Library of Law and Liberty -
by Terrence O. Moore,
Has anyone actually read the Common Core Standards? Not advocacy of the standards, or criticism of them, but the standards themselves? Have even those speaking out most loudly in their favor examined them closely?
For the past two years or more, we have heard different personages—from state school board members to state school superintendents to state legislators to experts in various think tanks to former governors to soon-to-be former governors to the arch-funder of the Common Core, Bill Gates, hit all the talking points about these “standards” in English and math. We have been told that they will lead to “college and career readiness,” though no college says they will. We have heard that such standards are absolutely indispensable in a 21st-century global economy, though no one has ever told us why the study of English or mathematics should change just because we use computers or live in a different century.
Has the introduction of calculators into elementary classes over the last 40 years made students stronger or weaker in arithmetic? Are today’s elected representatives more or less literate than was Thomas Jefferson, who penned the Declaration of Independence with a quill and ink? Has America at any point in her long history been unaffected by international trade? (Hint: When in 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue, it was a quest for a quicker route to Asia in the 15thcentury global economy!)
We have heard the phrase “raising the bar” so many times that the bar itself must have joined the Mars Rover by now. Yet when have we ever heard an “expert” or pundit or elected official say, “By golly, if we don’t have Common Core ELA Standard RL-7.7 in our schools, then we are setting up the next generation for failure”? I have yet to hear any advocate of the standards say anything that is concrete. The proponents praise the Standards—plural—to the hilt. They spend no time advocating or explaining a specific standard.
There may be a reason for that. The standards are unreadable. They are written in an almost impenetrable education-ese, churned out by educrats for educrats. Many people have tried to make sense of the standards, but when they cannot, they most often give up. They wonder whether the standards are over their heads and involved in some deep mysteries that only educators can unravel. Thus, the strategy of the Common Core advocates (particularly in those states that are taking Governor Huckabee’s advice of “rebranding” them) has been to turn the standards’ greatest failing into their greatest defense: critics are asked to point to a specific standard they do not agree with and explain its shortcomings. It’s an effective strategy. How can honest people criticize what they cannot understand? Or, put another way, how can they criticize what was written so as not to be understood?