with discussing or debating the ends and aims of science and more to do with teaching students about what - to the best of our current knowledge - science has shown to be true about the world and how scientific methodology and reasoning works.

The former might be a topic that fits in philosophy class, as you rightly point out yourself (making your confusion in this matter all the more puzzling), the latter is what science is all about.

It may come as a shock to you, but philosophers who sit about in their offices, read and write lofty books, think really, really hard about things and maybe debate once in a while are probably not as well situated as actual career scientists and researchers when it comes to figuring out what science is cutting-edge, what science is necessary for a well-rounded and career-building education and what science is necessary for embarking into science academia.

How do we decide what facts and concepts to teach in science? Well, fasten your seat belts, because this is going to be a shocker - we decide based on the scientific evidence available!

'And if you think they are, maybe you could tell us what scientific procedure is involved in answering such questions.'

The procedure of empirical observation of the natural world and the testing of hypotheses against the evidence so gathered.

'Tell us how the question "What should science teach?" can be answered in the laboratory.'

Easy:

According to your criteria, it would be perfectly fine to teach that water freezes at 100 degrees celsius at 1 atm pressure, that the sun orbits the earth and that camels walked off an ark after a global flood some 4,000 years ago.

After all, how would philosophy tell us that any of those facts or concepts is wrong? How would philosophy inform how and what science we are supposed to teach in each of these cases?

Luckily, all of these hypotheses can and have been tested extensively in a literal laboratory or in the field 'laboratory'.

So scientists are very confident and clear in what we should be teaching in each of these cases.

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