Thursday, September 25, 2014

Two takes on the Common Core by Sol Stern, Peter Wood

Conservative arguments for and against the Common Core.

Editor’s note: The following essays have been adapted from Common Core: Yea & Nay, which will be published by Encounter Books this month.

Our conservative Core
by Sol Stern

Many conservatives, perhaps a majority, now believe that the Common Core State Standards are among the worst things ever to happen in American education. And why wouldn’t they believe it? For the past three years they have been bombarded by conservative media outlets and think tanks with scary-sounding allegations that the Obama administration illegally imposed the Common Core on the states and that the President’s power grab is leading to a dumbed-down, leftist curriculum in the schools.

It’s understandable that conservatives who believe such tall tales would want to see the education initiative they now call “Obama Core” rolled back. Opposition to Common Core by the Tea Party and other activist groups has the feel of a populist revolt. It has already succeeded in pressuring many Republican candidates and elected officials to reject the Standards. Indiana and Oklahoma have withdrawn from the Common Core and the program is in peril in several other states.

Most recently, Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin called on his state’s legislature to dump Common Core and replace it “with standards set by the people of Wisconsin.” Louisiana Governor and Republican presidential candidate Bobby Jindal was for the Common Core before he was against it, apparently because he suddenly discovered it was all part of an Obama plot. This backtracking is a sure sign that support for Common Core has become toxic for Republican candidates in the 2016 presidential primaries.

But conservatives should be careful what they wish for. They could find themselves held responsible for undermining the only education reform of the past forty years with any chance of restoring traditional academic content to the classroom. If the Common Core fails (and it might), we will not soon discover better alternatives for the public schools, as conservative activists imagine. Rather, Americans will remain stuck with the vast wasteland of a public education system bereft of serious academic standards and a coherent curriculum. The nation’s K–12 schools will then continue turning out what Emory University Professor Mark Bauerlein has called “The Dumbest Generation.”

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