Breaking the Spirits of the Best and Brightest

Six-year-old Latisha studied problem number two on her math test. She closed her eyes, scratched her head and then re-read the problem. Her face grew distraught, and Mrs. Jones could see tears forming in the child’s eyes.

“Don’t worry about that one, Latisha, just bubble it and move on,” the teacher encouraged.

girl sucking her thumbBut Latisha wouldn’t continue. She stuck her thumb in her mouth and concentrated harder.

“We haven’t learned this yet, sweetie, move on to number three. I know you can get number three,” Mrs. Jones encouraged.

The teacher knew the question was impossible for Latisha, and it wasn’t because the class hadn’t learned it yet. 

Developmentally, problem two was impossible for her entire first grade class. Mrs. Jones’ mind went back thirty years to her university days where she first learned Jean Piaget’s theory on cognitive development. Children’s brains develop in stages and her class hadn’t reached the stage where they could answer these questions.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Actual 1st grade question. This was answered incorrectly.

Trying to teach her 6-year-olds how to answer a fourth of the problems on this test would be a cognitive impossibility. It would be like reasoning with a newborn that a ball you showed her still exists now that you’ve put it behind your back. For the newborn, it no longer exists. Her brain hasn’t wrapped around the concept of object permanence.

Mrs. Jones walked around the room, noticing some children haphazardly coloring in bubbles, not worrying about which answers they got right or wrong. But her brightest students were reduced to thumb-sucking and emotional upset, stuck on questions that their little minds wouldn’t be able to answer for several more years.

The teacher’s heart ached for her children. She wanted to help explain the cryptic questions, but there was an observer in the room, insuring she could do no such thing. The Common Core tests had to be administered without assistance.

Mrs. Jones encouraged Latisha one more time to continue to the next question and wondered how much longer she would remain a teacher in the school system. Between the endless regulations and documentation, militant demands by school authorities and now Common Core testing that was breaking the spirit of her students, she didn’t know if she could take it much longer.

Many have addressed concerns over Common Core, but as I sat over my Thanksgiving dinner listening to this school teacher relate her first-hand account, I nearly broke down in tears. Why?

teacherchildBecause I felt sorry for little Latisha and the other children having an upsetting moment? Yes.

Because I felt for the teacher being forced to work under conditions that broke her spirit? Yes.

Because as a child I would have been like little Latisha, and I know what it would have done to me? Yes!

More importantly, I know the damage experiences like this inflict on people long-term. I spend my days helping the best and brightest break through fears, overwhelm, self-doubts and old programming from their past – most of it caused by small traumatic moments in childhood — like little Latisha and her thumb-sucking classmates just experienced.

In moments like this, the child mind grasps to make sense of reality. She’s trying to make sense of the world, how it works and who she is in it. Most likely, Latisha and her friends are forming opinions that act like core beliefs, driving their subconscious minds for decades unless they find some way to remove or counteract them.

Inside Latisha’s mind, she’s probably thinking and feeling with great emotion:

–          I’m dumb

–          Math is hard

–          I can’t learn

–          Tests are impossible

–          I’m a failure

–          There’s no use in trying

One-time traumatic events coupled with strong emotion can seed beliefs like this into a child’s mind until they become the person’s mode of operations. Her entire life filters through those beliefs and impacts her choices and outcomes.

With Common Core, the rising generation will be repeatedly exposed to this kind of abuse throughout their school years. Whether created in ignorance of basic child development or as a malicious attack on teachers and students, the results of Common Core on children are the same – the best and brightest are being demoralized and programmed for failure at a core level.

It’s time we started speaking out. If you have a story on Common Core, either post it below in the comments or contact me personally at and I’ll share your story with the world.

This is a great explanation on Common Core and childhood brain development by psychologist, Dr. Megan Koschnick


Note: The story I related is true, the names have been changed to protect the innocent.

About Marnie Pehrson

Marnie Pehrson is a best-selling author and marketing and social media consultant specializing in digital content creation and Facebook Ad Management. Get a FREE 20-minute strategy session with Marnie here.