Thursday, March 12, 2015

Common Core "Fact, Opinion, Judgment" Horrors

This essay mentions Common Core, but that doesn't mean that the rot isn't in other curricular choices.

What it is, however, is rot, and it's spreading.

...When I went to visit my son’s second grade open house, I found a troubling pair of signs hanging over the bulletin board. They read:

Fact: Something that is true about a subject and can be tested or proven.

Opinion: What someone thinks, feels, or believes.

Hoping that this set of definitions was a one-off mistake, I went home and Googled “fact vs. opinion.” The definitions I found online were substantially the same as the one in my son’s classroom. As it turns out, the Common Core standards used by a majority of K-12 programs in the country require that students be able to “distinguish among fact, opinion, and reasoned judgment in a text.” And the Common Core institute provides a helpful page full of links to definitions, lesson plans and quizzes to ensure that students can tell the difference between facts and opinions....


...So what’s wrong with this distinction and how does it undermine the view that there are objective moral facts?

First, the definition of a fact waffles between truth and proof — two obviously different features....It’s a mistake to confuse truth (a feature of the world) with proof (a feature of our mental lives). Furthermore, if proof is required for facts, then facts become person-relative. Something might be a fact for me if I can prove it but not a fact for you if you can’t....second, and worse, students are taught that claims are either facts or opinions. They are given quizzes in which they must sort claims into one camp or the other but not both. But if a fact is something that is true and an opinion is something that is believed, then many claims will obviously be both....

This is where it gets interesting.  That 'true for you/not for me' leitmotif is transferred to moral decisionmaking (!??!)

...Kids are asked to sort facts from opinions and, without fail, every value claim is labeled as an opinion. Here’s a little test devised from questions available on fact vs. opinion worksheets online: are the following facts or opinions?

— Copying homework assignments is wrong.
— Cursing in school is inappropriate behavior.
— All men are created equal.
— It is worth sacrificing some personal liberties to protect our country from terrorism....

 ... In each case, the worksheets categorize these claims as opinions. The explanation on offer is that each of these claims is a value claim and value claims are not facts. This is repeated ad nauseum: any claim with good, right, wrong, etc. is not a fact.

In summary, our public schools teach students that all claims are either facts or opinions and that all value and moral claims fall into the latter camp. The punchline: there are no moral facts. And if there are no moral facts, then there are no moral truths....

So that kid you're sending to the very best, finest, most up-to-date screwel, will hold the proposition "It is wrong to kill Mommy when she gets old and drools and talks silly" as a mere opinion, not a truth.

Well, then, you may get exactly what you deserve, I suppose.

HT:  The Catholic Thing

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am a teacher and I am struggling with the same dilemma. Today's question in 4th grade: Fact or Opinion: Aliens built the pyramids.
I felt that it was statement presented as fact that could be ARGUED. Your opinion would be whether or not you believed it to be true or false or unknown based on evidence presented in the argument. Do most 4th graders possess the analytical skills to look at the evidence for aliens building pyramids in the age of Google and verify this as true?
Then I thought about people who are fact checkers for various claims. If a statement is found to be false, do we call that an opinion or just a false statement or false fact? If I make the statement it is raining outside and it is not, does that make my statement an opinion or a false statement?
I was quickly feeling fact and opinion are not as straight forward as we are presenting them to young children. If we are trying to simplify it so younger children can begin to have a rudimentary understanding then I think we should present them with statements of empirical facts that would be easily identified by children of their age or self-reported statements of feelings.
In my search for the "facts" on how I was supposed to teach what I felt was more complicated than the simplified dichotomy we were given, I ran across some interesting articles. This article was helpful.
I would be interested to know what you think as I felt my colleagues think I'm over thinking. This isn't the first fact/opinion debate we've had this year.