Trying to Separate Skills From Knowledge

I’m reading Joy Pullmann’s new book Education Invasion: How Common Core Fights Parents for Control of American Kids. I highly encourage you to pick up a copy. I interviewed Joy for Caffeinated Thoughts Radio this week (airs tomorrow), and I told her she does an incredible job describing the history of how Common Core came to be. I’ve written an essay on that very topic for Common Ground on Common Core, and I learned things I didn’t know. She also discusses what she saw in several classrooms she was able to visit and how the Common Core impacted what was taught. That is something very few of us who have opposed Common Core have had the ability to do.

In chapter 2 that discusses “The Common Core Classroom,” Joy writes about how the Common Core tries to divorce content from skills.

She writes:

Common Core doesn’t merely remain open-ended on content. It actually undermines the teaching of specific core knowledge by promoting classroom methods that emphasize academic skills or practices instead, supposedly to help eliminate the environmental advantage that better-off children bring with them. That’s why “close reading” calls for answers drawn strictly from the text at hand, not from the wider store of knowledge that children may have amassed. It’s an attempt to level the playing field.

Trying to separate skills from knowledge in this way is a fool’s errand, according to Robert Pondiscio, a former teacher turned pundit. To illustrate the point: you can’t learn how to build a house without knowing about materials or the use of tools; and conversely, using the tools and materials deepen your knowledge of them. Reading about baseball or the phases of the moon or the Oregon Trail increases your knowledge of those subjects, and the acquired knowledge then improves your ability to read about related topics, in a kind of feedback. When you read the daily news, you will comprehend it more thoroughly if you start from a solid base of civic and cultural literacy – something that too many citizens do not have.

A survey in 2011 found that only half of Americans could name the three branches of government, and just one in five could identify the origin of the phrase “a wall of separation” between church and state from among for options. The remedy for this problem does not lie in the content-light standards of Common Core, with all its emphasis on “informational text” but no coherent principles for selecting and organizing it. If children read only a haphazard list of materials their teachers happen to like, compiled with no thought to building a focused and delineated core of cultural literacy, their knowledge level will be laughable and their reading fluency will be underdeveloped, too.

Spot on. I highly commend her book and am looking forward to finishing it.

6 thoughts on “Trying to Separate Skills From Knowledge

  1. I like and respect Joy a lot. She is a very sweet woman and truly has the right idea in her heart. I agree with most of what she supports. But we differ on the fact that while she recognizes the flaws with Common Core she fails to recognize that the CHOICE being thrust on us today is not the CHOICE she and most people think it to be. Choice-Vouchers-Education Savings Accounts-Common Core-testing-data collection-curriclum is all one complete package. You truly cannot be against one and not all because they are all attached and all needed to move the progressive agenda of changing attitudes, values and the belief system of all future generations of American children to a successful conclusion. Charters, Vouchers and Education Savings Accounts is how they will destroy traditional public schools, private, religious and home school. The real intent or agenda is not to provide choice but to do quite the opposite. What parents will end up with is choice of location for their child’s education but no choice in what they will be taught. The system for it to succeed MUST have ALL children in the system. There can be no outliers. Charters-Vouchers-ESAs is how they will accomplish that. So you can take that voucher and go to a private schools, or a home school family can take that ESA, or you can send you child to a Charter school but all of these so called choices will be teaching the same thing. The federal government and state government never give any money for anything without strings attached. I don’t think this is the kind of Choice Joy and many others that are on the Choice bandwagon bargained for but it is the choice we will end up.

    1. School choice is not a topic we focus on here Karen because there is disagreement among our readers and allies. I think we all agree about the danger of strings being attached to vouchers, etc. Most of us also oppose school choice options at the Federal level. We just don’t all agree on jettisoning the very idea of school choice in all its forms.

      Because of this TAE is neutral and it is a subject we don’t write about. Regardless of how Joy differs from you in regards to school choice she has been a tremendous ally. I’m disheartened that you felt it necessary to criticize her, especially when this post had nothing to do with school choice.

      1. I was not criticizing her but merely speaking my opinion. I am not against choice at all but I think I made it clear I am against the choice that is being offered up because it is not real choice. I did not know you had a policy not to discuss opinions on Choice. The majority of my comment was on the issue of Choice not about or criticizing Joy. I like and respect her but that does not mean I agree with her on everything and I am sure she does not agree with me on everything. That is what makes the world go round.

  2. American parents should have been learning by Charlotte Iserbyt and many other great teachers in this country about the laid out plan was. All parents, conservative or liberal should read the 47 page booklet “Back to Basics Reforms” by Charlotte and it will lay out the groundwork as to the ruination of our children’s education and the demise of our country as we know it because of it.

    Joy Pullman supports Choice and Vouchers and that leads to non-representative government.

  3. Karen and Diane have a lot of valid points – however, I’ve had this discussion with them before. It’s one thing to target Common Core and its teaching methods, data collection and curriculum and educate the public about it’s harmful ways. Parents get it more and more. It’s another thing to tell parents who worked hard to get their kids into the local charter schools, like those here in Vero Beach, and now tell them that school choice/charters are bad. If you don’t have parents behind you, then you really can’t effect change.

    There are a number of people out there, most I’m guessing don’t have kids in schools, who are lecturing everyone on the problems with ‘this kind of school choice and charters’. Good luck with that. Last year a ground swell developed throughout the country supporting school choice and panning CC – you’re going to need a very strong message to millions of moms if you’re going to change their minds. They helped elect the president because of their commitment to the cause.

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