By: DJ Deeb – Feb. 2016
There is currently a push being made by some members of the Methuen School District Administration to push members of the Methuen School Committee to adopt Common Core English Language Arts standards under the guise of implementing the new Massachusetts Statewide English Language Arts Framework. Parents and community members need to contact School Committee members and voice their opposition to these proposed changes. Our students deserve better!
A lively debate has emerged nationally regarding Common Core and many parents, teachers, and residents have correctly recognized that it amounts to a lowering of standards for Massachusetts’s students. Observers have correctly recognized that so-called “Common Core” amounts to a lowering of standards for Massachusetts’s students. Currently, Massachusetts’s students rank #1 in the nation and #7 in the world. This has been made possible by MCAS, which despite its flaws is a more higher-stakes test than the Common Core PARCC test.
It is interesting to note that on January 12, Diane Barrow, West Coast Sales Manager for Houghton Mifflin Publishing Company, ignited a firestorm by confessing, “I’m in it [advocating for Common Core] to sell books…You don’t think the educational publishing companies are in it for education, do you? No, they’re in it for the money.” Of course, Barrow was promptly fired by the textbook company for being honest. With 42 states and the District of Columbia adopting Common Core, textbook companies like Houghton Mifflin will be able to publish and sell more books with a more uniform focus. That’s the real truth about Common Core.
At the January 11, 2015 Methuen School Committee meeting, members of the Methuen High School Administration, including the English Language Arts Department Chair, tried to get the Methuen School Committee to adopt a new Program of Studies for the 2016-2017 school year adopting the Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks, incorporating Common Core into the Methuen High School curriculum. The Methuen School Committee voted to table approval of this recommendation until the next scheduled business meeting on February 8th in order to have a chance to review the proposed changes more thoroughly.
Specifically, the Methuen High School Administration and Assistant Superintendent Brandi Kwong are proposing that the 10th grade American Literature I course be replaced with a new course called The Rebel In Literature. The title itself should raise a red flag (quite literally) and it does! This proposed change would phase out classical American literary giants Nathanial Hawthorne and Edgar Allen Poe and replace them with the more contemporary authors Julia Alvarez and Amy Tan. Methuen School Committee members were told that the new course will allow “variation” and flexibility” and that two years of American Literature without a “global perspective” does disservice to our students. We were further told that the current curriculum, which has worked well for more than 50 years, is sometimes “too dry” for students. This new proposed course, The Rebel In Literature, is being driven by the MHS Leadership Team and constitutes the Common Core curriculum in disguise. It is simply a “dumbing down” of our curricula standards.
Upon being questioned, Assistant Superintendent Brandi Kwong admitted that this proposal is being submitted in order to adopt the new 2011a Massachusetts English Language Arts Curriculum Frameworks, which incorporates Common Core. We are further told in the proposed Program of Studies that this new course “encompasses all genres, including works from authors writing in the midst of social, political, or personal upheavals.” It sounds like we are educating for the New World Order here. We are replacing the current emphasis on what America great (The Declaration of Independence and The Federalist Papers) to stressing a “global perspective” and imposing political correctness along with radical liberal ideas.
Our students deserve better. Our students are not a social experiment. We should not replace high standards and rigor with courses that allow “variation” and “flexibility.” The current courses work because they teach our students advanced vocabulary, grammar, writing skills, and critical thinking. I urge all Methuen parents and community members to contact their School Committee members and urge them to vote “No” on the new proposed English Language Arts curriculum/course changes.
D.J. Deeb is a Methuen resident and member of the Methuen School Committee. Deeb is an Adjunct Professor of History/Government at Bunker Hill Community College and an Adjunct Political Science Instructor at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. He teaches Social Studies full-time at Reading Memorial High School. He is the author of Israel, Palestine, and the Quest for Middle East Peace (University Press, 2013) and The Collapse of Middle East Peace (IUniverse, 2003).