Better than Common Core

Aug 3 2012 - 1:54pm

Several veteran educators, parents and I have been working for years to develop "Educating for Human Greatness," a different education concept, that we believe is better than "Common Core." It is based on the idea that every person is born to be unique and different from all others for a good reason. Every person has unlimited potential and reason for existing to be a special contributor to society. We are not meant to be common in knowledge and skills.

"Educating for Human Greatness" focuses on individual human development. "Curriculum" is used, not as a goal or end, but as a "means" of helping students grow in human powers. Seven key powers have been identified so far:

1. Identity: The power of self-worth, unique talents and gifts.

2. Inquiry: The Power of curiosity and great questions.

3. Interaction: The Power of respectful communication.

4. Initiative: The power of will and self-discipline.

5. Imagination: The power of creativity.

6. Intuition: The power of sensing truth with the heart.

7. Integrity: The power of honesty.

How is education different if we change from curriculum as a goal to curriculum as a tool or means of developing human powers? Here are two examples to compare with Common Core:

When reading is taught as a tool of inquiry:

Getting children to develop high-level reading and writing skills is easy, if we don't make it complicated like some commercially developed programs do. Under No Child Left Behind, one particular commercially-designed reading program subjected children to endless phonics drills even though some authorities show that children do not learn to read from phonics. Instead, they learn phonics from reading. (Smith 1999 and Krashen 2004)

When I taught 5 th grade, a t the start of the school year my thirty four students reading abilities ranged from one beginning reader, and a few at each grade level, all the way up to one student who was reading at eleventh grade level. At the end of the year, each student had improved an average of nearly three grade levels.

How was this unusual development possible? Would it have made any sense to try to get all of the students reading at grade level, when a third of them were already reading above grade level? Why does the "Common Core" have teachers aim for grade-level check points?

My strategy for helping students develop unusual reading skills was to stimulate curiosity about nearly everything and then provide books and other reading materials on a wide range of subjects and levels. Ample time was provided for silent reading every day and students were invited to tell what they were excited in reading about. This process resulted in unusual readers who loved to read. They didn't need to be assigned to read a certain amount of time or number of pages each day as is often done, making reading a chore.

Beth Moore, an outstanding first grade teacher, taught her students to read, using an unusual approach. She invited students to draw or paint pictures of their experiences. She would then ask each child to tell her about their picture. Mrs. Moore would write or type their words under each child's picture: "This is my dog," "My family playing ball together," or "My best friend riding a bicycle."

Can you see the advantages of children learning to read by reading their own words? These same students learned to write letters to other students in the school and mail them at the school post office. Volunteer student mail carriers then delivered the mail each morning to each student's classroom.

Math is also best taught as a tool of curiosity and inquiry as students count, weigh, measure and compare things and events in their environment.

We found that students learn basic skills better when they are taught as human powers, like curious inquiry, than when they are taught as ends in and of themselves. Educating for Human Greatness offers high standards for developing human variety, not uniformity, and reduces bullying and dropouts. This concept restores public teaching as an honored and respected profession that involves parents as full partners.

It is much better than government-prescribed teaching and testing that is very expensive.

Lynn Stoddard, a retired educator, is co-founder of the Educating for Greatness Alliance. He lives in Farmington and can be reached at


From Around the Web