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Susan Finding Common Ground on the Common Core

Ohanian Comment: Most media position opposition to the Common Core as a Teapot phenomenon. I'm hardly a Teapartier. Stephen Krashen is hardly a Teapartier. Sam Smith of Progressive Review is hardly a Teapartier. And so on. 

Much conservative opposition is informed by solid research. And progressive research shows the same thing. 

Michigan Rep. Tom McMillin (R-Rochester Hills) has asked Achieve, Inc. "repeatedly" to see the minutes or other records of meetings where the content standards were developed.

This should be the rallying cry of both conservatives and progressives: Show us the meat! Show us how these standards were developed.

I want to know who chose David Coleman and gave him the crown.

By Rob Jenkins 

Any time conservatives and liberals in this country agree on anything, it's time to stop the presses, glance up to see if pigs happen to be zooming by overhead, and check the temperature in you-know-where.

It may also be time to pay attention.

One of those rare areas of agreement between left and right these days is over the Common Core, the new set of national standards for public schools. 

Developed mostly by bureaucrats and politicians, with little input from parents or teachers, the Common Core is technically voluntary, in that states can decide whether or not they want to follow it. But it's also heavily incentivized by the federal government, meaning states that fall in line can expect to gain financially. So far, 46 states, including Georgia, have signed on. 

Conservatives' objections to the Common Core have been well documented. They believe that the standards represent a transparent attempt by the federal government to nationalize public education. They believe that decisions about curriculum, textbooks, and teacher qualifications should be made locally, not at the national level. 

And they believe that, under the Common Core, what they regard as the indoctrination and "dumbing down" of public school students will continue apace. 

What isn't as well publicized is the fact that many liberals object to the Common Core, too. A good friend of mine, an Obama supporter whom I would describe as center-left -- that is, not exactly a Tea Partier -- and who is vehemently opposed to the Common Core, was kind enough to share with me some of his objections and consent to my quoting him here. 

The first problem with the Common Core, he notes, is that it's "corporatist, not capitalist ... driven more by perceived Chamber of Commerce needs than student needs. While a good education may prepare a student for a good job, career training should not be the primary purpose of public schools."

Second, "the Common Core is a top-down initiative developed at the federal level and 'incentivized' on states without extensive feedback from states or their citizens."

Third, "the Common Core does not reflect any consensus on the part of teachers."

Fourth, "the Common Core takes the emphasis away from reading literature and shifts it onto reading pamphlets and government documents, which presumably train workers better."

Fifth, "the Common Core has not been field tested. Many states have adopted the Common Core without even knowing exactly what it is, aside from some clever packaging."

Finally, he says, "the Common Core is No Child Left Behind on steroids," adopting "the worst high-stakes testing elements of NCLB ... despite spotty evidence at best that NCLB has succeeded."

So if both conservatives and liberals think the Common Core is a bad idea, who exactly is pushing it? That's a question well worth asking, one that all of us, left and right, should keep in mind next time we go to the ballot box.

Rob Jenkins is a Gwinnett freelance writer and author of Family Man: The Art of Surviving Domestic Tranquility, available at Books for Less in Buford and on Amazon. Email Rob at or visit

— Rob Jenkins

Newton Citizen [GA]
July 06, 2013

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Susan Ohanian

Susan Ohanian, a long-time public school teacher, is a freelance writer whose articles have appeared in Atlantic, Parents, Washington Monthly, The Nation, Phi Del...