The Second Shift by Arlie Hochschild

419CK8RJPZL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ The Second Shift: Working Families and the Revolution at Home

by Arlie Hochschild

I read this book at the urging of my oldest son, a college freshman, who read it for his current favorite class in gender studies.  I believe his urging came on a morning that my husband and I were having it out over, stripped down, housework, childcare, and appreciation.  I’ve had a lot of thoughts stewing about that since I read the book, which I will hopefully find some time to write about on my other blog before too long.

As for The Second Shift, it was a groundbreaking book originally published in 1988, while the influx of women into jobs and careers previously held almost exclusively by men was still, if not in its infancy, in its adolescence.  Dual income families were becoming more and more the norm, and Arlie Hochschild, a sociology professor at Berkeley, wanted to understand the impact this seismic shift was having on marriages and families.  So she spend several years repeatedly interviewing more than fifty couples, often just spending time in their homes observing, like a fly on the wall (or as she says, “like the family dog”).  The Second Shift highlights just a fraction of those couples, who represent a good cross-section of all of the couples Hochschild spent time with.

What Hochschild found – and this will surely come as no surprise – is that even when both the husband and the wife work at jobs outside the home (or in the case of a daycare worker who earns money by working at home), even when they both work roughly the same number of hours each week, and even when (though at the time the book was written this was more rare than it is now) they earn roughly the same amount of money or the wife outearns the husband, the bulk of housekeeping and childcare still falls squarely on the shoulders of wives.  Hochschild estimated that wives generally work what adds up to an entire month more of “work” per year than men when we look at household and child rearing tasks and responsibilities.

There is a strange dance that goes on between working husbands and wives (and I would posit, just as much between many one-income couples, as well).  We go into marriage with certain ideals about equity and sharing of responsibilities, and those ideals often erode or evaporate in the face of reality.  What often results is a constant tug-of-war, with each partner trying to stand their ground, or a sort of delusional rationalization of the situation sets in when (usually the wife) resigns herself to the fact that the sharing will never be equitable.  In either case, resentment builds, on the part of the wife who feels that she is not getting the “partnership” she bargained for, and on the part of the husband who doesn’t want to be nagged.

Of course there are exceptions – there are couples who DO share the household and child rearing responsibilities equitably, but even almost thirty years after The Second Shift was published, those partnerships are still the exception and not the rule.

Hochschild, through her extensive research into these issues, has determined that the underlying reason for the inequity and imbalance not only in responsibilities, but also power, between dual income couples is what she refers to as a “stalled revolution,” explained this way: there has been a revolution for women in that we have entered the workforce in droves; however the revolution has “stalled” because (a) men, as a whole, have changed a lot more slowly than women have, and (b) the workplace itself has also not changed; it is still mainly suited to men who have wives at home to take care of all of their household and childcare responsibilities.  In other words, the workplace is still not family friendly.  And everyone pays the price for this: women, men, children, and marriages and families as a whole.

Rather than being a feminist rant, I found this book to be sensitive, engaging, and really pretty fascinating.  The ideas set forth are a lot more complex than what I’ve described here.

So much of it rang true for me personally.  Even though I am a stay-at-home-mother, the imbalance exists in my house and is a bone of contention, and I know that’s true for most of my friends who are stay-at-home-mothers, too.  Hochschild briefly touches on that point – that the “job” of mothering and caring for a household has become extremely devalued – but it’s a point I want to get into further and hope to write about separately.  In any case, the focus of The Second Shift is families in which both the husband and the wife have outside paid jobs, so the imbalance between couples in one-income families falls somewhat outside of that.

Very good book; would make for excellent book club discussion.


To Be a Slave by Julius Lester

51C1asDyjoL To Be a Slave

by Julius Lester

I was led to this book as I searched for a book to possibly read with my daughters, whom I homeschool, as part of our exploration of U.S. History.  I’ve been reading A Young People’s History of the United States by Howard Zimmerman with them (an excellent book), and detouring to other books when we want to delve more deeply into certain aspects of the history we’re reading about.  Slavery in America is one of those aspects.  I want to somehow convey to my kids the depth of horror of slavery, and to really try to imagine what it must have been like to be owned as a piece of property, like a table or a dog or an iPad, by another human being, to have no rights, and to spend one’s entire life doing the bidding of another person or people.  It’s hard even for me to imagine, obviously, being a white woman.

