The Identity Circle Viewsletter                     Issue Twenty One| March 2014
The (Un)Common Core -- What educators are forgetting and our kids aren't getting


The public school system in America is undergoing an overhaul. That overhaul is called Common Core -- the new curriculum structure based on "consistent academic guidelines created to help all students succeed." Those words aren't mine; they greet you when you go to the Common Core official website.


Here's a quick overview of Common Core, if you're not familiar with it. The Common Core is a set of college- and career-ready standards for kindergarten through 12th grade in English language arts/literacy and mathematics. Today, 45 states have voluntarily adopted the standards, which are designed to ensure that students graduating from high school are prepared to take credit-bearing introductory courses in two- or four-year college programs, or enter the workforce.


Sounds reasonable, right? Consistent standards. Level playing field. Better outcomes for our children, our communities and our nation. Not everyone is in love with the Common Core, however. Referencing Common Core in a New York Times OpEd piece entitled Creativity vs. Quants, Timothy Egan notes that "the pushback, in part, is coming from people who feel that music, art and other unmeasured values got left behind -- that the Common Core stifles creativity. Educators teach for the test, but not for the messy brains of the kids in the back rows." Mr. Egan is not alone. Here's a website dedicated to sharing some of the criticism Common Core has attracted. 


There's nothing "common" about them


I love education. I believe in children and their capacity to learn and develop into happy, productive members of society. But, I'm nervous about the unwitting effect the Common Core may have on our kids and, ultimately, on our society.


Human beings -- that includes kids -- aren't all the same. They aren't "common." They are unique beings with distinctive characteristics that define who they are and what their potential is. Children have identities, which need to be cultivated along with their ability to solve trigonometry problems, interpret literature and conduct successful science experiments.


Yet, Common Core offers no formal way for children to learn about their identities, let alone the implications of identity on such core needs as selecting a college, or a major, or a career path. Fact: the education system Common Core is upending is equally guilty. There are no courses, or workshops, or learning tools offered to kids aimed at helping them get a handle on who they are.


At the center of every child is an uncommon core. Why then aren't schools charged with the responsibility of honoring the individual inside that child? This lack of personal education cheats students out of the chance to make smarter choices as they navigate their K-12 careers. And with the prospect of imposing greater standardization, the need to help students know who their non-standardized selves are grows, exponentially.


Is there a solution?


Immodestly, I am happy to say that my work has led me to create several devices young people can use to concretely explore their identities and apply their discoveries to their lives -- to their relationships with school, family, friends, a best friend, even their community. One is the Identity Discovery Deck --
a personalized learning tool just for youth.


I've created other methods as well to help kids to tap into the power of who they are, but it's not just up to me to address this need. It's up to educators to realize that if schools offered carefully-designed personal learning experiences along with traditional academic experiences students would develop a deeper understanding of their own uniqueness and potential and, in turn, make far better choices, which in the aggregate, ultimately, will affect us all.


As I said, I believe in children. I want them to grow into themselves, not just into the world. What do you think about the relationship between the Common Core and the uncommon core? Can they coexist?  


Share your views at the identity beacon.  


See you online!  


Larry Ackerman  

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It's not just up to the educators to help children get a grasp on their identities. It starts with parents; it starts with you and me. Here's a short piece on Parenting through Identity --10 steps to helping your child (or grandchild, niece, etc.) develop into a strong, healthy human being, who knows who they are (and who they are not) and is prepared to make a positive impact on the world.






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Larry Ackerman, Westport, CT
Larry Ackerman
Founder and President
The Identity Circle

"At the center of every child is an uncommon core. Why then aren't schools charged with the responsibility of honoring the individual inside
that child?


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