More Reasoned Argument Against the Common Core

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The New York Times reported yesterday that the Common Core State Standards, a set of voluntarily-adopted state education standards designed to improve student achievement, are fast becoming second only to Obamacare in the increasingly reationary world of Republican politics. While business leaders and most responsible Republicans have embraced the new standards, the reactionary fringe running the GOP has slipped into its comfortable tendency to cry “conspiracy” and “communism” when confronted with any ideas more recent than those developed in 1781.

Former Republican governor of Georgia Sonny Perdue says that that opposition to the Common Core comes down to “the two P’s, polarization and paranoia,” and the combination has led former Republican supporters of the CCSS to move away from them.

With any major policy change, it’s fair to have reasoned debate, but the opposition to the CCSS is driven by anything but reason. Instead, the “debate” largely consists of teachers and state educational officials alternating between ignoring and responding to insane criticisms of the standards.

Consider this claim, from conservative radio host Laurie Roth, who claims that the Common Core:

is a direct and evil plan of Islam, Communism and the New World Order.

It is an evil Caliphate in full swing that plans to steal, data mind and control the minds, work choices and dreams of our children. No more critical and original thinking by children will be allowed. They will be dumbed down – pounded down and focused into the Islamic and Communist cattle shoot. Gifted and slower children will be lost as dreams and uniqueness are exchanged for sameness and compromise.

If Common Core is allowed to proceed it will make the damage of Obamacare look like a cakewalk. All children, teachers and schools, private and public will be controlled and damaged beyond recognition. It will indoctrinate our children into Islam, demonize Christianity and our Judeo-Christian values, push no right and wrong regarding sexual behavior and choice, but rather smother us with the gay agenda, porn and acting out.

One of the most important shifts in the new standards is the critical emphasis they place on both analyzing and constructing an argument. Given her hyperbolic nonsense, one can surely see why Dr. Roth opposes the new standards, because they will give the average 3rd graders the ability to destroy her arguments in close to 13 seconds.

Here in Montana, the front group Montanans Against Common Core are perhaps less hyperbolic, but no less incapable of reading material and understanding it. Recently, they shared a post from a Utah organization that claimed students were being taught that video games were superior to literature.

Unsurprisingly, Montanans Against Common Core was wrong. Instead, the student was asked to construct an argument using evidence from both sides of a debate—something we should absolutely encourage our students to do—and allowed students to take their own position, having considered the evidence. There was no conspiracy from Bill Gates to force children to play video games, it was simply an interesting topic (with competing research) to engage student interest.

The arguments against the Common Core echo the arguments against bike lanes and mitigating global warming: they cobble together out-of-context anecdotes, flat-out lies, and conspiracy theories about UN/Obama/Islamic/Communist/Union threats that have no basis in reality. Debating these arguments is self-debating, because, as Aristotle noted, “you can’t convince a moron,” but ignoring them only seems to embolden those who peddle this idiotic tripe.

It’s time for Republicans who believe in education and business leaders who want a more educated workforce to fight back the misinformation coming from the anti-Common Core crowd.

That political leaders are embracing and even endorsing these crackpot theories damages faith in our public schools and undermines the very standards we need to improve student achievement. Politicians who do so are embracing an irresponsible agenda that offers no alternative for our school systems, as conservatives Frederick Hess and Michael McShane note in the National Review:

Indiana became the first state to repeal the Common Core standards. The aftermath has not been pretty. Critics have raised valid concerns but failed to put forward a notion of what happens next. This is a problem. Common Core adoption meant that Indiana schools set in place not only new reading and math standards but also new tests, curricula, instructional materials, and teaching strategies. And the abrupt shift could be a train wreck for students and educators.

The Common Core State Standards offer the opportunity to improve outcomes for our students. Let’s not let a few people, disproportionately loud and desperately misinformed, derail them.

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About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba is an eighteen-year teacher of English, former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.

His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.

In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.

23 Comments

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  • Interesting. You took the most extreme argument you could find, and used it as the standard by which you reviewed critics of common core. That’s kind of lazy, and fairly typical of your reasoning practices. Well done.

