Common Core Fairy Tales

Published May 19, 2013

Sol Stern is a nice man. It’s too bad he’s deceiving himself and others about Common Core, an enterprise that essentially nationalizes U.S. education. He and Joel Klein write in the WSJ, in the latest pro-Common Core PR piece:

Conservative critics ignore how the Common Core Standards support teaching all students about the nation’s rich heritage of constitutional government, which is often overlooked in K-12 schools. For example, one of the Common Core’s reading standards [in English] for grades 9-10 calls for students to analyze and understand the arguments in “seminal U.S. texts, including the application of constitutional principles and use of legal reasoning.” How many American public schools do that today?

That sounds so great. Too bad there’s no evidence it’s true. Neither are most of the other things Stern and the hardly right-wing Klein want Americans to believe about centrally planned education.

If these fellows read Common Core, they would see no definition of “seminal U.S. texts.” For Stern, that term likely implies the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Federalist Papers. To the average high school English teacher (who is lucky if she has any historical knowledge, because schools of education shudder at content) it is entirely open to interpretation.  This is how, over the past 50 years, we have become a nation where even a college degree does not improve civic knowledge and fewer than half of adults can identify the three branches of government. One of the two people (neither of whom has ever written standards or been a classroom teacher) who wrote the English Common Core has given a model lesson on how to treat the Gettysburg Address and Dr. Martin Luther King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail. David Coleman instructs English teachers to not give students background information and to read the words without emotion. Ah, instruction in the “heart of American heritage.”

Furthermore, as one of the world’s top literacy experts has been screaming for years, it is entirely inappropriate to demand that English teachers teach history and civics, along with their other duties. Perhaps that’s why Common Core dilutes classic literature instruction, which research shows is crucial to preparing students for college. Funny, Stern and Klein didn’t mention that.

Yes, the Constitution and Federalist Papers are mentioned in a Common Core appendix of voluntary suggested readings. If suggesting such readings meant more students learning them, it would have worked by now, because that’s the system we have had.

But the biggest problem with the article is that it entirely sidesteps the evidence that Common Core was written by special interests and federally-funded non-profits in secret,; that it was pushed on states by the federal government before they even saw the final product; that its requirements are vague, meaningless, and of shockingly low-quality; that is an entirely unproven set of mandates untried anywhere in the world; that states are incorporating creepy data-mining on teachers and kids; and that the history of American education shows, as the Soviets did on a larger scale, that central planning breeds corruption and destitution.

[First published at Ricochet]