EDITORIALS

It’s hard to see the real Common Core through all the lies

Posted May 28, 2014, at 11:48 a.m.

For years, the Common Core State Standards, which identify the literacy and math skills public school students should know at each grade level, were mainly discussed among education experts and state and local leaders. Developed by the National Governors Association and an association of state school superintendents (not the federal government), the standards were drafted with input from teachers and the public, adopted voluntarily by most states, and are now being implemented in 44 states, including Maine.

This is the first time most states have come together to use a common set of expectations to guide student learning, boost the competitiveness of the country and improve educational equity. The standards do not mandate a curriculum; that is up to local districts. They simply raise the bar in terms of what students should know at certain times. They are certainly clearer and more rigorous than Maine’s previous learning standards and do more to promote critical thinking. The Common Core suggests some texts to teach, but the only required texts are the Declaration of Independence, the Preamble to the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address.

But didn’t you know that the Common Core standards act as “active promotion of gay marriage”? Or that they are “communism,” “evil,” “political indoctrination,” “the government taking over everything, controlling the way you think,” an “absolute appropriation of Soviet ideology and propaganda,” part of a “new vision” for America of “unlimited government,” will mass produce “green global serfs,” and will gather “intimate data” on children to sell to businesses? Those are some of the outrageous and false claims about the Common Core stated by people on the far right with significant audiences, according to a new report by the Alabama-based Southern Poverty Law Center, an organization that tracks the activities of hate groups.

As the report points out, the propaganda being spewed about the federal government overtaking local districts to indoctrinate children into “the homosexual lifestyle” and a future of promiscuity may seem outrageous, but it is having a real impact on the way people perceive the Common Core and public education in general. The push by those on the ultra-conservative right only helps to undermine public confidence in the education system, rather than build support for needed improvements. As the report points out, the attacks come at a time when there are fewer households with children in public schools, an aging population without direct connections to schools and a political system that makes it easy to avoid long-term investment and big-picture reform.

Distortions and falsehoods about the Common Core have the effect of shutting down any serious debate about the standards. There are valid concerns that need to be addressed about the Common Core and related changes taking place in many of the nation’s schools — such as that schools are expected to show academic improvements while adjusting relatively quickly to the more rigorous standards — and those in education circles are discussing them. But the loud, paranoid, uninformed fringe has effectively shut down that dialogue among the wider public.

Before people jump to a conclusion about the Common Core standards, they should read about them — even read the standards themselves — and form an educated opinion. Isn’t a more informed public, ultimately, the point?

 

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