During a Friday conference call sponsored by Texas-based Women on the Wall, Stanford mathematician and former member of the Common Core Validation Committee Dr. James Milgram, told listeners that if the controversial standards are not repealed, America’s place as a competitor in the technology industry will ultimately be severely undermined.
“In the future, if we want to work with the top level people, we’re going to have to go to China or Japan or Korea… and that’s the future we’re looking at,” Milgram said during the call that was part of a day-long Twitter campaign to target Indiana Gov. Mike Pence’s (R) decision merely to “rebrand” the Common Core standards in his state, even though he has a Republican supermajority in the legislature and an appointed state board of education.
Pence was in Dallas Friday for Americans for Prosperity’s Defending the American Dream summit, considered to be an essential stop for presidential hopefuls.
In less than 40 minutes, Milgram floored listeners with information about the Common Core standards, how they will affect the nation’s students and, ultimately, the country itself, and what parents and citizens can do to try to stop them. Listen to the podcast in full below:
Milgram began by addressing the reason why he was on the call: to let Pence know that his “rebrand” of the Common Core was a betrayal of Indiana’s citizens.
Born and raised in Indiana himself, Milgram that it was important to him as a fellow Hoosier that the state do a decent job with replacement standards after repealing the Common Core.
“The state actually paid me to evaluate new standards,” he said about his involvement in the review process.
The Stanford professor then explained to listeners a key reason why the Common Core standards will prevent students from moving into STEM careers.
Milgram said he was “incredibly disappointed that the drafts I was reading [of Indiana’s new standards] looked so much like the Common Core,” but was nevertheless happy to see that advanced math classes like pre-calculus, calculus, and trigonometry were left into the replacement standards.
“These were very well-done and absolutely impossible to teach if all these kids had were Core standards,” Milgram explained. “It was a complete disaster because even the things that they added—that were of high quality—were added to standards that couldn’t support them.”
Milgram described his experience in the 1990s when he was asked to assist with a project that would replace California’s “disastrous” education standards. The mathematician said he strongly recommended that students in the 8th grade take Algebra and that his recommendation was heeded.
From the time the new standards were put in place and until the time of the adoption of Common Core standards in California in 2010, Milgram said two-thirds of the students in the state were taking Algebra in the 8th grade and doing well, with over half of them at least proficient or above.
Milgram said this piece of information is critical because it showed that it was possible for almost every student to handle Algebra in the 8th grade.
“The group that made by far the most progress were the minorities – blacks and Hispanics – who had essentially been written off by the system,” Milgram explained, and then went on to reveal how the fact that challenging minority students – resulting in their increased performance – was a threat to faculty in universities.
“So, their numbers were increasing dramatically and I frankly think that the… faculty in the education schools throughout the country actually got extremely scared by this,” he continued, “because it contradicted everything that they’ve been telling us for the past hundred years about how education works and what one can expect and how one should train teachers.”
Milgram asserted that a strong education in mathematics is essential for success.
“If you don’t have a strong background in mathematics then your most likely career path is into places like McDonald’s,” he said. “In today’s world… the most critical component of opening doors for students is without any question some expertise in mathematics.”
Milgram explained that in the high-achieving countries, where about a third of the population of the world outside the United States is located, about 90 percent of citizens have a high school degree for which the requirements include at least one course in calculus.
“That’s what they [sic] know,” he said. “If we’re lucky, we [sic] know Algebra II. With Algebra II as background, only one in 50 people will ever get a college degree in STEM.”
Milgram warned that with the Common Core standards, unless U.S. students are able to afford exclusive private high school educations that are more challenging, they will be disadvantaged.
“This shows that, from my perspective, Common Core does not come close to the rhetoric that surrounds it,” he continued. “It doesn’t even begin to approach the issues that it was supposedly designed to attack. The things it does are completely distinct from what needs to be done.”
Milgram said, in California, they were able to deal with the problem of their poor academic standards in the 1990s because the curriculum was controlled by the state and the high-tech industry in Silicon Valley threatened to move all its research and manufacturing elsewhere if the problem was not addressed.
“The curricula we were fighting then… they’re back!” he announced. “We are hearing exactly the same kind of things now with Common Core as we heard back in the ’90s!”
“How can you have mathematics problems that don’t have a single answer or correct answer – any answer is correct?” Milgram asked. “Well, of course the answer is mathematically you can’t, and all of this is just a repeat of what went on 20 years ago in California – but this time, it’s national.”
“This time I don’t see any uniform or systematic way of getting rid of it,” Milgram said. “The only way you’re going to get rid of it is state by state and parent group by parent group. And if you’re lucky, industry will join you because high tech is ever a more important part of our economy.”
The bad news, according to Milgram, is that, returning to his experience in California in the ’90s, if students had been in that system with the older, poor standards for three or four years, “the damage couldn’t be undone,” he said.
“All of this should really make you angry at the people who are responsible,” Milgram said, directing himself squarely to the parents listening to him. “And the people who are responsible – I’m going to be blunt about it – are the people in the education schools – they’re the ones who had the ultimate say about all of this and they’re the ones whose beliefs are driving it.”
Milgram explained that a uniform perspective exists on issues in education and what is important to achieve among a vast majority of the faculty in schools of education. Because of this, he said, the same types of standards always come back.
“You must go after the schools of education and the faculty of these schools,” Milgram urged.
Asked about the fact that many industrial giants and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce actually support the Common Core standards, Milgram responded that in the ’90s, research centers in this country were still very much needed. Now, however, he noted that most of the research in top-level firms has moved out of the U.S. IBM’s main research center, he observed, is in India, and other companies have moved their research centers to Russia, Korea, and China.
“Even Microsoft has moved its software development to Beijing,” Milgram noted. The founder of Microsoft, Bill Gates, is the primary source of private funding of the Common Core standards.
“Production and manufacturing has also moved out of this country,” Milgram added. “The longer this continues, the more we’ll see our major industry move over to other countries and the jobs they generate will go with them.”
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