In any case, my query online for books for youth regarding slavery led me to Julius Lester’s To Be a Slave, which was originally published in 1968.  It opens thus:

“It was the late forties.  I was not yet ten years old.  One day there came in the mail a letter addressed to my father in which a company promised – in big and bold letters – to research the Lester family tree and send us a copy of our family coat of arms.  I was excited, but when I saw my father fold the letter as if to discard it, I asked anxiously, ‘Don’t you want to know our family history?’

“He laughed dryly.  ‘I don’t need to pay anybody to tell me about where we came from.  Our family tree ends in a bill of sale.  Lester is the name of the family that owned us.'”

I was chilled by this stark, but obvious information.  I had never thought about it before – but of course nearly every black American’s family tree would end in a bill of sale.

Many years later, Lester began delving into black history, and he came upon a book by B.A. Botkin called Lay My Burden Down, which was a compilation of interviews with the last living former slaves undertaken by the Federal Writer’s Project of the Depression.  The book angered Lester, who says, “The slaves depicted there were too reminiscent of the stereotyped blacks of the movies of the forties and fifties – happy, laughing, filled with love for while people.”  Believing that the interviews with former slaves were cherry-picked in order to produce a record of slavery that (white) people could feel good about, Lester went to the Library of Congress and spend weeks pouring through all of the interviews undertaken by the Federal Writer’s Project himself, gleaning from them exactly what he had gone there to find: true, emotional, harrowing, courageous, horrifying, heart wrenching firsthand accounts of slavery from those who were slaves themselves and lived to tell about it.  To Be a Slave is Lester’s compilation of those interviews, along with his notes.

I’ve read numerous books about slavery, both fiction and non-fiction, and this book has touched a deeper never probably than any other I’ve read, mainly for its raw and unvarnished truthfulness.  It’s actually aimed at young people – probably no younger than middle school, but something adults would benefit from reading, too.  This should be required reading; highly recommend.

The Unschooling Handbook by Mary Griffith

247698 The Unschooling Handbook : How to Use the Whole World As Your Child’s Classroom

by Mary Griffith

As a parent who has been homeschooling for a little more than a year and has found herself unsettled on what path to take, I’ve become more and more curious about unschooling.  I bought this book hoping to get a better understanding of what “unschooling” means, how it’s generally done, and if it might be something I could see doing with my own kids.

Contrary to what probably a lot of people think (and what I thought before I set out to learn what unschooling actually is), unschooling does not mean to neglect one’s children’s education.  I suppose it could legitimately be called anti-schooling, in that the approach flies in the face of pretty much everything most of us have been conditioned to believe about how children should be educated, and it’s definitely antithetical to everything about conventional school.  The core belief that is the foundation of unschooling is that learning comes naturally and need not be forced; that given time, opportunity, and exposure, kids will learn what they need to learn in order to live fulfilling and productive adult lives.

The Unschooling Handbook is a good, solid intro to unschooling.  It’s chock full of anecdotes by both unschooling parents and unschooled kids of all ages.  There is lots of information on how an unschooling family might go about learning different subjects, what unschoolers generally worry about (math!), and how unschooled kids generally fare when it comes to college and careers (excellent!).  The book presents honest information about the ups and downs of homeschooling in general, and unschooling in particular.

Having read it, I feel a little more comfortable dipping our toes into this unconventional educational path.  How far we end up wading in remains to be seen, but I feel good about having read this book.

Highly recommend to anyone interested in alternatives to conventional education for their kids.

Free to Learn by Peter Gray

Unknown Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life

by Peter Gray

I’m still digesting this book, and plan to write on my other blog about how it’s affected my views about schooling, and how it’s impacting my thoughts on how to move forward in my own homeschooling endeavors, but for now I’m going to try to share some general thoughts about the book and its premises.

Free to Learn was recommended to me by a friend when I put out a request on Facebook for suggestions of books about unschooling.  I immediately ordered it from Amazon and spent the next week devouring it, highlighter in hand.

In a nutshell, the basic message of Free to Learn is that kids learn best by being left alone by adults.  That is not to say that children should not be cared for, nurtured, and provided for by adults, but we, as a society, have gotten to a point of believing that adults must direct every aspect of our children’s lives, including their learning.  For some reason we went from trusting children and believing them to be competent and having faith that their natural curiosity would serve as a strong enough drive to lead them down the paths of learning what they need to know, to believing that children are inept blobs of clay who must be molded into desirable shapes, and who can’t or won’t accomplish anything of use without supervision, direction and coercion by adults.

You really can’t help but see that this is the model of conventional schools.

