When I was in middle school (roughly ages 10–13 years old) in the US in the early 1970s, they combined English—or what might now be called language arts—with social studies into a single class that was called Core. Even (or particularly?) as adolescents we found the name curious. Nor could we have formulated a decent guess as to why one might have collected what seemed such heterogeneous subject matter into a single class. As far as I have been able to gather, this was a fairly idiosyncratic quirk localized to our county in Maryland, or even just to our school.

Although I would love to know the pedagogical motivation for this practice, that question would be off topic here. So I limit myself to the terminological facets. How widespread (synchronically or diachronically) is/was the label Core for such an amalgam of topics and what is/was the thinking behind the choice of label? By the time our kids hit that same middle school (two and a half decades later) it seemed the authorities had come to their senses because that material had been split back apart into two classes with discipline-specific names.

I presume that the name Core has to do with someone’s conception of what constitutes the core of the curriculum critical to the formation of young minds, so—roughly speaking—an education school’s dead-earnest analog of The Three R’s. But that would reflect a greatly impoverished notion of What Kids Today Need To Master compared to, say, the later-arising Common Core.

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    "Core", in this sense, was a common term when I was in school (in the Louisville Ky area), back in the 60s. There was another term, but I'm not recalling it.
    – Hot Licks
    Nov 6 at 14:05
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    I'm afraid the thinking behind the choice of label is awfully similar to the pedagogical motivation for this practice. Basically, it is the beloved euphemism of bureaucracy. Nov 6 at 14:10
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    It's short for core knowledge. What we used to call the basics.
    – Lambie
    Nov 6 at 14:16
  • I've heard of schools doing this. Usually I think it's because they don't value the humanities much and thus want to minimize the amount of time spent on it by squashing it all into one class.
    – alphabet
    Nov 6 at 15:00
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    This use of the term belongs to the jargon of some educational bureaucracies; I doubt that anybody uses the term this way in ordinary conversations. The answer to the question will thus, as Mr. Baskin has pointed out, be more a matter of reconstructing the operation of these bureaucracies that led them to create the term, than a matter of analysing some spontaneous developments of the language. People at large are, however, often exposed to the term and influenced by it, even if they don't use it much themselves, so the question is still within the scope of this site.
    – jsw29
    Nov 6 at 15:34


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