JENKINS: Finding common ground on the Common Core

Rob Jenkins

Rob Jenkins

Any time conservatives and liberals in this country agree on anything, it's time to stop the presses, glance up to see if pigs happen to be zooming by overhead, and check the temperature in you-know-where.

It may also be time to pay attention.

One of those rare areas of agreement between left and right these days is over the Common Core, the new set of national standards for public schools.

Developed mostly by bureaucrats and politicians, with little input from parents or teachers, the Common Core is technically voluntary, in that states can decide whether or not they want to follow it. But it's also heavily incentivized by the federal government, meaning states that fall in line can expect to gain financially. So far, 46 states, including Georgia, have signed on.

Conservatives' objections to the Common Core have been well-documented. They believe that the standards represent a transparent attempt by the federal government to nationalize public education. They believe that decisions about curriculum, textbooks, and teacher qualifications should be made locally, not at the national level.

And they believe that, under the Common Core, what they regard as the indoctrination and "dumbing down" of public school students will continue apace.

What isn't as well publicized is the fact that many liberals object to the Common Core, too. A good friend of mine, an Obama supporter whom I would describe as center-left -- that is, not exactly a tea partier -- and who is vehemently opposed to the Common Core, was kind enough to share with me some of his objections and consent to my quoting him here.

The first problem with the Common Core, he notes, is that it's "corporatist, not capitalist ... driven more by perceived Chamber of Commerce needs than student needs. While a good education may prepare a student for a good job, career training should not be the primary purpose of public schools."

Second, "the Common Core is a top-down initiative developed at the federal level and 'incentivized' on states without extensive feedback from states or their citizens."

Third, "the Common Core does not reflect any consensus on the part of teachers."

Fourth, "the Common Core takes the emphasis away from reading literature and shifts it onto reading pamphlets and government documents, which presumably train workers better."

Fifth, "the Common Core has not been field tested. Many states have adopted the Common Core without even knowing exactly what it is, aside from some clever packaging."

Finally, he says, "the Common Core is No Child Left Behind on steroids," adopting "the worst high-stakes testing elements of NCLB ... despite spotty evidence at best that NCLB has succeeded."

So if both conservatives and liberals think the Common Core is a bad idea, who exactly is pushing it? That's a question well worth asking, one that all of us, left and right, should keep in mind next time we go to the ballot box.

Rob Jenkins is a local freelance writer and author of "Family Man: The Art of Surviving Domestic Tranquility," available at Books for Less in Buford and on Amazon. Email Rob at rjenkinsgdp@yahoo.com or visit familymanthebook.com.


rosescat 2 years, 1 month ago

So, you found one liberal friend who doesn't like Common Core Standards (CCS). This then leads you to the conclusion that "liberals" (inferring most, if not all) do not like CCS -- just as most (if not all) conservatives don't like them. Hmmmmm.... I'm sorry, but you would probably fail most of your undergrad comp students for such an illogical leap of rhetorical pablum. It is interesting to note that Gov. Deal himself recently came out in tacit support of CCS. What about John Barge? Did you bother to query him about his thoughts on CCS, and how the new standards largely dovetail with what the Georgia Performance Standards had already been all along? You didn't even bother to find a second liberal!

Well, for starters, your liberal friend's first objection makes no sense. Off course it's the job of K-12 to prepare students to be college and career ready; not all HS students go to college, let alone Ivy League schools. How many students do you, sir, have to remediate every year -- students who can't comprehend an expository article on "liberty" or even one of your own newspaper columns. With the second point, I find it hard to believe that you found a liberal who is taken aback at a "top down initiative," and he is totally mistaken that there was not "extensive feedback" from the STATES WHO WROTE THE STANDARDS (ask Sonny Perdue).

As for the 3rd point, teacher consensus, sure teachers are a little at odds over this: no one likes change. But maybe you should look to what the NCTE has to offer on the Common Core issue (http://www.ncte.org/standards/common-core) -- for the most part an agreement with the instructional shifts that are going to take place in light of the new standards. For the fourth, he has clearly NOT read the standards; literature is still a huge focus. BUT, added emphasis has been given to reading comprehension in content areas other than ELA, such as Social Studies and Science, particularly with informational texts. The split is about 60/40, informational to literary -- and this includes ALL courses, ALL reading instruction -- not just ELA. So, such an instructional shift makes sense, even to lovers of Shakespeare, Melville, Whitman, and Kerouac like me.

The CCS are just that: standards, and broad ones at that. As such, they reflect hoped for outcomes. They are not the curriculum (what gets taught), which does get set at the local level (Gwinnett County has the AKS, for example) and fine tuned even further at the school level. I could go on to the other points made by your friend, but I won't. In short, I think you made up your liberal friend. I have to wonder if you've even read the common core standards, as you mention not a one of them. Next time, before you slap on your tri-cornered hat to rouse the villagers of some unseen menace, you really need to get your facts straight. Yours, I have to say, was a very sorry piece of argumentative writing. -- M. McIntyre


NewsReader 2 years, 1 month ago

Very good question Rob! I too would like to know who is pushing it.


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