A panel at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) Thursday criticized the Common Core standards as a top-down, centralized system of government intervention that threatens state and local school autonomy, student privacy, and the continued expansion of more school options for parents and children.
In a standing-room-only venue, moderated by the Heritage Foundation’s Lindsey Burke, the panel included Robert Enlow, president and CEO of the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice; Phyllis Schlafly, founder of the Eagle Forum; and Jim Stergios, executive director of the Pioneer Institute.
“After 50 years of failed initiatives in education, conservatives aren’t exactly sold on this notion that this time Washington will get it right,” said Burke.
As Heritage.org reports, Enlow provided the central theme that the Common Core standards are growing increasingly controversial as more parents are pushing back, letting Washington elites know that parents are in charge of their children’s education, not politicians.
Noting the various iterations of federal involvement in education, beginning with the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson, then later national standards, and now Common Core, Schlafly said all of them have in common an emphasis on government control rather than student-centered learning.
In an interview with The Christian Post, Schlafly said the Common Core debate is “the hottest issue at the grassroots.”
“Every place I went people were showing up and talking about it,” said Schlafly. “I think it was a very good panel and very valuable to have people talking about it.”
Enlow observed that conservatives are gaining ground in the area of school choice, citing that, in 1996, only five school choice programs operated in only five states. Today, 48 school choice programs are operating in 26 states and Washington D.C.
Noting that conservatives were gaining momentum on the issue of the Common Core standards “because they are finally starting to make their voices heard in meaningful ways at the grassroots level,” Enlow added, “The same thing… has been happening with school choice in the last ten years, and that’s why we have over a million families using school choice – because parents are making their voices heard.”
According to Stergios, the Common Core initiative is more about “compliance” than education. He noted, “There are friends among us who say this is truly conservative. That is ludicrous.”
As observed by The American Conservative, both Schlafly and Stergios criticized the emphasis of the English Language Arts standards on informational texts rather than literature.
“Reading between the lines of literature teaches kids about meaning,” Stergios said, noting that such analysis teaches essential lessons about irony and nuance.
“When’s the last time you read a textbook and laughed?” he asked.
Stergios added that the pushback against Common Core has only just begun.