To The Daily Sun,
As with my letters of the past I take the first paragraph to name my letter. This one I will name "The New Critical Thinking".
At a meeting of the Shaker Regional School District with parents and taxpayers to sell the decision to participate in Obama's federal school initiative called "Common Core" a lot of really good, critical questions were asked concerning the new education guidelines and what would be changed and left out in the new curriculum. A lot of questions were ignored and a lot of those answered were based on rhetoric and not facts. One of the statements from a parent was that the schools no longer teach "Critical Thinking". The response was that Critical Thinking was a vital part of the curriculum. So I decided to go back to my college books and the course I took called "Critical Thinking" and apply it to both this answer and the decision to go with Common Core.
Critical thinking, as it used to be taught, was a process used to determine a conclusion based on facts. Here is how the process used to be taught:
1. Choose a subject. This could be any subject such as political, science, the meaning of a book or a decision to go with a certain education curriculum.
2. Collect as many facts from as many diversified sources as you can on the subject.
3. Vet the facts and sources to verify the legitimacy of those facts. Use all the facts that pass the vetting process.
4. Organize the facts into points of conclusion. More than one conclusion may result from the organization.
5. Weigh the facts in each conclusion to determine the most reasonable conclusion.
6. Present your conclusion and why you developed this conclusion instead of others available using your vetted facts as support.
7. Open a forum for detractors who bring vetted counter facts that you might have missed to challenge or enhance your conclusion. The forum is based on facts concerning the conclusions of the chosen subject only.
The re-defined method of Critical Thinking being taught and used:
1. Choose a subject. Same as above.
2. Make a conclusion.
3. Collect facts from any source that will back your conclusion.
4. Present fictitious detractor conclusions with a high level of emotion as the only reasonable conclusion and sell your sources as the most qualified experts in this subject.
5. Avoid an open forum. If one must happen, avoid answering questions or give answers that distract from the question but don't really answer them. Ridicule, demeanor and demonize personally any detractors and sources that counter your conclusion. Avoid questions and discussions based on any facts, including your own.
A sample of this new method can be found in one of the answers a parent asked in the meeting about Common Core not teaching to a Bell Curve. The answer was along the lines that the Bell Curve is an old teaching model that does not fit in the new age of education. Instead, the Common Core will draw a new and improved standard which is a straight line starting low and going high. This would place the greatest population of students in the top of the learning curve (line). The new curriculum will then be changed and teachers retrained to obtain these results. The problem is that the old Bell Curve was not an arbitrary curve made up, then taught to. The Bell Curve came from education statistics collected over hundreds of years from different societies and systems. The statistics take the averages, percentiles and standard deviations of a populace and each and every time the standard deviation (that makes the bell looking curve) came out the same. In the past the Bell Curve was used as a check to see if your curriculum/teaching or testing was skewed from the norm. You had several choices to fix this if it was such as changing the percentage range on each grade (ie A+, A, B etc) for a test, or re-teach the block with a different approach and so on. What is totally ludicrous is to create an arbitrary curve for a populous and then completely change your curriculum in an attempt to match your education results to the curve. In the case of the new Common Core chart, the value of the top of the chart or highest level of education will end up being what is now the top of the Bell Curve which is the median (middle level or grade of C) of the current system. For any of you readers that are lost with the statistical information, all you have to remember is "The Dumbing Down Of America".
In the end, knowing both the original and the re-defined methods of Critical Thinking, it becomes easy to find the real conclusion that the Shaker Regional School District has chosen. It has nothing to do with the effectiveness of our great teachers, the curriculum in respect to preparing our children to function in society and prepare for continuing education or bringing our education system up to a higher standard. The true conclusion to go with Common Core is to receive large amounts of federal funding (at what-ever cost to our students, communities and society) and nothing more.