The Common Core and international education

The Common Core’s emphasis on international understanding mirrors the First Lady’s China-trip goals.

Members of’s Advisory Board recently participated in a press call with officials at the White House regarding the First Lady’s recent visit to China. This is the third in a series of stories written by Advisory Board members following the call.

First Lady Michelle Obama has taken the adventure of a lifetime to China, where she set her sights on building relationships with leaders and young people while exploring the Chinese education system. During the trip, Obama explored cities ranging from Beijing to Xi’an and concluded her trip in Chengdu in the Sichuan province.

Education is on the frontline of American government and politics as 46 states and the District of Columbia adopt the new Common Core State Standards in the upcoming year. Just as Obama toured China and explored its education system’s emphasis on international education, Americans must also examine the Common Core curriculum’s focus on foreign culture.

The Common Core smoothly integrates lessons of international culture into daily learning, said Bonnie Hain, director of English Language Arts in Baltimore County and former senior advisor for ELA with Achieve, a nonprofit that helps facilitate state collaboration to compose the Common Core. Hain said students are “not learning just about different cultures” but that the Common Core is ensuring students have multiple points of views and perspectives of the world. The Common Core begins in kindergarten and continues through 12th grade, and each year new standards emerge that stretch students’ knowledge of foreign culture. Common Core standards are educational regulations that ensure “students graduating from high school are prepared to take credit bearing introductory courses in two- or four- year college programs.”

Beginning in second grade, “students will compare and contrast two or more versions of the same story by different authors or from different cultures,” according to the Common Core’s Reading and Literature Standard 2.9. For example, children will study the story of Cinderella from the perspective of another culture, which will allow children to think about what wealth looks like in different countries.

The 12th grade standard requires that students “analyze a case in which grasping a point of view requires distinguishing what is directly stated in a text from what is really meant.” As students reach the highest level of education before graduation, they must be able to recognize how authors from around the world use rhetoric as a means of persuasiveness.

Regardless of the grade level, Hain said that when students read stories from international authors, they will read multiple stories based within that culture to avoid the insular way of thinking that results from teaching only a single story of a foreign culture.