The End of History Part II By Lynne Cheney

 

Dear Friends,

A very important and timely article written by Lynne Cheney, wife of Vice President Dick Cheney.  She has loved history for as long as she can remember, and has spent much of her professional life writing and speaking about the importance of knowing history and teaching it well. As chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities from 1986 to 1993, she wrote and spoke about the importance of teaching children about the leaders, events, and ideas that have shaped our world, and she worked to provide opportunities for educators to gain the in-depth knowledge that lies behind outstanding teaching. Cheney has worked to bring tales of the American past to a wide audience, writing articles about history for numerous publications on topics ranging from women’s suffrage in the West to the way Americans celebrated the country’s centennial. She has also turned her attention to children and their families, writing six bestselling history books for them, including “We the People: The Story of Our Constitution” (Simon & Schuster, 2008). Her most recent book — an in-depth biography of James Madison, titled James Madison: A Life Reconsidered” (Viking, 2014) — is a New

York Times bestseller.

 

The End of History, Part II

The new Advanced Placement U.S. history exam focuses on oppression, group identity and Reagan the warmonger.

reagan

President Reagan speaking in West Berlin near the Brandenburg Gate, June 12, 1987. Photo:

If you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!

—President Ronald Reagan, speech at the Brandenburg Gate, Berlin, 1987

President Reagan’s challenge to Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev remains one of the most dramatic calls for freedom in our time. Thus I was heartened to find a passage from Reagan’s speech on the sample of the new Advanced Placement U.S. history exam that students will take for the first time in May. It seemed for a moment that students would be encouraged to learn about positive aspects of our past rather than be directed to focus on the negative, as happens all too often.

But when I looked closer to see the purpose for which the quotation was used, I found that it is held up as an example of “increased assertiveness and bellicosity” on the part of the U.S. in the 1980s. That’s the answer to a multiple-choice question about what Reagan’s speech reflects.

No notice is taken of the connection the president made between freedom and human flourishing, no attention to the fact that within 2½ years of the speech, people were chipping off pieces of the Berlin Wall as souvenirs. Instead of acknowledging important ideas and historical context, test makers have reduced President Reagan’s most eloquent moment to warmongering.

The AP U.S. history exam matters. Half a million of the nation’s best and brightest high-school students will take it this year, hoping to use it to earn college credit and to polish their applications to competitive colleges. To score well on the exam, students have to learn what the College Board, a private organization that creates the exam, wants them to know.

No one worried much about the College Board having this de facto power over curriculum until that organization released a detailed framework—for courses beginning last year—on which the Advanced Placement tests on U.S. history will be based from 2015 onward. When educators, academics and other concerned citizens realized how many notable figures were missing and how negative was the view of American history presented, they spoke out forcefully. The response of the College Board was to release the sample exam that features Ronald Reagan as a warmonger.

 

It doesn’t stop there. On the multiple-choice part of the sample exam, there are 18 sections, and eight of them take up the oppression of women, blacks and immigrants. Knowing about the experiences of these groups is important—but truth requires that accomplishment be recognized as well as oppression, and the exam doesn’t have questions on subjects such as the transforming leadership of Martin Luther King Jr.

The framework requires that all questions take up sweeping issues, such as “group identity,” which leaves little place for transcendent individuals. Men and women who were once studied as inspirational figures have become examples of trends, and usually not uplifting ones. The immigrant story that the exam tells is of oppressed people escaping to America only to find more oppression. That many came seeking the Promised Land—and found it here—is no longer part of the narrative.

Critics have noted that Benjamin Franklin is absent from the new AP U.S. history framework, and perhaps in response, the College Board put a quotation from Franklin atop the sample exam. Yet not one of the questions that were asked about the quotation has to do with Franklin. They are about George Whitefield, an evangelist whom Franklin described in the quote. This odd deflection makes sense in the new test, considering that Franklin was a self-made man, whose rise from rags to riches would have been possible only in America—an example of the exceptionalism that doesn’t fit the worldview that pervades the AP framework and sample exam.

Evangelist Whitefield, an Irishman who preached in the colonies, was a key figure in the Great Awakening, an evangelical revival that began in the 1730s. Here, however, he is held up as an example of “trans-Atlantic exchanges,” which seems completely out of left field until one realizes that the underlying notion is that we need to stop thinking nationally and think globally. Our history is simply part of a larger story.