The whole idea of compulsory schooling, with its compulsory subjects that must be learned in prescribed ways at prescribed ages (prescribed by anonymous adults who are far, far removed from classrooms), with its grouping children together by age rather than by interest or desire to be grouped together, with its never-ending ranking, grading, comparing, testing, rewarding, and doling out of consequences, with its adherence to conformity – all of these things that characterize pretty much every neighborhood public school fly in the face of how children actually learn best.  By sucking all the joy out of learning for learning’s sake and instead making learning a means to an end (a good grade, a gold star, an award, something to put on a college application), we are failing our children.  Rates of depression, anxiety, and cheating in school have skyrocketed, and we’re raising kids who increasingly don’t have any idea how to run their own lives and make their own decisions, let alone take responsibility for the direction their lives may take, face adversity, and learn and grow from their mistakes.

The key to real learning, posits Peter Gray, is a childhood full of free play, and a democratic model of education.  What this translates to is that children should be given as much freedom as is safe and reasonable (and those are subjective, and therefore raise plenty of questions about what is safe and reasonable) to direct their own learning, to interact and form friendships with people outside of their own age groups, to explore, experiment, and just play – and adults need to back off and trust that the kids will be alright if we stop managing their every waking moment.

So much of this struck a deep chord in me.  I absolutely see the truth of all of it.  The problem is making the leap to applying these principles in real life when you’ve become so entrenched in the “conventional” way of doing things.  While I absolutely see the wisdom and truth of what Gray sets forth, I’m having a very, very difficult time actually thinking about what it would be like to let go and give my kids the reins.

Two criticisms I have: on some level, this book feels like a giant advertisement for the Sudbury Valley School and its offshoots.  Sudbury schools are democratic schools in which the students direct and take complete responsibility for their own education.  I can’t imagine that it’s not wonderful, and that it doesn’t instill in kids a myriad of things that conventional schools can’t or won’t.  My problem with the endorsement, though, lies in the fact that Sudbury schools are private, tuition-based schools, and although they are apparently less expensive than a lot of conventional private schools, they’re still not cheap, and many, many families – especially those with multiple kids – just cannot afford to pay tuition to send their kids to school.  Further, relatively speaking, there aren’t a whole lot of these schools.  The numbers are growing, but it’s not like you can find one in every neighborhood, so most families will have to commute at least some distance, and this isn’t practical or even feasible for a lot of families.

The other thing is that I wish this book, and other books that discuss alternative educational paths for children, talked about how these methods might apply to a-typical kids (i.e., kids with disabilities).  I feel like just about every book or article out there that discusses all the wonderful ways in which children can be educated and reared outside of conventional standards are really talking about “typical” kids.  How do kids with intellectual disabilities fit into all of this?  Nobody really seems to want to delve into that in any depth, and that’s a disappointment.

In any case, I think this book is a must read for anyone who has kids or plans to have kids.  Seriously, a must read.

The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander

home_book_cvrThe New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

by Michelle Alexander

All these years later, it is very difficult to imagine people actually owning other people – human beings being the property of other human beings.  Slavery as the institution it was in America’s history has an abstract feel to it now; we of course read about it, and see movies depicting it, and talk about it, but there is a great feeling of removal from it.  That was a very long time ago, we all think.

The Jim Crow laws of the south, too, are a part of American history that we read about and talk about in the past tense.  We like to see ourselves as a progressive, compassionate people.  And sadly, we’re kind of smug about it.

Slavery ended a long time ago.  Segregation and Jim Crow also ended a long time ago.  Therefore, we are a good society.  We put an end to the egregious mass mistreatment of an entire category of people based merely on the color of their skin.  So, we are good.  We’re certainly not racist.  Racist means blatant hostility towards non-whites.  Racist means saying the N-word.  Racist means discriminating against people of color just because they’re not white.  Right?  And we don’t do those things, so we’re not racist.

Except, not.

Because, as a society, we continue to exclude and mistreat people of color.  We continue to see them (as opposed to us) as less than.  We’re just a lot more subtle about it now.  And largely not even aware of it.  And we rationalize and justify our prejudices by telling ourselves and each other that they bring their troubles on themselves.  They deserve what they get.  Because they’re not like us – law-abiding, upwardly mobile, educated, white.

The problem with this thinking is that white people are no more law-abiding than black people, and the data bears this out.  The data also bears out that black and brown people are targeted by law enforcement far more than white people are – and it’s all under the banner of The War on Drugs.

