In a Politico Magazine op-ed on Thursday, Republican strategist Rich Galen attempts to educate “the right” about why it should “love the Common Core.”
From the get-go, Galen misses the boat on who doesn’t love the Common Core standards. Opponents of the initiative come from both the right and the left.
Taking the “Come on – how bad could Common Core be?” approach, Galen explains that Common Core is simply a “college-prep set of skills” that “will provide a foundation for students to go in any career direction.”
This is so transparently a good thing that it’s hard to figure out why anyone would be opposed. That’s especially true for conservatives, who have long believed our education system is underperforming; that student progress needs to be measured; and that teachers and school superintendents should be accountable for better outcomes in the classroom.
Let’s take these statements one at a time.
First, it’s somewhat amazing that Galen would use the word “transparently” in a statement about the Common Core. The fact is, the Common Core has been one of the most “non-transparent” initiatives foisted upon American citizens.
The standards are the work of a joint effort by political elites, corporatists, and progressive nonprofits who were able to get 45 state boards of education to adopt them – sight unseen – and without any proof of their acclaimed “rigor.” Not one person who supports the Common Core knows whether the standards will actually achieve what they claim because they have not been tested or proven in any way.
The real academic standards experts – such as Drs. Sandra Stotsky and James Milgram – were invited to be members of the Common Core Validation Committee but were then sworn to secrecy about committee meetings and, ultimately, ignored. While experienced educators like Stotsky and Milgram were invited to serve as nothing more than “window dressing,” the standards themselves were written by individuals who never taught a math or English class.
Stotsky, who is credited with developing one of the nation’s strongest sets of K-12 academic standards in Massachusetts, told Breitbart News in January, “Everyone was willing to believe that the Common Core standards are ‘rigorous,’ ‘competitive,’ ‘internationally benchmarked,’ and ‘research-based.’ They are not.”
Many people were quick to believe that the standards were ‘all those things’ at least in part because of the fact they were privately backed by corporations and, primarily, by the Gates Foundation. In many ways, whoever is ultimately behind the Common Core used private groups to their advantage. Because Common Core is run by private corporations and foundations, there can be no Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) filings or “sunshine laws” to find out who got to choose the people who actually wrote the standards. It’s completely non-transparent and rather shady.
While it is true that many conservatives believe the nation’s education system is “underperforming,” most believe the causes are the power of teachers’ unions over the system, student indoctrination of statist ideology, and the continued overreach of government into the primary relationship between parents and children; the last of which has created an entire generation of government-dependent parents who believe others should decide what’s best for their children.
Galen asks, “Conservatives are instinctively pro-standard. And yet the latest round of opposition to Common Core comes primarily from the right. What gives?”
If Galen is a Republican strategist, perhaps it’s little wonder that the establishment GOP doesn’t seem able to connect with conservatives. “Pro-standard?” Conservatives are about individualism and freedom from government interference – everything Common Core is not.
The Obama administration joined with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation as it lured states into adopting untested nationalized standards with Race to the Top funds, while the Gates Foundation poured millions into promoting and implementing Common Core. The Common Core standards are owned by private groups that are not accountable to parents and taxpayers. All of this amounts to a lot of interference from an alliance of government and corporatists.
Not every high-school student needs to go to a traditional four-year college. But, those who claim we are wasting the time of students who are likely to get on a vocational instead of an academic track are settling for low expectations at a time when we should be setting high expectations.
There are many successful people, in fact, who never completed a four-year college degree, an example being Bill Gates. The problem, however, is that the Common Core standards are not setting high expectations; like most top-down systems, they are a one-size-fits-all approach to education.
Maureen Van Den Berg, Policy analyst at the American Association of Christian Schools, told Breitbart News, “The Common Core Standards as a national standard … cannot meet the individual needs of students, nor will it raise the bar for academic excellence.”
The principle remains the same that federally-coerced uniformity in standards, which is what the Common Core Standards have become, simply cannot yield high academic achievement for all students. In an effort to reach all students, the standards will inevitably force uniformity on schools and students, establishing expectations that will be too rigorous for low-performing students and not rigorous enough for high-performing students.
While advocates of the Common Core standards will argue that adopting these standards does not limit high-achieving students, the long-term effect of their implementation and assessments will likely accomplish just that–forcing schools and teachers to direct available resources to bringing up low-achieving students to meet mandated thresholds and condemning teachers and students to further cycles of mandated assessments and reporting. This will lead to a mediocre standard at best.
Galen continues with what appear to be pessimistic hypotheticals:
What if, instead, we made the case that students who were either pushed into a vocational lane or self-selected for it, were being deprived of skills they may need later in life? What if they want to progress beyond being an hourly worker to being the manager of a business, or perhaps owning his or her own business?
On the other hand, what if we allowed students to make their own decisions, with guidance from their parents, and if they change their minds later on, which many young people do, they make another decision that makes them even happier? Or, what if they learn something about life from their initial choice of being an hourly worker, and then decide to work harder to better their position or return to school for another degree to achieve their goals?
Galen seems to have the fatalist view that many Common Core supporters hold: that children will not be able to succeed in life without nationalized government academic standards. Big government programs have never been – and can’t be – successful in meeting the individual needs of children. Loving and involved parents, as well as a stable family life, however, can make all the difference in the world.
Perhaps what is most troubling about Galen’s assertion that “the right” should love Common Core is that “the right” knows Barack Obama loves Common Core, just like Barack Obama loves Obamacare, loves spending taxpayer money, and loves circumventing the Constitution.
The real question, then, might be: “Why would a Republican love the Common Core?”