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.