In The New Jim Crow, Alexander carefully explains how the mass incarceration of blacks – mainly young black males – under War on Drugs really has very little to do with drugs or crime, but has almost everything to do with race and making sure that non-whites – mainly blacks and Latinos – remain largely locked out of mainstream society.  Want to talk about high crime rates in urban black communities, or unemployment among blacks, or lack of education and skills?  Then it’s time to be honest with ourselves and each other and acknowledge that hundreds of years ago white people constructed a system that would severely restrict the ability of blacks to climb to success and belonging in society, and white people continue to maintain that system – just in a different form – today.

A very provocative and important piece of work, I went through The New Jim Crow wielding my highlighter and feeling appalled.  My only criticism of this book is that I wish it were written less dryly – it would be more engaging if it read less like a textbook.  Still, every American should read this.

Why There Is No God by Armin Navabi

whythereisnogod Why There Is No God: Simple Responses to 20 Common Arguments for the Existence of God

by Armin Navabi

This short book (it can easily be read in a day) takes twenty of the most common arguments believers make for the existence of God and deconstructs each one in a concise, matter-of-fact way – without condescension or snarkiness.

The author, a former Muslim who attempted suicide as an adolescent in order to guarantee his place in Heaven in accordance with the religion into which he was indoctrinated, and the founder of Atheist Republic, a growing online community of non-believers, explains in the introduction that this book is for non-believers and believers alike: for non-believers, it provides a concise framework with which to work when confronted with the most common arguments made by the believers in their lives (most of which non-believers already understand but may not have been able to articulate); and for believers who are interested, insight into where, exactly, the non-believers in their lives are coming from.  Why don’t they believe?  This is why.

I really loved this book, and wish all of my friends, believers and non-believers alike, would read it.  Also, as a self-published book, I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the writing and the editing; there are a handful of minor typos, but overall it’s extremely well written and well presented.  Highly recommend.

This Is How by Augusten Burroughs

517lI+kX1eL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ This Is How: Surviving What You Think You Can’t

by Augusten Burroughs

I don’t even know where to start.  I loved this book so much, it’s left me grasping for the words to explain how much I loved it.

First of all, I love Augusten Burroughs.  Ever since I read Running with Scissors many years ago, I’ve loved him.  I quickly followed Running With Scissors with Dry and Magical Thinking and came to love him even more.  He is the very first author I ever wrote a fan letter to (and he responded).  There’s just something about the things he writes about and how he writes – dysfunctional, funny, ironic, devastating, and brutally real and honest.

This Is How is no exception, although it’s not really at all what I expected.  I’m not sure what I expected.  I’m not a fan of self-help books, but coming from Augusten Burroughs I knew this wasn’t going to be your garden-variety self-help book.  I didn’t even buy it looking for help or answers or solutions to anything at all – I just wanted to read another book written by him.

As it turns out, This Is How kind of got under my skin and shook me up, but good.  It is truly a no-holds-barred manual on how to live.  I know that sounds corny, but there it is.  And who the hell is Augusten Burroughs to write a book on how to live?

“I am a complete and total fuckup.  Which is exactly why I am equipped to write this book and tell you how to live.”

With chapters like “How to Feel Sorry For Yourself,” “How to Fail,” “How to End Your Life,” “Why Having it All is Not,” “How to Finish Your Drink,” and “How to Lose Someone You Love,” to name only a few, Burroughs talks about depression, low self-esteem, anger, suicide, alcoholism, abuse, getting over the past, and a myriad of other life topics that, really, touch every single one of us.  At its core, it’s about going on when you think you can’t, and it’s about stripping everything down to its essential truth – in other words, stop bullshitting yourself.

I laughed, I cried, and shook my fists, and I devoured this book, highlighter in hand, in three days.  I finished it feeling changed on some level.  I want everyone I care about to read this.  I am giving a copy to my 18-year old son.

Read it.  Seriously, read it.

Waking Up White by Debby Irving

WUWcoverFINAL-200x300 Waking Up White, and Finding Myself in the Story of Race
by Debby Irving

I was intrigued by the synopsis of this non-fiction book and jumped at the chance to review it for TLC Book Tours.

In recent years, I’ve found myself becoming ever more conscious of classism and the accompanying attitudes of condescension towards those not belonging to the “desirable” class.  It all hits me in a somewhat raw place because although in my adulthood I’ve joined the ranks of the upper-middle class, I always feel like something of an outsider because my roots and background are decidedly lower-middle class, and I’m very conscious of the great degree to which the class ranking most of us end up with has to do with advantages and disadvantages we are born into rather than “earn.”

