A Teacher’s Response to Elaine Herman’s Attack on the Common Core

The Independent Record published an op-ed length letter to the editor from former candidate for Superintendent of Public Instruction Elaine Herman. While the ostensible purpose of the piece was to persuade readers to support House Bill 377, which would end the implementation of the Common Core Standards in Montana, what it really accomplished was making clear just how important those standards are. You see, the Common State Standards emphasize critical reading skills and developing the ability to craft well-developed arguments. As students progress through their K-12 education under the new standards, they will become more critical consumers of information and better advocates, able to use excellent reasoning, careful use of evidence, and well-turned phrases to persuade their audiences.

Our society hears and reads far too many lazy arguments, couched in logical fallacies, marred by misleading or absent evidence, and driven by partisan ideology. The Common Core Standards will encourage teachers to help their students develop skills that will allow them to persuade without these cheap rhetorical tricks and unfortunate errors.

And they’ll even learn how to use the English language correctly along the way.

As an English teacher working under the Common Core Standards, I believe there’s no more useful tool to help students develop these skills than to provide extensive feedback, giving the students the opportunity to revise their work to the highest level. Given the scope and number of errors in Ms. Herman’s piece, I thought I’d offer her that same service.

[pdf-embedder url=”https://themontanapost.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Elaine-Herman-Corrected.pdf”]

I look forward to her revision.

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About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba has been writing about Montana politics since 2005 and teaching high school English since 2000. He's a former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.
His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.
In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.


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    “I am worried about stupid.”

    writes Roger Schank in a recently published book, “What We Should Worry About?”, which is a collection of essays compiled by Edge. The editors at Edge (edge.org) do this every year—pose a question to scientists and others across the Nation and ask them what they think. The book is a great collection of 1-4 page essays.

    So, this is what Mr. Schank said in his essay (condensed & remixed, a bit):

    “I am worried about stupid. It is all around us. When Congress debates and issue, both sides appear to be wrong. Worse, our representatives can’t seem to make a reasoned argument. Candidate after candidate in the last election said things completely unsupportable by the evidence.

    I worry that since no one thinks they need to think, the news has become a mouthpiece for views that can be easily parroted by their listeners. Challenging beliefs is not part of the news anymore. The people who run news organizations have an agenda, and it isn’t creating good thinkers who understand what’s going on in the world.

    So, I’m worried that people can’t think, can’t reason from evidence, and don’t even know what would constitute evidence. People don’t know how to ask the right questions, much less answer them. And I am worried that that no one, with the exception of some very good teachers who much under appreciated, is trying to teach anyone to think.”

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