Will Common Core Proponents Apologize If It Doesn't Work

To the chagrin of many of you readers, I have a hard time getting worked up about Common Core. It’s not that I like the policy. It’s just that it’s the latest education policy fad. A lot of talking points and meaningless, feel-good reform that will ultimately have very little impact on academic outcomes in American schools.

I find myself bored with the zealots on both sides of the issue. Both those who insist that Common Core will make our kids dumber (or that it’s some fascist plot to mind control our kids!), and those who insist on belittling and insulting anyone who dares question the policy. Like the Fargo Forum editorial board today which attributes criticism of the policy among North Dakotans not as honest disagreement but as the rantings of a bunch of dopes in the thrall of “a well-funded out-of-state cabal that could care less about North Dakota’s public schools.”

[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#000000″ txt_color=”#ffffff”]The technocrats who push this sort of policy tend to think of schools as factories and pupils as so many widgets to be plugged into the national economic machine. And what better way to produce a better widget than to tinker with the standards used to produce it?”[/mks_pullquote]

Funny how the Forum is concerned about the out-of-state influence in opposing Common Core, but not the out-of-state influence in promoting it.

For the flagship media outlet in a gigantic multimedia corporation, the Forum’s editorials have all the subtlety of a 5th grader ranting about a mandate to do chores.

Seriously, fellas. Grow up.

The Forum editorial did make me think about one thing though: Will Common Core proponents apologize to the public when this much touted policy doesn’t work? When academic outcomes don’t improve, as they likely won’t, will those who have assured us of the efficacy of this policy admit that they were wrong?

Probably not, and that’s the moral hazard involved with education policy. It takes a long time before we can begin to measure the impact of education policy on a given cohort of students, and by that time the policymakers are usually on to the next fad.

It takes 13 years for a child to work his/her way from Kindergarten to high school graduation. The time between No Child Left Behind and Common Core – the two most recent education policy fads – was eight years. The NCLB legislation passed Congress in 2001. The proponents of Common Core began pushing it in earnest in 2009.

This is what happens when education policy is less about students than it is about activism and politics.

[mks_pullquote align=”left” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#000000″ txt_color=”#ffffff”]”What we need is education policy which doesn’t treat schools like auto parts factories. We have dehumanized education policy by elevating it from a local issue into the realm of national politics.”[/mks_pullquote]

To the extent that I am annoyed with Common Core, it’s that it represents more one-size-fits-all education policy when what we desperately need is less of that sort of thing. The technocrats who push this sort of policy tend to think of schools as factories and pupils as so many widgets to be plugged into the national economic machine.

And what better way to produce a better widget than to tinker with the standards used to produce it?

What we need is education policy which doesn’t treat schools like auto parts factories. We have dehumanized education policy by elevating it from a local issue into the realm of national politics. We’ve driven parents out (or, if you like, parents have allowed themselves to be driven out) of education by taking education policy decisions away from local school boards, and even state legislatures. We’ve created a public school monopoly that very often seems more interested in serving the interests of school teachers and administrators than students.

Common Core won’t fix anything in our schools because it’s more of the same. It’s well-meaning, but still top-down, educrat policy.

If we want to improve education in America, we need more localism and flexibility in education. We need to create more education choices, because kids are unique individuals not widgets to be indoctrinated to meet some national set of standards.

Common Core critics shouldn’t get hung up on Common Core specifically. They should be pushing for a rollback of all nationalized education.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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