Common Core helps students prepare for future

The Daily News recently reported on an effort to repeal the implementation of the Common Core standards in Massachusetts. That would be a mistake.

No doubt about it, the Core requires more of everyone, especially kids. And that’s as it should be. Our state and our country have long been in a situation where the mediocrity of educational outcomes that so many folks are satisfied with are not good enough. We are, clearly, not preparing many, many kids for the intensely competitive and challenging nature of the adult environment they will be entering. The Core addresses some of these conditions and it can and will be improved with experience and learning.

Here are three examples of the way in which it has been necessary for education to step up its game for many years and will be required to do so even more as the century unfolds:

1. Globalization: Marshall McLuhan described Earth as a “global village” 50 years ago, and it becomes ever more so with each day. Young people need to comprehend the planet and its interacting cultures as a complex, emerging system without any predetermined outcomes. There is no finish line. It’s a world in which they are going to have to think for themselves, interact with all sorts of diversity-driven stress and opportunities, and invent a path to a meaningful life personally and collectively. They are going to have to think and think hard not in order to “get a job,” but to “make a way” in the future that is emerging.

2. Artificial Intelligence: The self-driving Google car gets a lot of press. Here’s what it means to me: If the technology exists right now that eliminates something so fundamental as the need to drive your own car, imagine what it will be able to do by 2030! A quadrillion activities that presently require human ingenuity and action are about to become obsolete. Now, we can argue whether that’s a good thing or a terrible thing, but we cannot dispute the fact that it’s happening. Kids are stepping into an existence of comfort and irrelevancy that is at least equivalent to the transition to the Industrial Age and probably more so. They may be surrounded by artificial intelligence, but their own native intelligence better be pretty well-honed if they are going to survive and thrive in that environment.

3. Climate Change: One of our neighbors on Route 1A has a quote from Aldous Huxley saying something like: “Ignorant about facts doesn’t mean they don’t exist.” Even though it is comforting to deny the overwhelming evidence of the disastrous consequences of climate change, its impacts are showing up everywhere and our young people are going to have to cope with the world that the last 60 years of denial is creating. That is going to take some serious active intelligence.

Tragically, thousands upon thousands of students in our schools are nowhere near ready for the challenges they are facing right now in terms of numeracy and literacy skills. The Core is designed to address this by making kids think more, better, thoroughly and creatively. If it does so, everyone interacting with young people coming out of the Core processor will have to think harder too. This is a good thing. The Core has some problems, e.g., it may need more emphasis on the humanities, but its heart is in the right place. Let’s learn with it, not hide from it.

¢¢¢

Michael Sales of Newburyport is a strategic foresight educator.




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