Equivalent Expressions and the Common Core Standards

by Jon Richards
Peach Pundit

When I was in school, I learned about the transitive property of equality. That’s the math principle that says if A = B and B = C, then A = C. For example, if 3*4=12 and 2*6=12, then 3*4=2*6. Of course, this principle can be misused: If Georgia defeats LSU in football and LSU defeats Auburn, then Georgia defeats Auburn. That, unfortunately, didn’t happen.

Some people are misusing the transitive property in order to stir up opposition to the Common Core State Standards for education.

Here’s a telling example: A Facebook post by the group Georgia Gun Owners about the results of the recent House District 22 runoff maintained that one of the candidates “refused to condemn the anti-gun Common Core.” And why are the common core standards anti-gun?

[A] textbook in Texas [whose publisher links to Common Core standards on it’s website] refers to the Second Amendment this way: “The people have a right to keep and bear arms in a state militia.” … We have enough humility to rephrase that: “Ms. Biello refused to condemn Common Core; publishers of textbooks which refer to Second Amendment rights as those only available to those in a state militia, link to Common Core standards on their websites.”

Let’s see. A publisher has a book with a reference to the Second Amendment. The publisher links to the Commmon Core Standards. Therefore, Common Core is anti-gun. Never mind the fact that the publisher didn’t write the standards, or that because the standards only cover English/Language Arts and Math, they are silent on any interpretations of the Bill of Rights.

This is only one example of how the Common Core standards are being used for political purposes that have nothing to do with what the standards really are.

There is a more serious case that misapplies the transitive property in order to foment opposition to Common Core. This time, it’s a resolution introduced in Congress. House Resolution 476 was introduced on Tuesday. It’s sponsored by Rep. Jeff Duncan of South Carolina, and has 42 cosponsors, including Georgia Reps. Doug Collins and Jack Kingston. There is a matching Senate Resolution 345, sponsored by Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. The title of the bill says,

Strongly supporting the restoration and protection of State authority and flexibility in establishing and defining challenging student academic standards and assessments, and strongly denouncing the President’s coercion of States into adopting the Common Core State Standards by conferring preferences in Federal grants and flexibility waivers

As with most resolutions, this one begins with a series of Whereas’s outlining the findings of Congress. The one that bothered me was this one: Whereas national standards lead to national assessments and national assessments lead to a national curriculum;

Applying the transitive property to this results in the conclusion that national standards mean a national curriculum. And that is by no means true.

It’s possible to develop a national curriculum based on the Common Core standards. It also looked like the Dawgs were going to beat Auburn, until the last second or so.

It appears to me that much of the opposition to the standards applies not to the standards themselves, but to a bunch of what ifs and could bes. I suspect most people would oppose a national curriculum. And a lot of people oppose the carrot and a stick approach used by Congress to impose its preferences on the states.

But, I never hear anyone discussing the standards themselves. Like standard CCSS.Math.Content.6.EE.A.4, which teaches students to understand equivalent expressions.

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