Here’s Stanford University mathematician Keith Devlin (also known as “The Math Guy” on NPR’s Weekend Edition):
The fact is, any parent who opposes adoption of the CCSS [Common Core State Standard] is, in effect, saying, “I do not want my child prepared for life in the Twenty-First Century.” They really are. Not out of lack of concern for their children, to be sure. Quite the contrary. Rather, what leads them astray is that they are not truly aware of how the huge shifts that have taken place in society over the last thirty years have impacted educational needs.
It’s not just parents, according to Devlin, who examines the lack of alignment between current job skills and pre-Common Core school objectives. It’s also our elected leaders: “By and large, many politicians and bureaucrats are far less aware of rapidly changing workforce requirements than those in business, and politicians frequently pander to the often woefully uninformed beliefs of voters, who tend to resist change–especially change that will affect their children.”
How has the workforce changed over the last thirty years? In 1970 the top three job requirements for jobs in Fortune 500 companies were writing, computational skills, and reading skills. In 1999, the top three requirements were teamwork, problem-solving, and interpersonal skills. No overlap at all. The word’s changed. Time for public education to catch up with the world.
Devlin, by the way, borrows his chart on the evolution of necessary job skills from a paper by Linda Darling-Hammond which elucidates the importance of high-quality assessments linked to the Common Core State Standards. Diane Ravitch, vociferous cheerleader against the Common Core and aligned assessments, has called Darling-Hammond “the wisest and sanest voices in the nation on the subject of teacher quality, teaching quality and teacher evaluation.”
Devlin is too hard on parents. Most, if not all, I’d wager, are eager for up-to-date curricula and career/college readiness. But the current game of chicken between take-no-prisoners reform advocates and teacher union jingoism produces nothing but political and systemic paralysis. Devlin’s New Year’s resolution is for “the education system to catch up with the world outside the classroom.” Perhaps a necessary precursor is for us all to start talking about what our kids really need from schools in order to be prepared for life.