Warm Southern Breeze

"… there is no such thing as nothing."

Alabama Common Core Math

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Thursday, May 29, 2014

According to Dr. Tommy Bice, Alabama State Superintendent of Education, high schools in the state have achieved an 80% graduation rate. While that sounds impressive, there is an underlying problem, which is this:

How do we know that the children being graduated are competent?

Competency is exemplified as being able to do something successfully. So if merely graduating high school was sufficient demonstration of competence, everyone with a high school diploma would be competent. But sadly, we know that is NOT the case. For example, one need only look to private high schools to so illustrate. Very few private high schools have any such problems. And, it is not to say that all public schools suffer problems. And yet, it is evidence as well that many courses taught in 1960, or even 1860 at the “high school” level are more advanced than those taught today.

For example, consider the following courses of study were required for a diploma of graduation from Middletown City High School, Connecticut in 1848:

Courses of Study Leading to a Diploma from Middletown City High School (1848)

Together with at least four of the following optional studies:

FEMALE DEPT.: Reading Ancient & Modern History
Writing Natural Philosophy
Spelling Composition
Definitions Arithmetic
Geography Grammar
Algebra Physiology
Geometry Rhetoric
Astronomy Mental Philosophy
Botany Drawing
MALE DEPT.: Reading Grammar
Writing Ancient & Modern History
Spelling Natural Philosophy
Definitions Composition
Arithmetic Declamation (speech recited from memory)
Geography Book Keeping

Together with at least four of the following optional studies:

Geometry Latin Mental Philosophy Atronomy Surveying
Chemistry Drawing Algebra Physiology Rhetoric


By 1917, the following courses were in place.

Subjects Offered in the Three Study Programs at West Haven High School (1917)

General Study College Preparatory Scientific

1st Year

English English English
Latin* Latin Latin
Algebra Algebra Algebra
Ancient History* Ancient History Ancient History

Physical Geography*

2nd Year

English English English
Caesar or German* Caesar Caesar or German 1
Geometry Geometry Geometry
Medieval & Modern German 1 Algebra


Botany & Zoology* Algebra Botany & Zoology

Junior Year

English English English
Cicero or German 2* Cicero Cicero or German 2
French 1 or German 1* German 2 French 1 or German 1
English History* Advanced Algebra & Advanced Algebra &
Physics Geometry Geometry
French 1 English History

Senior Year

English English English
Virgil* Virgil French 2, German 2, or
German 3
French 2 or German 3 Solid Geometry &
German 3* Trigonometry
Book-Keeping* French 2 Chemistry

U.S. History & Civics*


*indicates an elective

Suffice it to say, today’s high school curricula bears  little resemblance with the requirements as seen above.

Presently, I would dare say that many – if not most – graduates of Alabama‘s High Schools cannot perform at freshman college level, or at novice apprentice level for any craft or trade. As evidence, examine that many high school graduates entering college, university or trade school must enroll in REMEDIAL courses, whether English or Math. The very fact that they must do that is an admission of FAILURE. They have literally been “pushed on up the ladder” without possessing the strength to climb independently.

Adhering to a unified standard for Science, Math, English and Technology would STOP ALL of that – period.

However, there are some whom oppose the idea of a uniform standard to which students should demonstrate mastery. Some call it “communism,” while others decry it claiming that their rights are being tampled upon, or that somehow, their children will be indoctrinated by evil or nefarious villains. (Most teachers reside in the same community as their students, and are known to the parents. So how that could possibly be villainous, I neither know, nor understand.)


Some Alabama schools – but not all – are in dire need of help. Others, simply need a little dusting. While yet others are shining star examples of excellence. How can we help those schools which need it? And why should we not adhere to uniform standards throughout our state and nation?

The military adheres to standards, and by law, every recruit endures 12 weeks of Basic Combat Training, in which they learn the fundamentals of military law, military doctrine, are made adherents through discipline to order and conformity. In 12 weeks, every puking civilian whom arrives – male or female, no matter their background – becomes a soldier, sailor, airman or marine, each one ready for the advancement to their next duty station where they then begin to learn the rigors of their specific jobs. Such a marvel is accomplished by the rigors of discipline, and it is the hallmark of our American Military system.

Is there any reason why our schools should not so adhere to a common measure, a standard of discipline and rudimentary tasks over which every capable student should demonstrate mastery?

Consider the Japanese educational system. Japan’s educational system is a marvel in the world, and their high school graduates excel, so much so that their accomplishments shame American efforts. How did that come to be?

In the post-World War II era, occupying American forces realized that the defeated Japanese nation needed to be redesigned and rebuilt. To do so was, and is, a humanitarian effort, and it will always be the right thing to do. Part of that rebuilding required education of children.

