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A key component of Common Core is marginalization of parents

  • Published in Letters

To The Daily Sun,

Have you heard that Common Core is the next great thing in education? Have you been told that this curriculum will better prepare students for degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM)? Believe it or not, you'll have to take that on faith.

Common Core is the latest "faith-based initiative" in top-down government education programs. Robert Scot, former Texas education commissioner, stated that he was urged to adopt the Common Core standards before they were even written. Perhaps his leap of faith was given a push by federal Race to the Top funding ($4.35 billion), the usual carrot-becomes-stick Washington ploy to impose its will.

Proponents of the one-size-fits-all curriculum claim that Common Core will better prepare students for careers in STEM fields, but they have no proof. Their federally incentivized replacement for local control of our public schools was not pilot-tested before being steamrolled into our classrooms.

As with supporters of other big government programs, advocates of Common Core act with unnecessary and unseemly urgency, as if recognizing a narrow window of opportunity to impose their will. Desperate to avoid the inconvenience of having to get buy-in from parents — the ultimate authority in a child's education — they prefer fait accompli to factual debate.

Education historian Diane Ravitch wrote, "The Common Core standards have been adopted...without any field test." Proponents push ahead "despite the fact that no one has any idea how they will affect students, teachers, or schools. We are a nation of guinea pigs, almost all trying an unknown new program at the same time."

The irony of this process — especially for STEM standards — is that it runs counter to the scientific method, defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as "systematic observation, measurement, and experiment, and the formulation, testing, and modification of hypotheses." Would you allow your child to be a guinea pig for an untested medical procedure?

I'm reminded of a conversation with my doctor about treatment alternatives. After presenting and immediately dismissing two options, he told me that surgery was the right choice. I told him that while I valued his expert opinion, the choice was ultimately mine to make. My non-surgical procedure was successful, didn't keep me out of work for two weeks, and cost two-thirds less. Whether as medical consumers or education consumers, we must never abdicate our role as decision-maker.

Show me an expert supporting Common Core and I'll show you an expert who supported "new math" or any of the dozens of other discredited education "reforms" foisted on students, parents, and taxpayers over decades of decline in public education. Each did its own harm, wasting precious education funding before being abandoned. But at least damage from those failures was limited; Common Core's universality could fail us all.

George Will recently wrote of Common Core, "It is the thin end of an enormous wedge. It is designed to advance in primary and secondary education the general progressive agenda of centralization and uniformity." He continued that national standards extinguish federalism's creativity, since "...it is more likely there will be half a dozen innovative governors than one creative federal education bureaucracy. And the mistakes made by top-down federal reforms are continental mistakes." Will also pointed out, "Fifty years of increasing Washington input into K-12 education has coincided with disappointing cognitive outputs from schools. Is it eccentric that it is imprudent to apply to K-12 education the federal touch that has given us HealthCare.gov?"

Common Core advocates erroneously conflate consensus with correctness, touting conformity and uniformity over creativity and the uniqueness of each community and student. The American experience is the triumph of choice over consensus for consensus' sake, one of trusting decision-making at the local, family, and individual levels. Those we hire to advise us should not be allowed to usurp that authority.

The key issue of Common Core implementation (and the inevitable alignment of college-prep testing and teacher assessments with this single curriculum) is the marginalization of parental empowerment, community involvement, and creativity in the learning process by those who may have ideological or financial reasons to support this program. Don't take "expert opinion" on faith. Judge for yourself: Opposition grows as more people learn the details about Common Core.

Ken Gorrell