Aside from a section about mobilizing women to serve in the workforce, the sample exam has nothing to say about World War II, the conflict in which the U.S. liberated millions of people and ended one of the most evil regimes in the history of the world. The heroic acts of the men who landed on Omaha Beach and lifted the flag on Iwo Jima are ignored. The wartime experiences that the new framework prefers are those raising “questions about American values,” such as “the internment of Japanese Americans, challenges to civil liberties, debates over race and segregation, and the decision to drop the atomic bomb.”

 

Why would the College Board respond to criticism by putting out a sample exam that proves the critics’ point? Perhaps it is a case of those on the left being so confirmed in their biases that they no longer notice them. Or maybe the College Board doesn’t care what others think.

Some states are trying to get its attention. The Texas State Board of Education, noting that the AP U.S. history framework is incompatible with that state’s standards, has formally requested that the College Board do a rewrite. The Georgia Senate has passed a resolution to encourage competition for the College Board’s AP program. If anything brings a change, it is likely to be such pressure from the states, which provide the College Board with substantial revenue.

Some 20 years ago, as chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, I made a grant to a group to create voluntary standards for U.S. history. When the project was finished, I had standards on my hands that were overwhelmingly negative about the American story, so biased that I felt obliged to condemn them in an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal called “The End of History.”

I learned an important lesson, one worth repeating today. The curriculum shouldn’t be farmed out, not to the federal government and not to private groups. It should stay in the hands of the people who are constitutionally responsible for it: the citizens of each state.

Lynne Cheney

Respectfully,

Tincy Miller

SBOE, District 12

Tincymiller35@gmail.com

www.tincymiller.com

 

Girls May Be the Ones To Suffer Most Under Common Core Math

 

Dear Friends,

A very important and informative article written by Anne Marie Banfield, a wife and mother of three children.  She is an advocate for academic excellence in education and volunteers her time as the Education Liaison for Cornerstone Action.

 

2.17.14 – New Hampshire Nashua

 

“Girls May Be the Ones To Suffer Most Under Common Core Math”

By Anne Marie Banfield

 

 http://patch.com/new-hampshire/nashua/girls-may-be-the-ones-to-suffer-most-under-common-core-math#.VQWw0Q4wzgg.twitter

 I remember when I was in 7th grade thinking math was so easy.  Understanding math is the key to learning math.  It’s also the key to getting  more students interested in careers involving mathematics.

This is why, years ago, I began researching education.  I particularly focused on math education.  I knew that if we took a math concept and made it easy to understand, we would unlock the door for many children to move through school with success and a real opportunity to go on to any career where math is a primary component.

We all hear about STEM career fields and that the future jobs involve knowing mathematics.  (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math)  However we have a nation of children and young adults who’ve grown up without the foundation in mathematics that would have allowed them to explore these careers.

As a researcher and one who has actually tutored students in mathematics, one thing is very clear to me, we are engaging in a process that not only confuses children but is also destroying any potential careers involving mathematics.
Where does this come from and what is killing opportunities that should be open to all children?  The biggest reason is “reform math”.  

Reform math or fuzzy math has been around for decades.  I remember when my oldest son was entering kindergarten over 15 years ago and looking at some of the textbooks that were being used in public schools.  I knew at that time, I had to avoid that disaster. 

I opted for a parochial school for many reasons, but one of them was because they were using a traditional textbook that focused on basic math.  There were no fads like: inquiry math, teachers as facilitators instead of instructors, multiple algorithms, strategies or vocabulary that was different.  It was just basic math.  

I didn’t have to do any work with my kids because the teacher taught the subject and it was easy to understand.  My kids were on their way to getting the much needed foundation I knew they needed in order to be successful in Algebra I and beyond.

I managed to connect with parents and experts across the country that were seeing something very different in their public school classrooms.  They were dealing with fuzzy math.

The effect of Fuzzy math on their children was heart wrenching to watch.   I’d hear the desperate cries by mothers who didn’t understand 3rd grade math.  I’d hear how their children were frustrated and angry because they couldn’t figure out the numerous ways to solve a long division problem.


Yes, there are now 
multiple ways to work a long division problem in fuzzy math.

What happens when you teach a child multiple strategies?  You create confusion and the inability to master one way, the most efficient and logical way.

