Is Common Core a Good Thing?

Is Common Core a Good Thing?Let me start by acknowledging that Bridgedale Academy does not subscribe to the Common Core standards now being taught by virtually all other Illinois schools. This of course reflects the fact that we utilize the academic curriculum of Hillsdale Academy, which itself does not subscribe to the Common Core standards.

So just what is Common Core (“CC”) and what are these standards?

In a nutshell, CC reflects an attempt to establish national education standards. It is based on a document that sought to create a common set of curriculum standards in English language arts and mathematics. Forty-five states and the District of Columbia adopted the CC standards. One state, MN, adopted the English language arts standards but rejected the math. Four states, Alaska, Texas, Virginia and Nebraska, rejected Common Core in its entirety.

Proponents of CC point out that in today’s mobile society, the notion of having different educational standards in different states is unworkable and disadvantageous to students moving from school to school. They also argue that the US has lagged behind many industrialized nations in key academic areas (e.g. math and science), and CC was needed as a coherent national plan to improve our country’s standing in these subject areas. This second argument includes the notion that the US will be less able to compete in a global society if our education systems reflect a “patchwork of state standards.”

Critics of CC claim it will be prohibitively expensive to implement (some opponents have disparagingly labeled it “ObamaCore”), that rather than pushing the states toward high standards it encourages a mediocre middle, that new databases being used will create privacy invasion issues, and that the creation of a “national” program to control education violates the 10th Amendment of the US Constitution (i.e. powers not delegated to the federal government are reserved to the states).

But there may be an even more compelling argument against CC.

Both the language arts and the math components of CC appear designed to train drones, worker bees. The math component was actually rejected by the only mathematician on the CC Validation Committee, and the language arts component chose substantially to do away with the study of certain classic literature in order to focus on how to read technical manuals.

The CC’s mission statement reflects the notion that the outcome being pursued is to prepare young people “for success in college and careers,” i.e. so that American communities can “compete successfully in a global economy.” In other words, workforce training.

Yet many believe flatly this should NOT be the sole purpose of education.

One prominent education policy analyst put it this way: “In a self-governing nation we need citizens who can govern themselves. The ability to support oneself with meaningful work is an important part, butonly a part, of self-government. When a nation expands workforce training so that it crowds out the other things that rightly belong in education, we end up turning out neither good workers nor good citizens.”

For my money, the education of citizens capable of self-government should be THE purpose of education in the US, a notion the Common Core standards appear to be at odds with.