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"Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world." - Nelson Mandela

Big Business Needs to Butt Out of American Classrooms

By Carole Hornsby Haynes, Ph.D. December 23, 2017

The fallout from Common Core continues as international and national tests report the falling scores of American students, highlighting the disastrous effect of business leaders dictating what and how students are taught.

Bill Gates, who devotes his time and vast fortune trying to change the world, used his Gates Foundation to help bankroll virtually every aspect of Common Core’s development, promotion, and implementation.

Executives at Exxon Mobil, GE, State Farm, Intel, and other corporations pushed to get the standards adopted and implemented. 

It was partly pressure from business and higher education leaders that Common Core includes teaching collaboration and group problem-solving skills. Now traditional classrooms are “flipped” – students teach each other while teachers are merely facilitators.

Instead of preparing students with a broad academic foundation, Common Core focused on career readiness. Common Core writers interviewed colleges and businesses to learn what they wanted high school graduates to know and then “worked backwards grade-to-grade. They left out the human equation: kids learn forward, not backwards. And they learn at varying paces.

Listen up corporate executives: these are little humans, not inanimate objects as some of you seem to believe.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, former chairman and chief executive of Exxon Mobile, deeply angered public education supporters and parents with his comment that public schools “don’t understand” the business community is their “customer” and they are “producing a product at the end of that high school graduation.” He added, “Now, is that product in a form that we, the customer, can use it? Or is it defective, and we’re not interested?” He further stated that “the defective products are human beings.”

In Fortune Magazine Peter Elkind noted that,“Common Core might not exist without the corporate community,” and “ExxonMobile chief Rex Tillerson, has played a particularly prominent role.”As public opinion turned against Common Core, Tillerson lobbied state politicians to promote it. He warned lawmakers,who were considering repeal, that Exxon Mobil might not hire anyone from states that didn’t have Common Core.

Tillerson’s comments drew criticism that corporations were supporting the standards so they could turn out corporate “drones” and “minimally educated worker bees.” Whether or not that is true, the results of international and national tests show that American students are doing poorly academically.

American students ranked 13th in collaborative problem-solving and 39th in math on the 2015 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) among 15-year-olds in more than 50 countries and regions. Their peers in four regions in China collectively ranked 6th in math but 26th in collaborative problem-solving.

Group collaboration was tested because the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which administers the test,thinks that’s a skill wanted by employers. However, PISA officials found that only 8 percent of students tested could handle problem-solving tasks with sophistication. Only one in five students in Singapore, the highest scoring nation, could handle sophisticated collaborative problem-solving.

The findings of the National Association for Education Progress 2015 test shows the U.S. plummeting in math. Better known as the “nation’s report card,” the NAEP is administered every two years in reading and math to a sampling of fourth and eighth graders in every state. Between 2011 and 2015 (the Common Core era), NAEP reading and math scores fell across the nation.

Based on international test results, the schools appear to have done a splendid job of teaching kids how to work in groups and cipher using their fingers and little boxes. American students are no longer known for their highly individualistic spirit but as good little team players.

Corporate leaders hawk the importance of Common Core in preparing students to compete in the international business world. That’s a pipe dream.

The embarrassing truth has been exposed: American students can collaborate but they can’t cipher!

For sure we must educate students broadly for jobs that haven’t yet been created and technology that hasn’t yet been invented. But how about parents and teachers deciding what children need to learn instead of corporate America? It’s time we tell Big Business leaders to butt out of our children’s education and manage their own little red wagons.

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