The Common-Core Standards were developed a few years ago from an initiative to create national standards governing K-12 curricula. The standards would dictate, for example, at what grade algebra should first be taught. The Obama administration quickly jumped in to promote the initiative among the states, using the bait of one-time stimulus money along with dispensations from the penalties called for by the No Child Left Behind Act. The catch: the state had to adopt the Common-Core standards. So far 45 states have indicated they are on board.
This all may sound harmless enough. But at the present moment, with distrust of the Federal government at a high mark, we should all be very, very cautious about anything resembling central control from Washington, D.C. Long experience shows how innocuous programs can get hijacked and transformed far beyond original intentions, usually in very bad ways. Because this deals with our children, our vigilance should be at its highest. The more centralized the control, the greater should be our vigilance.
“He alone, who owns the youth, gains the Future! ” –A. Hitler, 1935
In Missouri the program was adopted without assent or input by the legislature. It is now being promoted statewide by The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE.) DESE does not take kindly to criticism. The May 3 St Louis Post-Dispatch recounts how a representative of DESE, Maureen Clancy-May, refused to respond to negative comments at one meeting. “All I can ask is that you please write down your questions,” she said. A critic of Common Core, Dr James Shuls, a specialist in education, was at the meeting described by the Post-Dispatch. He writes that the statewide meetings organized by DESE were run the same way:
The moderators read from scripts and refused to allow open dialogue. At the meeting in Springfield, the moderator can be heard telling the audience that they are ‘welcome to go ahead and leave’ if they didn’t like how the meeting is being conducted.
Dr. Shuls has offered to debate DESE and the Missouri Commissioner of Education, Chris Nicastro. He now finds himself blocked from accessing the DESE Twitter page. Let’s note that transparency and open debate have not been a hallmark of the Nixon administration. The legislature should look into this kind of behind-the-scenes and heavy-handed promotion of the Common Core. The issue is much too important to be left to DESE and the Governor. While they are at it, they should inquire what the Nixon administration intends to do with the data collected about each student.
The Common-Core Standards are not fully developed and subject to change. So there is little point in criticizing the details, such as their starting instruction of algebra one year later than usual or the emphasis on “critical thinking,” not on the ability to handle spelling and arithmetic problems quickly and from memory. We fear that a Federally approved reading list is not far behind, to include such books promoting “inclusiveness” as the infamous Heather has Two Mommies.
It is good policy to think of the states as laboratories of democracy, where different approaches can be tried out and compared. For the same reason, we need different approaches in all kinds of schools, public or government-controlled, charter, private, and home schools. Is there a place in Common Core for teaching the slower students at a different pace than the faster ones? Is there a way to keep the left-wing politics of the education establishment out? Is there a way for parents to control the religious and sexual instruction their children receive? The answers to these questions are obvious.