Common Core’s “Dishonest Debate” and Its “Convoluted and Frustrating Curricula”

The efforts of republican governors and state policymakers to advance and implement Common Core is becoming more arduous by the day. Especially when they are receiving fire from their own side and in traditionally friendly publications. Consider this penned by two American Enterprise Institute scholars in National Review:

The Common Core opens the door much wider for Washington to meddle in schooling. The experience of the Bush-era No Child Left Behind Act is instructive. Initially, NCLB limited federal authority over how states would set standards, select tests, and improve teacher quality. In recent years, however, the Obama administration has used its ability to issue “waivers” from NCLB to push states to adopt the Common Core, sign onto certain tests, and evaluate teachers in specified ways. There’s much precedent for worrying about slippery slopes.

In fact, for all their lip service to federalism, few Common Core advocates give the impression that they worry about extending Washington’s reach. Many have avidly supported Obama initiatives that have increased Washington’s authority. The “state-led” talking points look more like advocates trying to address a short-term political problem.

The two scholars, Rick Hess and Michael McShane, also challenge the honesty of Core’s cheerleaders:

The result is a dishonest debate, in which advocates refuse to acknowledge what they really think it’ll take for the Common Core to deliver on their grand ambitions for the program. That can create problems of its own: See the troubled rollout of health-care reform, where promises made for political reasons have yielded fierce backlash and immense implementation challenges.

Instead of dismissing concerns about slippery slopes as “misinformed” or “misleading,” Common Core boosters should find the courage of their convictions. Honest talk could yield a healthy debate, in lieu of today’s bitter, distrustful sniping. Common Core boosters might lose a more open debate. But if they win, their stance would give them a fighting chance to make the program work as they intend.

To be critical of tactics and rhetoric  one thing, but a blistering critique of Core’s educational focus comes from one of the nation’s top school choice think tanks. Heartland Institute Fellow Robert Holland writes:

So-called “critical thinking” is central to all this, and it inevitably appears in breathless accounts of how Common Core will shun lectures and memorization and have kids instead dissect complex issues and arrive at their own opinions, informed or otherwise.

Robbins, who has analyzed Common Core extensively as a senior fellow for the American Principles Project, emphasizes “this is not to be confused with ‘analytical thinking,’ which is logical and linear. Instead, it [critical thinking] means examining a question from all conceivable angles, such as point of view, power structures, and fairness.”

When the first Common Core-linked tests were administered in New York and Kentucky, student scores fell precipitously (some 30 points) from levels on the previous knowledge-based testing. That led Secretary Duncan to sing praises for the New Rigor while chiding critics as “white suburban moms” who were miffed their children supposedly were exposed as not so smart after all.

That ignores an obvious alternative explanation: the Core is more convoluted and frustrating, especially for primary-age children, than previous curricula, and it’s not more rigorous in imparting basic knowledge.

In states where republicans reside in the governor’s mansion, Jeb Bush’s echo chamber isn’t dominating on the Common Core and it’s associated federally-endorsed tests. They are pulling out of the later and attempting to keep the former.  Core’s advocates can call it an  “economic and moral imperative” but they don’t have face voters nor are they tasked with making it work.  The AEI scholars dared to bring up the roll-out of Obamacare as a cautionary tale, and its comparison to Core is becoming more apt every day.





About Bob Sikes

A long time ago and a planet far, far away I was an athletic trainer for the New York Mets. I was blessed to be part of the now legendary 1986 World Series Championship. My late father told me that I'd one day be thankful I had that degree in teaching from Florida State University. He was right and I became twice blesses to become a teacher in the late 1990's. After dabbling with writing about the Mets and then politics, I settled on education.
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