Monday, July 7, 2014

Common Core Ignores Science

By Professor Doom

    Of late I’ve been reading a book by an Australian academic, detailing the decline of the higher education system in Australia. Much like in the United States, a great part of this collapse is due to the influence of the wildly incompetent Educationists (or, as they apparently are called in Australia, “Educationalists”).

     Like any real academic, the author is appalled by the devastatingly inept research ability of Educationists. I too have given eyewitness testimony of how insultingly bad it is. It would be laughable, but because administrators have no understanding of how research works, the wild and untested theories of Educationists are often used to completely change known successful programs, with disastrous results.  These disasters aren’t restricted to higher education, as anyone familiar with “Ebonics” or “New Math” or “Whole Word” learning knows.

    Australian institutions have likewise been crippled by using bizarre Educationist theory. The book on the decline of Australian universities, however, doesn’t simply denigrate Educationists for their lack of intelligence and knowledge (not that there’s anything wrong with that), but it also discusses how real neuroscience shows Educationist theories to be fundamentally wrong.

     This is rather critical, since Common Core is also using the same demonstrably wrong Educationist theory (it occurs to me that putting “demonstrably wrong” next to “Educationist theory” is redundant, and I apologize).

     One of the new goals of Common Core is to de-emphasize the learning of facts, the gaining of basic knowledge, and instead start teaching small children the theories first, with hopefully facts and actual applications to come later. I’ve discussed how disastrous this will be, but some quotes from the book will address things from a more factual point of view:

“…If Educationalists were serious about establishing a rational basis for
improving learning and teaching, they would do well to acquaint
themselves with the products of the last 100 years of research in
neuropsychology. ...”

     As I’ve mentioned many a time before, every academic knows Educationists are part of the problem in higher education, and it’s very, very, hard to write about them without disdain. I’ll highlight some of the more readable technical results from the book:

“The existence of circumscribed areas of the cortex sub serving specific functions was presaged by the meticulous and methodical microscopy of Brodmann (Korbinian Brodmann -German neurologist and neuroanatomist, 1868 -1918), who showed on the basis of cellular architecture that the cortex can be divided into 44 discrete areas. The veracity of Brodmann‟s cortical map has stood the test of the ensuing 100 years of neuroscientific research. ...”

“…Australia‟s own P.J.Snow, however, who has synthesised a coherent understanding of this mass of information and established the neural basis of thought (or cognition as psychologists commonly refer to it). In his publication Charting the Domains of Human Thought (Journal of Consciousness Studies, v10 2003, pp. 3-17), Snow presents detailed evidence establishing that the human mind is composed of four anatomically distinct but highly interconnected areas of the prefrontal cortex that elaborate four distinct domains of cognition. He has termed these areas the social mind (Brodmann Area 9), the material mind (Brodmann Area 47), the abstract mind (Brodmann Area 46) and the temporal mind (Brodmann Area 10). …”

     While scientists focus on theories that are reinforced through demonstrable physical fact over the course of a century, Educationists force higher education to use ideas that after 50 years still have no physical support

     While much of the book is an easy read, some of it does lapse into material more suited for academic tastes. Allow me to move on to the point here:

     Allow me translate the above, key, paragraph in case any Educationists are reading, and note the above is backed up by real physical evidence, as opposed to Educationist theory, which never has anything supporting it beyond hi-falutin’ jargon and a hefty dose of bluster.

     (Now, don’t get me wrong, science makes mistakes. That said, given the choice between evidence-backed scientific theory and bizzarro Educationist theory that has no supporting evidence, well, I lean towards science, myself, especially if I’m about to do something that can harm tens of millions of children, like Common Core.)

    So let me clarify that quoted paragraph: the conscious part of the human mind has four areas that develop over time, in a physically measurable way. Three of the areas develop in turn (one after the other) and these three areas each help the child view the world in a particular way. (The fourth area is in near constant development, addressed later in the book)

    The first area to develop involves social skills, which a child needs immediately, the better to identify parents, understand and provide body language, and associate with other human beings. The second area deals with understanding how the material world works; as a child leaves infancy, it becomes more important for him to understand objects and physical situations that he’ll encounter without immediate parental supervision.

     Anyone with a human child will have already seen that sort of development in his own child already, but consider that third area, the abstract mind. It doesn’t begin to develop until age 11. Children (outside of exceptional cases) are literally physically incapable of abstract thought until that third area of the brain develops, starting at around age 11.

     But, Common Core will have our schools teaching 8 year olds to think abstractly, three years before science says they are capable of doing so. Educationists don’t see the problem here, but real science says that this is as reasonable as teaching 8 year olds to bench press 200 pounds.

     So it isn’t just intuition and common sense that tells anyone that Common Core will be a disaster, known science also says that Common Core’s goals are hideously misguided and fundamentally doomed to failure.

     Of course they are, Common Core comes from Educationists, after all. I’ll end with one more quote from the book, which I’ll consider further next time:

“The majority of the problems faced by the young have been faced previously by countless generations who have developed a repertoire of standard solutions. There is no need to reinvent the wheel at this age. The notion that primary school students should “discover” the rules of arithmetic or the cognitive complexities of climate change is a totally misguided expectation …”


  1. I recently read and reviewed a document that was apparently written for the Common Core curriculum. It described the use of a certain scientific experiment by primary and secondary students.

    I have experience in the theoretical aspects of that experiment both as a student and from my work in industry. The document was poorly written, in part because I don't believe the author had a background in the subject. Many of the concepts were incorrectly presented as well as being unclear and often obscure.

    My suggestions and revisions were rejected by author, even though I knew that the document, as written, was full of errors, and did not treat the subject matter properly. What the students would have learned would have been wrong.

    If that was an example of what the Common Core presents to people as educational material, society is indeed in trouble.

  2. By the way, thanks for posting the link to the book. I'm nearly two-thirds the way through and much of what was written could describe what I encountered while I was teaching at a Canadian technical college.

    1. I too was very stunned at the similarities. He does say a few unique things, but overall his testimony is similar to what I've seen with my own eyes.

  3. .. you might as well add New Zealand institutions to your list.

  4. I finished reading it earlier in the week.

    It's frightening and depressing to see just how corrupt and broken the post-secondary educational system has become. Trying to change it would be as useful as trying to empty the ocean by bailing with a sieve.

    It makes me glad I'm no longer part of it.