New national standards for teaching mathematics and reading are upon us. President Barack Obama has convinced 48 states, some U.S. territories, Washington, D.C., and some major private sector players (the Gates Foundation, for example) to sign on to his federal proposal. Only Texas and Alaska have refused to adopt these new standards, called the Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSSI). Lost in the rush to be part of a program—before it was even written—is the fact that this move will allow the federal government to assume a huge control over local education programs. This will be accomplished through the doling out of billions of tax dollars as grants for Obama’s “Race to the Top” program to states and school districts.
Members of the mathematics establishment, led by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) that has overseen 50 years of disastrous programs in math education, are expecting a seat at the President’s table on this issue. They will surely be given that seat with its related powers and become evermore influential powerbrokers in this federalized movement.
There is some pushback being formed against the national standards in movement Those who support traditional, internationally-based math instruction say the standards are watered down and will not prepare students for college or the workforce. They also don’t want the leaders of the past to be in control of any new program. For one thing, the ideology of the leaders continues to trump common sense and proven teaching methodologies, competitive ideas, and true accountability, as shown through years of invalid and unreliable research studies. The unfair financial support by federal agencies of the reform program is also a bone of contention. In the meantime, the reformists say there is too much of a return to “basic skills” attitudes in the new standards. It’s still about learning the process of creative thinking, they say, not about hard, factual results.
The one man who preached continuously and consistently that results matter in mathematics education more than ideology was John Saxon. He said that leaders, who set up the programs for teachers to use, had to be held accountable for the results of the students’ performance. Not surprisingly, the math establishment declared war on him and he responded by fighting back—hard. A retired military combat and test pilot, John did not shrink from his duty or his mission. In fact, his opponents learned that he actually enjoyed a good fight for a good cause.