I never thought I’d welcome black helicopters on the horizon. Black helicopters with jackbooted storm troopers in blue helmets, empowered to scan children’s tender corneas and report to the United Nations.
Bring that on.
That’s generally how discourse has devolved regarding the Common Core movement embraced by a host of states.
Beating back the Common Core is the newest cause celebre of the tea party wing of the Republican Party, with quite a few GOP leaders suddenly agreeing that — yes, ahem, come to think of it — this is a threat to all that is good and decent.
Any number of legislatures and state school boards are having to justify what they thought was a slam dunk, a so-called higher order of standards in English and math that could apply coast to coast without being federally mandated (coming not from Washington but from the good guys, the National Association of Governors).
Here’s what policy-makers are getting in the way of blowback: The Common Core is top-down homogenization of what’s taught in our schools. Worse, it’s federal intrusion most foul.
Federal? Yes and no. The federal Race to the Top initiative availed billions of dollars to states that adopted the Common Core among other things. Not surprisingly, many states then made like ants to a sucrose eruption.
That federal angle allows the rabid right to make many baseless claims. You’d think the U.S. Department of Education had set up death panels for kindergartners.
The silliest assertion is that the Common Core has designs to collect data about the little ones to — um, well, do something with it.
These things noted, you do notice I said that I welcome the cranky right to this debate. Indeed, quote me as saying, “It’s about time.”
Many claims about this new flavor-of-the-month initiative are valid. They are just a decade late. It’s as if the critics of school reform just discovered the Panama Canal is Panama’s or that they are being forced against their will to finance an interstate highway system.
Legitimate claim: The Common Core will result in top-down orders to local school boards. Yes, and where were these critics when the Bush brainchild, No Child Left Behind, became everyone’s progeny? Common Core can never compete with NCLB for the most intrusive federal education initiative ever.
Legitimate claim: It will skew how educators do their jobs. Of course it will, and where were you when NCLB and oppressive state standards were doing the same?
Dumbing down? Nothing has ever dumbed down curricula like NCLB and all the frothy efforts by states to standardize competence. Whatever that standard was or is, it always strands children on an island of mediocrity. You cannot “raise the bar” out of this condition if the objective is a set of standards all students must meet.
Texas is one state that spurned Race to the Top and Common Core. Good for Texas? Well, the fact is that Texas has always had hyperactive glands on “accountability.” And so, while others were starting to complain about the Common Core, Texas launched a mouthful called CSCOPE.
Not a new-generation mouthwash, CSCOPE is a “curriculum management system” to provide school districts with lesson plans to execute state standards.
The robust right of Texas politics raised a royal stink about some of the lessons and forced the state to back off, though some school districts continue to use them.
In Colorado, the advent of the Common Core and a new computerized system of testing has caused the political right to scream about testing overkill and lack of local control.
I keep asking, where were these frantic people in the Bush years when No Child Left Behind and onerous state mandates righteously bulldozed local control?
Whatever the case: Welcome, my new friends, to resisting top-down, overarching, overpriced, oversold school reforms. Resist them all.
Now that we share the same cause, my brethren, let me admit that you were right: The fluoride in the water is there to turn the fillings in your teeth into sensors for the CIA.
Longtime Texas newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.