February 3, 2014


The Political Right and the Common Core Strawman (Kevin T. Brady and Stephen M. Klugewicz, 2/03/14, Imaginative Conservative)

In recent weeks, we have heard stories from the political right as to what horrors the new Common Core Standards for K-12 education will bring to America's classrooms. Conservative bloggers warn that the Common Core will require that school children write of the benefits of Maoism; a report tells of a Common Core assignment that seeks to have children in one Arkansas school decide what freedoms should be excised from the Bill of Rights; still another story from Albany, New York tells of a Common Core assignment that asks children to justify the Holocaust. Such is the sense of impending doom on the Right that one fevered Catholic blogger even likened opposition to the Common Core to the fight against abortion.

The problem with most of these news stories is that the Common Core in no way mandates, or even suggests, these assignments. Why the apparent confusion then among critics on the right? First, conservatives are by nature suspicious of federally-mandated or federally-approved educational standards. Though the Common Core Standards may be freely adopted or rejected by individual states--as of this writing forty-five states have adopted the standards--the federal government is pushing adoption and will likely tie federal funding of state education departments to student performance on Common Core standardized testing (which is coming soon). Conservatives argue for local control of educational curricula and see the Common Core as yet another attempt by Washington to exercise dominion over the states. This suspicion is only heightened by the fact that it is the liberal Obama Administration that is pushing the standards. "The point of Common Core is to standardize K-12 education across the nation," a recent report argues. "Such standardization, of course, cannot be accomplished if states are allowed to exercise autonomy in public-school education." Conservatives argue that the impetus for the creation of the Common Core Standards came not from the states but from Left-wing funders like George Soros.

Second, it seems that conservatives are confused by assignments advertising themselves as "aligned with the Common Core." As states adopt the Common Core and prepare for the coming assessment tests, teachers are pressed by administrators to prove that their assignments are compatible with the Common Core Standards. This is usually quite easily done, for the ELA standards aim at literacy and generally require that students are able to read and understand texts. This gives teachers wide latitude in creating assignments and in choosing what texts to use.

The obvious point that critics seem to miss somehow is that the Common Core State Standards Initiative focuses on skills, not content.

Posted by at February 3, 2014 5:35 PM

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