What parents didn’t know was, the traditional long division algorithm is something a child must learn in order to do Polynomial long division when they get to Algebra.  I’m sorry to report that in some of the fuzzy math programs, the

traditional long division algorithm wasn’t even taught.


Is it any wonder our kids cannot do high school level math and beyond when we’ve subjected them to fuzzy math programs that never prepared them for anything beyond elementary school?

 

Wealthy families know how to handle this situation; they hire tutors.  Tutoring services in my own town of Bedford reported that they never had to offer their services until the district switched over to Everyday Math.    Everyday Math is a fuzzy math program found in many public schools throughout the United States.  It’s also one of the leading contributors to math illiteracy too.  I guess on the bright side, it has been profitable for tutoring companies.

So what happens to the children who come from homes where this is not an option, maybe due to lack of money or neglect?  If they are lucky, the school will catch them in a safety net called Title 1. 
Yes, we have schools contributing to math illiteracy by using fuzzy math programs then taking tax dollars to tutor the students they are failing.  It doesn’t make much sense, does it? 

This is something to keep in mind when schools ask for additional funding.  Maybe they should reconsider the curriculum selection so parents do not have to pay for outside tutoring and taxpayers do not have to pay for additional Title 1 teachers.  It kind of makes logical sense.

As a mother, a researcher and one who has tutored children in math, the biggest thing that bothers me is how this is impacting girls.  Not to say that our boys are not important, but what is this doing to the girls, and are we denying them an opportunity to the STEM careers by continuing down this to math illiteracy?

I’ve been researching this issue for years but it all came to a head recently when I read a few articles and posts on social media that summed it all up.   The first one was titled, “ Common Core Is Making Me Stupider”.   

In the example you can see the math problem given to a 3rd grade girl.  She is asked to round numbers in a way that her mother with a Bachelor’s degree and her father with a Master’s degree have trouble with.

This is not an uncommon story.  These problems have been around prior to Common Core and it shows that with Common Core, nothing is getting better.

What made this worse was 
when I saw this post by a mother who photographed her young daughter in tears as she tries to work on her Common Core Math homeworkYou can see in this photo the love of learning math begins the slow

death many math tutors have seen before.

 
As a young girl, I didn’t experience this kind of frustration but instead had good teachers
that taught me math the traditional way.  I wasn’t expected to learn several ways to add, subtract, multiply and divide.  I wasn’t expected to “discover” math through a “facilitator”.  Math was taught to me in a logical way and it was NOT “developmentally inappropriate”.  This is a term being used by child psychologists and teachers when describing Common Core Math.  They understand the problem with expecting young children to think abstractly when their brains do not work that way.

What we are seeing coming from the new Common Core aligned math textbooks do not fix these problems but seem to only add to these problems.  I wish those who insist on asking kids to struggle and discover math would realize that this kind of approach has serious consequences.  As I look to new ideas to promote STEM education, I wonder if those people have any idea where the real problems lie.  

 There is a focus on getting girls to take up an interest in the STEM fields.  Sounds wonderful but if you do not teach them basic math and you will leave them in tears and kill their love of learning the subject.  

Girls and boys who feel confident in math are a teacher’s greatest accomplishment.  When a tutor sees the confidence come back in the face of a girl who thinks she’s stupid because she can’t “inquire” her way through fuzzy math, there is a reward hard to describe.   

The focus on improving the quality of math has to come from advocates who recognize that confusing students doesn’t help them as a child and will never help them as an adult.  Those who are focusing on STEM Ed need to focus on improving the quality of math education in the classroom FIRST.

If you give a child the knowledge the confidence will automatically follow.  When they have the knowledge and the confidence, only then can children honestly look beyond to a career in STEM.

It is important to realize that Common Core is not leading our daughters or sons in that direction, and without that extra help, will deny many of them a real opportunity in life.

The path we are on right now will only work for children whose parents can identify the problem and pay to correct it.  That is a recipe that will leave many other children behind.

Additional Sources: 

1)  Lowering the Bar: How Common Core Math Fails to Prepare Students for STEM 

2)  Joanne Yatvin: The Common Core Standards May Be Harmful to Children

3) The Problem With MAP Assessments and Consequences 

 

Respectfully,

 

Tincy Miller

Tincymiller35@gmail.com

www.tincymiller.com