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Common Core Conundrum

October 2, 2014

Earlier this week Diane Ravitch had multiple blog posts in one day on Bill Gates and the Common Core. While I am unalterably disgusted by the way plutocrats are privatizing public education, I can’t help but think of the New England response to bad news, which is: “It could have been worse”. Thank goodness Thiel, the Waltons, the Kochs, or some multi-billionaire fundamentalist Christian didn’t decide to underwrite the Common Core… or for that matter that we overlook the need FOR a common set of standards to define schooling. With that notion in mind, I offered the following rejoinder to one of the posts on Monday:

The news recently offered two reasons why some kind of national standards are important: the recent curriculum review underway in Jefferson County CO and Texas. If State or local school boards get to decide what constitutes history and avoid the use of  AP tests because they inaccurately depict history we’re in trouble. If State or local boards get to decide what gets taught in science based on scripture we’re also in trouble. Some content can’t be decided on a state-by-state or district-by-district basis and must be understood by all students. The founding fathers wanted church and state separated and God did not design the universe in seven days. In an ideal democracy (which we are clearly falling short of as a nation) a team of national academic leaders would formulate a set of basic content standards that would be used as a framework to define state standards that would, in turn be deliberated upon and adopted at the State board level by boards elected by the public. I believe Bill Gates is as frustrated as we are by the fact that this kind of deliberative process cannot happen because education has been politicized. He, though, has the money to play by the new rules that govern politics. While I am not happy at the notion of a squillionaire underwriting the content standards needed in this country, I AM happy for at least two items the common core does NOT include: e.g. units on patriotism and intelligent design.

This is an abbreviated version of what I wrote in an earlier post outlining the ideal presidential education platform regarding the Common Core:

  • …Unfortunately, the Common Core was developed without any meaningful input from classroom teachers and, to make matters worse, once it was issued the authors of the Common Core were not responsive to the revisions recommended by teachers, academics, and child psychologists. We should not scrap the Common Core because we need to make certain that students across the country learn the facts about health, science, and history. But instead of unilaterally imposing these standards from Washington, we should use the Common Core as the basis for the development of a standard curriculum for each state. If elected I will require each state to create Standards Teams to use the Common Core as the basis for the creation of a rigorous but realistic set of State standards. The Standards Teams will include curriculum content experts from state universities, representative classroom teachers, and developmental psychologists.

I don’t believe the common core will go away any time soon and will likely be with us when candidates re vying for the nominations in each party. Going forward, we need to make sure e don’t end up with something worse than we have now…. and given the list of supposed contenders for the Presidency it’s easy to see how things COULD get worse.

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