by Kevin Ritter
Clash Daily Guest Contributor
An article about the implementation of the new Common Core State Standards appeared recently in my local paper. In the article, our town’s Superintendant of Schools, an unabashed proponent of Common Core, gave an example of the sort of change students and parents can expect as a result of this innovation. For that example he used the Periodic Table. He said, while in the past there may have been more emphasis on memorizing the entire table and the numbers related to each element, the newer standards might focus more on making sure students can “access, read and use the information on it.”
While it is not surprising, it is still disheartening to hear a school administrator make the case against factual knowledge. Regretfully, today this view represents the orthodoxy in American education. It is rooted in an anti-intellectual bias that suggests because knowledge is changing so quickly in our modern society, and because technology literally puts answers at our fingertips, there is no longer any reason to learn facts so long as we can access them.
This mistaken thinking reveals a misunderstanding or ignorance of how students, and all of us for that matter, learn. Because the mastering of certain subject matter (i.e. facts) is a prerequisite for the acquisition of all future knowledge, we risk limiting students’ potential if we tell them that “accessing, reading, and using” information is enough. They must actually acquire it, learn it, and make it their own if they hope to handle more difficult concepts in the future.