    • Not interesting. You reflexively offered criticism without demonstrating any knowledge about the subject, before pivoting into an analysis of my reasoning.

      Typically done, although missing your typical foray into amateur psychology and Cliffs Notes version of Chomsky.

      I assume both will appear in subsequent comments, as if on schedule.

      • The reference to “Chomsky” indicates some exposure to the name. How it fits here I am not sure. My knowledge of the subject is unimportant. It takes very little to see through you, you’re such a lightweight.

        Our schools do not turn out critical thinkers. You are Gresham’s Law applied to education. Mediocre never self-reflects.

        • Oh my goodness, Mark. I owe you an apology. I forgot the part where you pathetically build up your perception of your own intellect by flailing about insulting other people.

          That’s your raison d’être. I can’t believe I forgot.

          • Don, you just need to grow up. The whole of your writing, even the name of the blog, screams moral and intellectual superiority. But the world does not see you that way, which is why you end up cloistered here.

            We’re all flawed. Me for sure, and even you.

            • Your reading of the name of the site suggests a lack of knowledge about American history, nothing more. I actually think most people who know me tend to think I am at least of average intelligence, maybe even a bit above average. The other thing they know is that I am capable of making arguments that are not the same kind of juvenile, petty, personal attacks you traffic in all the time.

              For once, would it kill you to either ignore the post or debate its merits? Surely someone as well-read and intelligent as you present yourself to be has an opinion on the Common Core State Standards. Wouldn’t that be far more interesting than yet another of your childish rants? I think so.

          • Part of your schtick is to place yourself at head of the class, whether you merit that spot or not, and then defining the range and limits of the debate. Embedded in this is your intellectually and moral superiority. We are not to debate that. You just reaffirmed it – modestly telling me you are at least average, perhaps above average, translation, highly gifted. I am not seeing it, but you are saying it, making my point for me.

            But the post is flawed on several levels. Here’s just one: You say “One of the most important shifts in the new standards is the critical emphasis they place on both analyzing and constructing an argument.”

            This is new? In fact, it is not, but mostly does not exist in education, which is why the product you turn out are not critical thinkers, but rather soldiers, patriots, power worshipers and incapable of original thought. The American people, products of American education, are lacking in basic critical skills.

            Secondly, you choose a flawed tactic, to pick an easy argument to defeat, that of Laurie Roth, a person who obviously lacks depth and reasonableness.

            From that, given the poor product you turn out, and your owned weak debate posture, what do I need to know about Core Curriculum that is not already on display – it’s window dressing hiding mediocrity.

            As James Thurber said, “American college students are like American colleges – each has half-dulled faculties.” I would merely broaden that thought.

            • I’ve repeatedly tried with you, Mark. Repeatedly asked you to please lift your discourse and stop insulting people with your ill-informed opinions about their self-worth, intelligence, and experiences.

              You know even less about me than you know about education. Any nitwit on the right could construct your broad, baseless claims about the nature of education, but you pretend like it’s some deeply held insight, based on your experience.

              If you followed the debate about Common Core, you’ll know why I chose Dr. Roth. She’s speaking the arguments that are being advanced across the country and have been advanced here in Montana before legislative committees. You don’t know that, but pretend an expertise you simply don’t have. As you always do.

              I suspect it’s not hard to understand why you so often lash out at what you perceive as the mediocrity of others. It’s cover for your own failures or the failure of a broader audience to accept your self-defined brilliance. It’s sad, because it will never work. It will never fill the emptiness that consumes you and the shame that burns at you. Only you yourself can be your liberator, Mark. Only you.

  • I know nothing about Common Core. Where do I find a really good analysis of what it is, what it does, and what you would consider good arguments for and against its implementation?

    I believe we need significant improvement in our educational system, but I don’t know where the improvements should begin. I am aware of the good research done by people like Eric Hanushek, but that appears to be only part of the solution. Thoughts?

  • I was listening to the man from Wall Builders, he was saying it is up to the parents to take care of their children. Well here in Flathead Co. , a lot of parents do not even feed their children. The schools of the county supply breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and on weekends , if a kid bring in a backpack they will give all the food they need for the weekend. Who is paying for this welfare , the private sector. A lot of these parents could care less about common core.

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