I know many of my Christian friends have issues with the new Common-Core coming down the chute, and this past year was my first experience with it in the classroom. Prior to this year, I was hesitant to make any comments one way or another, because I could not comment first hand.
I have seen posts, or shares, and the majority are expressing frustration with the math and language arts. Some statements have concerned me, and a few may have been well meaning, but were obviously ignorant out of the gate. I tend to let things go, but some were so blatantly false it was laughable. So I want to briefly touch on a positive element that I came across.
Some elements within the Common Core State Standards, (CCSS), when viewed from a Christian apologist stand point, are worth sitting up and taking notice of.
For example, students are to consider primary source documents and artifacts in their arguments.
This opens the door wide to the historicity of the gospel accounts. This is what apologists do when defending the testimony of the apostles. Primary sources are eye-witnesses, and eye-witness accounts hold much more weight than other sources.
Anyone can die for what he believes to be true, and Christian martyrs are strewn throughout history. Muslim martyrs are no different, but the apostles stand apart from all others. After witnessing the resurrected Christ first hand, the apostles died for what they knew was true; what they had seen and touched first hand; no other religion can make that claim.
Also CCSS encourages students to write in the form of arguments and to avoid ad hominem, (personal attacks/insults), and appeals to emotion. I can’t count the number of times I have seen arguments against a Christian world view that was littered with ad hominem and appeals to emotion.
Here are a few examples, (took me 5 minutes), I just pulled off Youtube in response to Ray Comfort’s Evolution VS God.
-This film is a complete fraud. Forms of this filming and editing technique have been used in the entertainment industry for years, especially in the reality shows. Don’t get sucked into this pack of lies.
-Ray is a fool …period.
-I think he is an outright liar and a con-artist.
-A lot of you religious-fanatic people have the wrong idea of evolution and do not understand it.
Facts & evidence > belief & faith.
-So pathetic it is embarrasing and amusing – he (comfort) hopefully will soon be an endangered species (or kind). 1
Both sides of the aisle are guilty of these kinds of comments, but if our education system wants to point out logical fallacies, and how pathetic insults and appeals to emotion can be in an argument, I will stand by it. So let’s look at some CCSS standards. Here are some excerpts from the 8th Grade Reading Standards.
“Cite the textual evidence that most strongly supports an analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.” 2
“Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, assessing whether the reasoning
is sound and the evidence is relevant and sufficient; recognize when irrelevant evidence is introduced.” 3
Then this out of the Writing Standards for 6-12
“Conduct short research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question), drawing on several sources and generating additional related, focused questions that allow for multiple avenues of exploration.” 4
“Support claim(s) with logical reasoning and relevant evidence, using accurate, credible
sources and demonstrating an understanding of the topic or text.” 5
Finally, Reading Standards for Informational Text 6-12
“Trace and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, assessing whether the reasoning
is sound and the evidence is relevant and sufficient to support the claims.” 6
I could quote more, but I think my point is clear. If your child uses logic, reasoning, relevant evidence, accurate and credible sources to investigate the claims of the gospel accounts, they build their faith and satisfy 1 Peter 3:15.
Typically, when I would teach language arts, my students would write three term papers a year. One in history, one in science, and the final term paper would be one of their own choosing. Can you imaging a self-generated question about their Christian world view under the writing standards for 6-12?
Karen Prior wrote, “The Christian obsession with text is not only a part of our history—but something that continues to shape contemporary Christianity. We readily engage questions around biblical interpretation in deep ways, as we consider infallibility, inerrancy, context, hermeneutics, canonicity, and scriptural authority.” 7
Often middle school students begin to look at evidence, and not just parrot the views of their parents in the Jr. High years. Involved parents could encourage their children to write a paper or papers on a host of topics that, if investigated with apologetic materials, would help ground their faith prior to high school and college. With a 43% drop off between the teens and twenty somethings who attend church, parents should be concerned about their children having reasons, evidence, and materials to support their faith. 8
If parents did encourage their teen to write a paper about his or her faith, here are a few example topics to consider:
Are all religions the same?
Can all religions be true?
Was Jesus a real person?
What evidence do we have for Jesus outside of the gospels?
What evidence do we have for God?
Does evolution explain how life began?
Does evolution have good evidence?
Does science explain how the universe began?
Does science support a belief in God?
Those are just off the top of my head, but with a little effort you could come up with three or four times that many to have your child choose from, which would require some research and exploration. Could your teen answer those questions and explain their response with reason, details, evidence?
Many teachers and parents are up in arms over the new Common-Core Standards. Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin wants his state to throw out the Federal Common-Core standards. 9 Many of the teachers I talk to are split on CCSS, and there is no question some difficulties can be found. Yet like a difficult student in the class room, you don’t want to focus on the negative elements, but encourage the positive character traits.
Three states, Indiana, South Carolina, and Oklahoma, have dropped the standards. From the looks of things, other states will follow suit, but until California does the same, we are stuck implementing the CCSS. 10 So if I have to use it, then I will make the best of it.
If you are a parent of a teen, you can also make use of the new standards. Talk to your teachers and see what the possibilities are for research papers or extra credit. Some of the new standards dovetail nicely to apologetics, and students should be encouraged to build faith by researching some tough questions they might not be able to answer on the fly.
1. Living Waters. “Evolution Vs. God Movie”. August 2013. YouTube video, 38 minutes 26 seconds. August 2013. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U0u3-2CGOMQ
2. California State board of Education. California Common Core State Standards California Department of Education . 1 Mar. 2013. 23 July 2014 <http://www.cde.ca.gov/be/st/ss/documents/finalelaccssstandards.pdf>.
3. Ibid., 52.
4. Ibid., 59.
5. Ibid., 56.
6. Ibid., 60.
7. Prior, Karen S. “The Good News of Common Core.” Christianity Today 20 June 2013: christianitytoday.com. Web. 23 July 2014.
8. Kinnaman, David. You Lost Me – Why Young Christians Are Leaving Church…and Rethinking Faith. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2011. Print.
9. Daily Herald Media Editorial Board. “Gov. Walker wrong on Common Core ‘repeal’: Our View.” USA Today. wausaudailyherald.com 22 July 2014. Web. 24 July 2014.
10. Bidwell, Allie. “Common Core in Flux as Sates Debate Standards, Tests.” US News 15 July 2014: usnews.com. Web. 24 July 2014.
Worried about Common Core? by James Glazier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.