Dr. David Pook, who chairs the history department at Derryfield School, a prestigious private academy in Manchester, offered that observation on May 19 during a debate on Common Core at Saint Anselm College in neighboring Goffstown. (Video of his comment available at link below.)
"The reason why I helped write the standards and the reason why I am here today is that as a white male in society, I've been given a lot of privilege that I didn't earn," declared Pook, as members of the audience groaned and booed. "I think it's really important that all kids have an equal opportunity to learn how to read."
Pook said his thinking has been influenced by visits to "places like Roberto Clemente High School on the west side of Chicago." He added, "I think it's really important those kids learn how to read just as well as I had the opportunity to read. And in creating an equitable educational opportunity for all kids, I think this is actually the greatest civics lesson we could teach our kids."
Though New Hampshire is one of the states that signed on to Common Core, controversy over the standards and testing requirements continues in the Granite State, as in others among the 45 states that have enlisted in the program and the five that have remained outside its orbit. Advocates argue passionately that the Common Core standards will remove barriers to inequality in education and better prepare all American students to compete in the global marketplace. Opponents contend that it will destroy local control over schools and that the "cradle to career or college" program will put content of school curricula in the hands of distant corporate and academic elites.
"The Common Core State Standards hold promise for low-income students, students of color, English language learners, and students with disabilities, who traditionally perform significantly worse than their peers," claims the Center for American Progress, a non-profit organization dedicated to "progressive ideas and actions." Common Core "helps address inequity in education by ensuring all students are taught to the same high standards and held to the same rigorous expectations," the Center says. "This helps make sure that ZIP codes do not determine education quality."
While no one disputes the goal of raising the academic performance of underachieving students, what has been debated since the Common Core program was launched in 2009 is whether Common Core standards make better learners of kids who aren't learning now.
When President George W. Bush was promoting the No Child Left Behind Act, he often condemned "the soft bigotry of low expectations" for minority and disadvantaged students. With Common Core, as with No Child Left Behind, the expectation is that more demanding standards, frequent testing, and holding teachers and schools responsible for results will raise the performance levels. Education historian Diane Ravitch calls that wishful thinking dressed up in academic jargon.
Click here to read the entire article and see video of Dr. David Pook's comment.