“I’ve often heard people debate the entangled relationship between race and class.  ‘Which one is the real issue?’ people ask.  ‘Is it race or is it class?’  I’ve wondered myself how my socioeconomic advantage versus my skin color advantage shaped my life and skewed my worldview.  I’ve come to believe it’s not an either/or issue.  Both are real, and both matter.  Trying to determine which one is the ‘real’ issue does a disservice to both.  Concluding class is the real issue would give me permission to avoid thinking about race.  Similarly, assuming race is the more significant issue overlooks the complications faced by white people caught in a vicious cycle of poverty.  Both can trap people in a kind of second-class citizenship.  If you can’t get the education you need to get a job to pay for healthy food, medical care, transportation, and a home in a neighborhood with good schools, then you can’t educate your children in a school that will prepare them for a job that will . . . and so on.  Any cycle that traps someone in a state of perpetual disadvantage is the real issue for the person experiencing it.

“And yet, class and race are inextricably linked.  Because class has long been easier for me to understand than race, this book focuses on the more elusive role skin color has played in my life.  In grappling with whiteness, I’ve tried as much as possible to tease out and examine the race factor.”

In Waking Up White, Debby Irving recounts her odyssey to delve into issues of race that over the course of her life impacted relationships and her worldview in ways that she wasn’t able to understand until she began to actively learn about race – including whiteness.  Having grown up in an affluent world populated almost entirely by white people, Irving grew up with the belief, like many people, that success in life depends solely on one’s own merit and determination, and the opportunities available in America are available to everyone.  One of her first wake up calls was when she discovered that her father, who had fought in WWII, was able to buy his first home and attend law school courtesy of the GI Bill, but that the vast majority of black men who fought in WWII were denied the benefits of the GI Bill, and that in the post WWII era as housing developments exploded across the nation, neighborhoods were “redlined,” preventing people of color from moving into white neighborhoods, thereby virtually guaranteeing a cycle of more affluent neighborhoods being populated by whites and poorer neighborhoods by blacks, Hispanics, and other non-white minorities.  Although the practice of “redlining” may no longer exist, the cycle certainly still continues today, with the vast majority of middle-class, upper-middle class, and affluent neighborhoods across the country being populated mostly by whites, and lower-middle class and poor neighborhoods by non-white minorities.  And then we have the audacity to make moral judgments about the people who populate each type of neighborhood.

“White has long stood for normal and better, while black and brown have been considered different and inferior.  Social value isn’t just a matter of feeling as if one belongs or doesn’t; it affects one’s access to housing, education, and jobs, the building blocks necessary to access the great American promise – class mobility.”

Irvine acknowledges that for the longest time, she believed as many of us do – that “racism” means being openly intolerant or hostile concerning those of different races.  Most of us do not believe ourselves to be racist and would be indignant at the suggestion that we might be, but the truth is that whether we buy into and/or perpetuate stereotypes, or hold some nebulous belief that “they” would be better off if they could just be more like “us,” most of us are racist in one way or another, to varying degrees.  Perhaps the most insidious form of racism is failing to recognize and acknowledge white privilege.

“My ancestors did sacrifice and work hard, and I am a diligent worker.  But no longer could I deny that my life has been borne on the wings of whiteness.  I’ve had an unfair advantage since before I was born.  Just as time has compounded disadvantages for people living on the downside of systemic racism, it has compounded the advantages I and other white people enjoy.  My life is built on family members able to get citizenship status without a fight, land grants for free, GI Bill benefits, low-rate loans, good education, and solid health care.  Each generation has set up the starting point for the next, perpetuating the illusion that white people are more successful, not beneficiaries of an inequitable system.”

“Discrimination and privilege are the flip sides of the same coin.  What must make it so infuriating for people of color is the double whammy that white folks, unaware of their skin color advantage, pose: To really get racism, a white person must get both pieces.  It’s not enough to feel empathy towards people on the downside; white people must also see themselves on the upside to understand that discrimination results from privilege.  You can’t have one without the other .  Like a seesaw, the upside and downside are joined together.”

There are really so many quotes I could pull from this book; I was dog-earing pages and highlighting passages from beginning to end.  Extremely well-written, thought-provoking, and eye-opening, I want all of my white friends to read it.  I want my kids to read it at some point.  I think it’s a book that needs to be read, and a conversation that needs to be had, by every American.