In 1947, under the direction of the occupation forces, the Fundamental Law of Education and the School Education Law were enacted. It defined the Japanese school system which is still in effect today, and requires six years of elementary school, three years of junior high school, three years of high school, two or four years of university. The implementation of that law was in large part responsible for the rapid advancement of Japan as an industrial giant in the post-WWII era. Part of the irony is that the education system was rebuilt after the American model.

Also, under the Japanese model the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology centralizes education, and regulates almost every aspect of the education process. The School Education Law requires schools throughout the nation to use textbooks which adhere to the curriculum guideline established by the ministry, although with some exceptions. That model stands in stark contrast to the American model, where state and local governments make many decisions, though based upon some standards typically established by the state.

Comparatively, Japan ranks 4th internationally of the top 18 high-performing nations, while the United States ranks 11th – behind the Czech Republic, Russia, and Slovenia respectively. Singapore, Taiwan and South Korea round out the top three.

As well, all school children are taught English, in addition to Japanese, throughout their entire education. Most children graduating in America are doing well to possess a basic level of English, much less considering any foreign language. And that is a further point of shame, as well.

Can Your Child Solve This?

One of the Common Core Math Standards for 4th grade includes this simple task:
“Apply the area and perimeter formulas for rectangles in real world and mathematical problems. For example, find the width of a rectangular room given the area of the flooring and the length, by viewing the area formula as a multiplication equation with an unknown factor.”

Now, as a rhetorical question, I ask you… could your 4th grader do that? If not, your child has been failed forward.

Following is a very practical matter, which could be encountered by any job-ready high school graduate.

How many Alabama High School graduates who have graduated this year (2014), or even in the last FOUR years could solve this?

You have an equilateral-shaped  150 foot antenna tower which you want to erect, and support with three guy wires on all three equidistant points of the tower, at the three upper nodes on the tower, but not at the base.

The three guy wires need to be grounded at least half the height of the tower distance away from the base of the tower.

How much wire do you need?
Where will it go?

Solve for each part, identify each part, and show your work.

This problem is very easily solved with simple geometry.


The hypotenuse of a right triangle is the longest line from the top of the triangle to the furthest point from where the vertical leg meets the horizontal leg.

Tower Height = 150
Three Equal Points = 150, 100, 50

Half Height = 75
Distance from Tower Base = 75

∆ <— Equilateral Triangle

The guy wire needs to be attached to the ground a distance of 75 feet away from the bottom of the tower.

| \
|  \
|    \
|     \
|\    \
|  \    \
| <-\–\-Antenna (height, in this example it is ‘x’)
|       \  \
| \      \  \
|    \      \\
|      \<–\Guy Wire (hypotenuse, is always ‘h’)
|         \   \\
|           \ \\
|___    _ \\\Ground (base, in this example it is ‘y’)___


Using the formula h = \sqrt { x^2 + y^2 } we can find part of our answers.

h = hypotenuse

Because there are THREE hypotenuses – at the TOP of the tower (150 feet), then at 100 feet, and finally at 50 feet, we will need to solve for THREE hypotenuses.

We will let x equal the vertical height, and y equal the base.

x = 150
x= 100
x= 50

y = 75

Filling in the blanks, the formulae will look like this:
√150² + 75²
√100² + 75²
√50² + 75²

#1 – Top wire) x² = 150² = 150 x 150 = 22,500
#2 – Middle wire) x² = 100² = 100 x 100 = 10,000
#3 – Bottom wire) x² = 50² = 50 x 50 = 2,500

y² = 75² = 75 x 75 = 5625

#1 – Top wire) 22,500 + 5625 = 28,125
#2 – Middle wire) 10,000 + 5625 = 15,625
#3 – Bottom wire) 2500 + 5625 = 8125

Next, find the square roots.

#1 – Top wire) √28,125 = 167.7050983124842
#2 – Middle wire) √15,625 = 125
#3 – Bottom wire)√8125 = 90.13878188659973

To check the work, use the Pythagorean Theorem, which says that a² + b² = c².
Then, where a is the base leg (a² = 75² = 5625), and where b is the vertical leg (b² = 150² = 22,500), then 5625 + 22,500 = 28,125.
The square root of 28,125 is 167.7050983124842, so the work checks out correctly.

Next, add #s 1,2 & 3.
167.7050983124842 + 125 + 90.13878188659973 = 382.84388019908393

Finally, multiply that answer by 3, since you’ll need three pieces for three sides.

382.84388019908393 x 3 = 1148.53164059725179

Answer: You will need 1148.53 feet.
Rounding up, you’ll need 1150 feet of guy wire.

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