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A Common Core protest of one

Students work on a problem together in the

Students work on a problem together in the ninth-grade integrated algebra class at Freeport High School, where the lessons are based on national Common Core standards that emphasize using math to solve to real-life problems. (March 7, 2012) Credit: Newsday / Karen Wiles Stabile

The teacher sent a midday email to me the other day. I knew when I saw her name appear in the inbox that it wouldn’t be good news.

My 10-year-old refused to do a math lesson about partial quotients because, she said, he “did not like this method.” I learned later that he was defiant in the classroom, claiming that the new Common Core Standards are “pointless.”

When he got home after school and called me at work, I asked him about what happened, telling him that it wasn’t OK to disobey the teacher.

“I thought you’d be proud of me for standing up for what I believe in,” he said over the phone.

A part of me was, but I didn’t tell him that until later and I did so in a tempered tone. I don’t think that I would have had the guts in the fifth grade to oppose anything my teacher said, let alone protest a state-imposed teaching method she is required to follow. But I had to remember the bigger lesson — and stay united with my husband, a Common Core critic himself. No matter how much more complicated these standards make simple math seem, our son has to learn it the way he is being taught it and can never, ever be disrespectful to the teacher.

It wasn’t an easy night for him, and the next day he apologized to the teacher without being given reminders before school. Part of me hopes we didn’t snuff out his impulse for having the courage to speak his mind. For now, we need good grades.

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