To read more about Debby Irving and race, check out her website:



Who’s the Slow Learner? A Chronicle of Inclusion and Exclusion by Sandra Assimotos McElwee

Unknown Who’s the Slow Learner? A Chronicle of Inclusion and Exclusion
by Sandra Assimotos McElwee

Unlike the countless other memoirs written and published about raising a child with Down syndrome – woman gives birth; woman learns baby has Down syndrome; woman weeps, rails, and wrings hands; woman discovers acceptance and joy in having a child with Down syndrome (I’m not poking fun – this is very much my own story) – Who’s the Slow Learner is a chronicle of the author’s son’s schooling from preschool through high school graduation.  This is a sorely needed book in the landscape of disability and education.

Sandra McElwee recounts her determination to see her son Sean, an only child, fully included in general education classrooms.  A tenacious advocate, McElwee found what a lot of us parents are finding: that inclusion is much easier to accomplish in elementary school than it is in junior high and high school.  From kindergarten through sixth grade, Sean was accepted in his neighborhood public school, and battles for inclusion on his behalf were minimal.  The benefits of inclusion were clear: self-esteem, peer modeling, a sense of community and belonging, and far more learning opportunities for Sean, and lessons in compassion, tolerance, and embracing diversity for the other kids and the teachers.

Once Sean entered seventh grade, however, it all changed.  He entered a hostile environment of blatant prejudice and exclusion.  It took such a toll on Sean’s behavior and self-esteem that his mother finagled for him to skip eighth grade just so he wouldn’t have to return to such an unwelcoming atmosphere for a second year.   In high school Sean slowly found his footing and flourished in making a place for himself in the social structure of high school, but acceptance by the teaching staff was still largely difficult and often hostile.

I read this book with great interest in anticipation of my own son’s IEP meeting that would determine his kindergarten placement for the upcoming school year.  We’ve already had such terrible battles with our school district concerning our son who has Down syndrome – it’s been emotionally and financially draining, to say the least.  I was especially interested because the McElwees are fairly local to me, although not in the same school district, so I thought it would give me a pretty good glimpse of what the future might hold for us regarding Finn’s schooling.

Like I said, this book is different from all the other personal stories of Down syndrome out there, and it fills a gap in the Down syndrome/disability literary landscape that has very much needed filling.


My only criticism – and it’s a big one – is that the writing is very much in need of professional editing.  This is a self-published book, and unfortunately, it shows.  There are too many inspirational quotes (and too many faith-based passages which tend to alienate readers who don’t share the same beliefs), too many typos, not enough formatting, and not enough polish.  It really needs a professional hand – especially for the price (ten bucks for Kindle and eighteen bucks for paperback).  I think this book fills such a needed space, but would have so much more impact – on parents and educators – with a major editorial overhaul.

Children of the Core by Kris Nielsen

51b3onsmfnl-_sy300_-1 Children of the Core
by Kris Nielsen

If you’re a parent of school-aged children in the U.S., you’ve probably heard of Common Core by now.  What is Common Core, and why is it so controversial?

Common Core is a set of educational standards for grades K – 12 that has thus far been adopted by forty-four U.S. states.  The Common Core Standards Initiative (CCSI) sets forth what children across America should learn at each grade level in mathematics and English/language arts, with the end goal of ensuring that every child in the country graduates from high school “college and career ready.”

It sounds really good on the surface.  But there are many problems with Common Core and the associated standardized testing, and there is a growing body of educators and parents who see Common Core as a very bad thing for kids, schools, and teachers.  There are many people who believe that anything will be better than No Child Left Behind – an initiative that has resulted in “drill and kill” teaching, teaching to the test, and students who memorize facts only to do well on the standardized tests they are pressured to perform well on because their teachers’ jobs and the future of their schools depend on their test scores.  There are others who see CCSI as NCLB on steroids.

Kris Nielsen is a former teacher whose letter of resignation to his school district went viral in 2012.  Nielsen is intimately familiar with Common Core from an educator’s perspective, and has written this book, Children of the Core, to caution parents and offer advice on how a peaceful resistance can be staged in order to prevent Common Core from taking over the U.S. education system before it’s too late.

It sounds alarmist and the stuff of conspiracy theorists, but there actually are some truths about Common Core that every parent should question and be concerned about.  Children of the Core is very eye-opening, and I’ll be using it to provide some talking points when I meet with my school district’s superintendent next week to discuss Common Core in our district.