“It feels like a dark time,” wrote the comedian Louis C.K. in a tweet last April. “I’m pissed,” he wrote in another, a few minutes later. C.K. was, indeed, very, very angry. And this time, it wasn’t his own “yucky” existence that was making him fume. Rather, it was a different kind of “massive stressball” irking him: the Common Core State Standards.
In his now-famous rant, the middle-aged father of two lamented the controversial academic benchmarks and the accompanying onslaught of rigorous testing in New York City’s public schools, where his daughters were enrolled. Specifically, C.K. was exasperated by the Common Core’s overhaul of math—a subject his kids, he noted, once loved. “Now it makes them cry,” he tweeted, posting pictures of his then-third-grade daughter’s apparently mind-boggling homework. “Thanks standardized testing and common core!”
Yes, the cynical, self-loathing comedian was stumped by the Common Core. And if the flurry of responses commiserating with C.K. is any indication, so are thousands, if not millions, of other child-rearing adults across the United States. As The Washington Post noted last year, parents are finding themselves “flustered” by their inability to comprehend their kids’ homework. The Common Core standards stress “the application of knowledge through higher-order thinking skills” in math and reading and, although they technically don’t prescribe curriculum, they have incentivized schools to adopt new materials and instructional tactics designed to be more in sync with the new standards. That’s why “old-fashioned” arithmetic methods such as the carry-and-borrow technique are being phased out. That’s also why, in large part, the country has seen an outbreak of desperate Facebook pleas, indignant op-eds, talk-show commentary, and mass testing boycotts from parents seeking nothing short of a Common Core apocalypse.