I’m back! The first draft of the book has been submitted, and I have a little respite before revisions are due. In the meantime, I would like to get back to my picking a fight with the anti-common core crowd.
We return to my rebuttal of Joy Pullman’s editorial Top Ten Things Parents Hate About the Common Core, an article that has been widely circulated in conservative circles. This is part two of my response. You can find Part 1 here. We left off at #3 of 10.
3. Obliterating Parents Rights
Here we have a classic case of anecdotal evidence and generalization. Pullman presents three situations in which parents faced resistance when criticizing the new standards and/or their implementation. The first example involves a disgruntled mother and an unspecified number of other disgruntled parents demanding that a school principal change from the old books. First of all, let’s understand that books are very expensive, especially math books (the ones the parents had problems with). Schools often only have the funds to purchase new books every few years. It is unreasonable to expect a principal (even of a private school) to simply be able to toss out brand new textbooks. The exasperated principal finally stated that her hands were tied because the new math would be on the new standardized assessments. We have already discussed the difficulties that have arisen in the development of the assessments as well as the fact that the standards themselves do not demand the exact methods we have seen cropping up. I will admit that I would have liked to hear a more rational argument from the principal, but I only have one line from that conversation.
Pullman then presents two videos of parents’ being forcibly removed from school board meetings. In the first, I will agree that the security officer was out of line. The other parents wanted to hear what the man had to say, and he was not disrupting the proceedings. However, in the second, the man removed spoke out of turn and continued to attack the board members despite their calm requests for him to be quiet. Yes, parents should have the ability to express their concerns, and honestly board members need to be better prepared for such questions. If we can’t give the standards a fair chance to improve the system, we’ll slide right back into mediocrity. If the people who are supposed to be enforcing the standards don’t fully understand it themselves, this whole initiative will never get off the ground.
4. Dirty Reading Assignments. Pullman mentions four books with sexually explicit content: The Bluest Eyes by Toni Morrison, Dreaming in Cuban by Cristina Garcia, Make Lemonade by Virginia Wolff, and Black Swan Green by David Mitchell. First of all, I can’t find the latter two on the suggested reading lists that I have found. Secondly, I’m going to take this moment to rant on the Puritanical prudishness of America.
If you don’t like self-indulgent, moderately explicit ranting, just skip the next paragraph.
Sex. Coitus. Copulation. Love making. Hanky panky. Fucking. It has become one of the most vulgar and unacceptable areas even to discuss in America. The “birds and the bees” discussion represents the most difficult part of parenting for many. Maybe I don’t understand it because I’m not a parent, but I have a strong feeling that if I talk to my kids about sex from the time they’re too young to have learned to be embarrassed about it, that talk won’t even need to happen because I have already taught my child to be responsible when it comes intimate encounters. Trying to shelter our children from it does not benefit them. Face it, kids are going to see what we don’t want them to see. It’s what kids do. It’s what we all did. Instead of having a mature discussion about sex, we let our kids find out about it through skillfully edited made-for-tv dramas and not-so-edited, often mysogynistic and objectifying pornography. And what is the result of parent paranoia about talking sex with their kids? Nothing good; that’s for sure. Teen pregnancy rates continue to be much higher in the U.S. than in Europe where people are much more open about sex. Time and time again abstinence programs are shown to be far less effective in preventing early/unwanted pregnancy and STD transmission than just about any other method of contraceptive/education/protection out there. What’s the solution? Stop being such prudes about the natural act of sex. It’s how we all got here, and it tends to be one of the most important parts of successful relationships.
I agree that young children have no business reading steamy erotica passages in class, but that is not what is going on here. The books that have been labelled “smut” by conservative opponents of the CCSS actually depict sex in an artful and thought-provoking manner. Yes, I do believe young adults should be thinking about sex (because they most certainly are already) and a healthy discussion of sex belongs in school. The books in question are on reading lists for 11th and 12th grade, a time by which nearly half of our children admit to having had sex (CDC). Sex is a major part of life (indeed it is the initiation of life), and our children shouldn’t have to wait for another failed and abusive relationship to start figuring out the cultural intricacies and emotional impacts surrounding the act. Keep the dirty reading list; it’s healthy.
I’ll be back tomorrow with rebuttals to points 5 and 6.
CDC. Youth risk behavior surveillance—United States, 2011. MMWR 2012;61(SS-4)