Common Core Debate Devolves Into Pie Throwing Before Session Even Starts


There’s going to be a fight over Common Core in the upcoming legislative session, and judging by the way the battles lines are being drawn, it promises to be one of the ugliest political brawls of the session.

Below is an email exchange among lawmakers and the North Dakota Chamber of Commerce prompted by an announcement made by a Chamber representative announcing a recent op/ed about Common Core in the state’s newspapers. It’s an interesting read and serves as a microcosm for how this debate will go during the session.

Rep. Jim Kasper of Fargo, who has legislation read to withdraw North Dakota from participating in Common Core, echoes a request from other lawmakers in the email chain asking if the Chamber of Commerce (which has vowed to fight Kasper’s bill) if they’ll at least support a prohibition on sharing student data with the federal government. An issue of concern for most Common Core activists.

Hyperbolic, bomb-throwing Chamber boss Andy Peterson responds by dodging that question and calling Kasper’s legislation “preposterous” (after promising a respectful debate over the issue, if you can believe that).

This, I suspect, is exactly how the debate will go. Common Core opponents are often borderline hysterical about the policy, while proponents of the policy such as the Chamber of Commerce like to denounce opponents as fanatics.

We can count on these two groups hurling insults and talking past one another even as those of us who are agnostic on the issue yearn to talk about more meaningful issues.

At this point, I honestly believe that Common Core is a big nothing as an issue. It’s yet another top-down, “silver bullet” education policy of the sort that seems to sweep the nation every decade or so. Several years hence, after it fails to produce the results proponents tout, it’ll be replaced by a new fad.

But neither is it the abomination opponents, many of them addled by conspiracy theories and likely unable to describe to you what Common Core actually is as a matter of practical policy, say it is.

Every single day I get emails from people here in North Dakota and even national groups claiming everything from Common Core being based on Nazi education policy to it being some sort of an Islamic plot. I wish I was exaggerating.

To the extent that I care about Common Core, I am generally opposed. Because I think it will change very little. It is a top-down policy at a time when we desperately need more localism, choice, and flexibility in education. But as far as national, top-down policies go it’s likely to be relatively benign.

Really, Common Core seems to be less about education than simply a proxy battle on the right between “establishment” type groups like the Chamber of Commerce and conservative activists. But it’s a battle over policy of little substance which promises to be nasty and will likely crowd out more useful debates during the constitutionally-constrained legislative session.

Common Core Emails