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Obama's assault on academics

| Sunday, Jan. 27, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

America's downfall doesn't begin with the “low-information voter.” It starts with the no-knowledge student.

For decades, collectivist agitators in our schools have chipped away at academic excellence in the name of fairness, diversity and social justice. “Progressive” reformers denounced Western civilization requirements, the Founding Fathers and great books as racist. They replaced time-tested rote techniques and standard algorithms with fuzzy math, inventive spelling and multicultural claptrap.

Under President Obama, these top-down mal-formers are now presiding over a radical makeover of your children's school curriculum. It's being done in the name of federal “Common Core” standards that do anything but raise achievement standards.

Common Core was enabled by Obama's federal stimulus law and his Department of Education's “Race to the Top” gimmickry. The administration bribed cash-starved states into adopting instructional standards as a condition of winning billions of dollars in grants.

In practice, Common Core's dubious college- and career-ready standards undermine local control, usurp state autonomy over curricular materials and foist untested, mediocre and incoherent pedagogical theories on America's schoolchildren.

There's no better illustration of Common Core's duplicitous talk of higher standards than to start with its math “reforms.” While Common Core promoters assert their standards are “internationally benchmarked,” independent members of the expert panel in charge of validating the standards refute the claim.

Panel member Sandra Stotsky of the University of Arkansas reported, “No material was ever provided to the Validation Committee or to the public on the specific college readiness expectations of other leading nations in mathematics” or other subjects.

In fact, Stanford University professor R. James Milgram, the only mathematician on the validation panel, concluded that the Common Core math scheme would place American students two years behind their peers in other high-achieving countries. In protest, Milgram refused to sign off on the standards. He's not alone.

Professor Jonathan Goodman of New York University found that the Common Core math standards imposed “significantly lower expectations with respect to algebra and geometry than the published standards of other countries.”

I cannot sum up the stakes any more clearly than Ze'ev Wurman, a prominent software architect, electrical engineer and longtime math advisory expert in California and Washington, D.C., in his critique of this mess: “I believe the Common Core marks the cessation of educational standards improvement in the United States. No state has any reason left to aspire for first-rate standards, as all states will be judged by the same mediocre national benchmark enforced by the federal government.”

This is all in keeping with my own experience as a parent of elementary- and middle-school-age kids who were exposed to “Everyday Math” nonsense. This and other fads abandon “drill and kill” memorization techniques for fuzzy “critical thinking” methods that put the cart of “why” in front of the horse of “how.”

Common Core is rotten to the core. The corruption of math education is just the beginning.

Michelle Malkin is the author of “Culture of Corruption: Obama and his Team of Tax Cheats, Crooks and Cronies” (Regnery 2009).

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