Part 6 in my Top 10 Trends of 2014 series

Last year, I opened my look at the trend I then called “standards” by looking at the number of edits to the Wikipedia entry for the Common Core State Standards. This is what I wrote:

The “edit history” and “talk” pages of Wikipedia entries can be pretty interesting, particularly when it comes to controversial topics. The entry for the “Common Core State Standards Initiative” is a great example of this. The Common Core isn’t new (the standards were released in 2010); nor is the entry (it was created in 2010 as well). But this year, there’s been a vast uptick in the number of changes to that entry, and discussion about its content and tone. 26 edits in 2010. 65 in 2011. 40 in 2012. 127 up through November of this year.

So far in 2014, there have been 382 edits.

In other words, attention to the Common Core continues to grow, as does the controversy surrounding it. That the Wikipedia “talk” page includes debate about whether or not the Common Core’s symbol is the hammer and sickle gives you some idea of the level of discourse we saw this year on this topic. And that’s not even the best example of how zany things got…

Arizona State Senator Al Melvin on the Common Core: “Some of the reading material is borderline pornographic,” he said during an education committee meeting. Even worse? The math portion substitutes letters for numbers." (Sorta like, um, algebra?)

CCSS in Popular Discourse

As the Common Core State Standards began to be rolled out last year, the process quickly became politicized. This year, the standards were featured not only in ongoing political fights but in pop culture as well.

In April, comedian Louis C.K. took to Twitter to complain about his daughters’ struggles with math homework: “My kids used to love math. Now it makes them cry. Thanks standardized testing and common core!” He then tweeted a series of photos from their homework asking, “Who is writing these? And why?” (Thankfully I storified these tweets as Louis C.K. has since deleted his Twitter account.) The tweets hit a nerve and were retweeted and favorited tens of thousands of times.

Newsweek’s Alexander Nazaryan was one of many who responded, “Sorry, Louis C.K., But You’re Wrong About Common Core”“: …”What’s dismaying about Louis C.K.’s anti-Common Core rant is that he is neither a shill for the unions nor a far-left conspiracy theorist who thinks that Education Secretary Arne Duncan (and perhaps the president himself!) is in the pocket of Pearson and the Princeton Review. He is, instead, a New York City public school parent who has the ears and eyeballs of millions across the nation, not to mention his 3 million Twitter followers."

Whether you agree with Nazaryan or not that Louis C.K. was “wrong” about the Common Core, he does get at precisely what made this criticism so powerful, I think. Louis C.K.’s comedic persona is that of a “regular guy.” As such, his observations were as a “regular parent” and they resonated with a lot of people. And his comments were, arguably, one of the most damaging blows that the Common Core received this year.

Read the rest of this 3000 word post here. Special thanks to Frank Noschese and Christopher Danielson for help with the math homework.

Audrey Watters


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