April 4, 2014
At first glance, it’s easy to like Common Core. For one thing, it is sponsored by an American hero, Bill Gates, whose foundation has donated over $400 million to pay academic researchers and social scientists to undertake studies and design programs to enable our schools to turn out graduates with upgraded skills in English, math and science. That seems ok. And how can you not love Bill Gates? Secondly, the President of the USA is a major booster, having directed hundreds of millions of grant money to induce 90% of the states to join Common Core. So far, six states have declined.
There seems to be a widespread belief that American grade school and high school students compare poorly with an embarrassingly large number of other countries. Student achievement scores can be influenced by population mix and teachers’ labor unions, but a third source might be the education system itself. In response to that challenge, a selection of education experts have devised a program which would unify all of the school systems into one centrally managed structure. We will have, in effect, one board of education for the country instead of one for each of the fifty states.
There are lots of details in the complex program and plenty of substance for debates to come such as how to encourage “critical thinking,” and teachers of 44 states are believed to be preparing for the new regimen. The hierarchy of the national system will be empowered to decree what capabilities students should have, what study materials are acceptable and what test regimens will be applied. One notable feature is the creation of a national database to accumulate evaluation data on each student, each year. Student metadata, if you will. The totality of the program resembles that of Obama Care, in that both are complex structures of imposed rules which can be understood only after having lived with them.
Growing curiosity about Common Core has begun to create a groundswell of concern regarding our Constitution’s main purpose: containing governmental power by dividing it among three branches and defining the responsibilities of each branch, in hope of reducing the potential for oppression. So how does Common Core threaten freedom?
The primary violation is that the federal government has no mandate or even authority to usurp the most important of state government functions, that being education. Fifty independent state systems make possible a diversified search for good educational results. The tendency of some humans to prefer collectivized, controlled programs and to dislike diversification expresses itself politically in the present confrontation. Two offshoots within the educational diversity we enjoy today are charter schools and home schooling, both of which have been producing good results. But they are anathema to the entrenched interests of the US Department of Education, which provides financial support for those who cooperate, and teacher unions which are threatened with erosion of their captive market and their political influence.
The movement to collectivize education comes on the heels of the control of medical care and medical insurance. Both are highly complex structures of imposed rules which can be understood only after having lived with them.