The classroom example given at the beginning of the article is supposed to be evidence of the critical thinking so often touted as Common Core’s educational gold standard. Hogwash. The fact that Mr. Gillis’ high school students could “critically” figure out that the words “to time thou grow’st” were a reference to, well, growing, is a glaring example of not only how low our educational standards have sunk, but how quick we are to laud such elementary understanding. Learning has always been about critical thinking, teaching has always been about encouraging questioning, reasoning and analyzing, and any claim by Common Core proponents that they have developed a shiny new method that will yield genuine higher academic achievement and prepare Kentucky’s students for college and career is not only disingenuous, it smacks of intellectual dishonesty.
The “success” of Common Core is discussed at length in this article, despite the fact that no empirical data exists to support these claims. Backlash against CC is not a “conservative” whim, but rather a widespread and growing demand for answers and a strong desire for a return to state and local control of our children’s education. Where are the voices of those in opposition? An unbiased representation of this issue should include comments from teachers who know from experience that the new “standards” are doing little more than lowering the intellectual bar for Kentucky’s students. Drs. James Milgram and Sandra Stotsky, well-respected educators who were part of the Common Core Validation Committee, refused to endorse the program because of its deficient academic content, and are now vocal opponents. Their words would have added much needed balance to this discussion.
And what of that content? The Shakespeare reference in the article suggests that the classics are alive and well in Common Core. But a review of the new standards reveals a marked shift from a literature-based curriculum to one that focuses on informational texts such as government data, EPA reports, etc. When classic literary works are being covered, students are often asked to simply read a chapter or two to get the gist of the piece, rather than reading the whole work. Contemporary works that are deemed age-inappropriate by many parents due to explicit sexual content are showing up in the curriculum, and concerns about dismal math and science standards doing little to prepare students for college are being voiced across both the state and country. Data mining, which is an inherent component of Common Core, was not mentioned but remains a serious issue for parents and students concerned with their privacy and individual liberty.
The opposition to Common Core, despite what the article implies, is not minimal, politically motivated, or because “they think states should be allowed to develop their own standards.” The Constitution—which makes no specific mention of education—leaves this task to the states deliberately via the Tenth Amendment. There are things for which the federal government is uniquely qualified and others where it is woefully not. Public education is clearly the latter, and instead requires a system that allows for input from parents and teachers and encourages public debate. Those in opposition to this concept have yet to explain their motivation and justify their top-down, one-size-fits-all approach. Until they do, opposition to Common Core will only grow.