The Ugly Heart of the Common Core Monster
Jeb Bush is backing this crap now.
The Ugly Heart of the Common Core Monster
Today I was in a professional development session for my school district. Our school system has swallowed the Common Core curriculum whole. Why wouldn't they? The federal system has said that it is "voluntary", but "voluntary" means that the district gets cut off from major federal funding if it does not adopt the standards, so "voluntary" is subjective...Current federal law makes clear that the U.S. Department of Education may not be involved in setting specific content standards or determining the content of state assessments. Nevertheless, the selection criteria designed by the U.S. Department of Education for the Race to the Top Program provided that for a state to have any chance to compete for funding, it must commit to adopting a "common set of K-12 standards" matching the description of the Common Core....
...Here, I am going to provide you with a concrete example that shows the ugly heart of the Common Core. There is something deeply dark and offensive in this lesson created to support Common Core. It is a lesson designed to corrupt essential human decency.
The unit – sorry "module" – that I am using as an example is centered around To Kill a Mockingbird with the theme of "How individuals demonstrate individuality in the face of outside pressures." At the beginning of all of this, it looks good. I love the book; it is a great American classic and I have taught it many times. The module includes 30 days of lessons associated with the novel and multiple additional short reading assignments. However, as I looked this module over, I became more and more concerned. For me to break down the many problems with this module in detail would take quite a while, so I am going to show you an example of one lesson on one short reading assignment that left me speechless with horror.
This assignment in the module includes a short story by Guy de Maupassant, 19th century writer famous for The Necklace. Again, this seems rather innocent; this story is often included in high school texts, but not this particular story and, more importantly, not with this particular writing assignment.
The short story is The Mother of Monsters. A quick summary of the story is that a gentleman on vacation is introduced to the Mother of Monsters, a local oddity described as a "peasant" and the "Devil". Her story is that she finds herself pregnant while she is working as a simple serving girl. She binds her body with boards and cords to hide her growing belly. Her child is born horribly deformed. She takes care of the child, but resents it, until a sideshow man comes along and offers to buy the "thing" and to pay a yearly stipend for its use. Once she realizes how much money she can make, she repeats her pregnancy pattern by birthing monster after monster after monster of intentionally deformed children to sell to showmen. She lives a "bourgeois" life as a result (note the stab at the bourgeois here).
The narrator is reminded of this "Devil" when he later sees a popular "Parissiane" strolling on a beach followed by admirers. Her three children are also all deformed because she wants to maintain her trim figure throughout her pregnancies, so she keeps her corset tightly cinched. Peasant and lady; different, yet the same. Both the Mother of Monsters. Both display a level of selfish evil that most humans would revile.
Now as a high school story, this story may have a lot of meat to chew on for discussion…for maybe 11th or 12thgraders, but this is a story assigned to incoming 9th graders, students who are 13 or 14 years old. Students this age are not ready to handle the truly disturbing elements of a story which reveals some of the most perverse sides of human nature. That is bad enough; however, it gets worse. You may wonder what this story has to do with To Kill a Mockingbird and the theme of individuality. Here is the writing assignment associated with this story:
Write an essay that compares the cultural experience reflected in To Kill a Mockingbird and The Mother of Monsters and explain how this experience helped a character demonstrate individuality in the face of outside pressure.
Individuality! Outside Pressure! These women chose to deform their children for their own selfish gains or selfish vanity! The first pregnancy of the peasant woman we might forgive out of mercy, but the purposeful birthing of the rest of the 11 children that she intentionally deformed is unconscionable and unforgivable. The same holds with the Parisienne.
To judge these women as demonstrating their INDIVIDUALITY in the face of outside pressure is absurd and defies human decency. It is like insisting Jeffery Dahmer was expressing his individuality through cannibalistic murder. Additionally, it is not a major leap to conclude that if deforming your children in order to express your own individuality is acceptable, then killing your children to protect your individuality (or selfish inhumanity) is perfectly fine too. This is obviously a pro-abortion message. This story paired with this assignment is a repulsive perversion of the concept of "lesson"; it is a corruption of anything descent and good.
There is something deeply repulsive in this lesson, especially as it is aimed at students as young as 13. I have been told that I must teach this module. I can make some adjustments, but not too many. I am struggling to find a way to NOT perpetuate the ugliness found here. I am certainly NOT going to teach this story, though I may find myself in trouble with the system as a result. Some things are worth refusing to do even if there is a cost....
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