The Kansas State Board of Education earlier this month signed on to the Common Core State Standards Initiative, making Kansas the 38th state to join the “quiet revolution” toward national education standards. This is very bad news.
To understand why, consider how the Lawrence Journal-World plays up the political implications of Common Core:
The movement toward national standards — the Kansas State Board of Education joined the program earlier this month — comes with plenty of advantages, said Rick Doll, superintendent of the Lawrence school district.
Among them is snuffing the likelihood of political flare-ups, such as the off-and-on debate over whether Kansas should de-emphasize the teaching of evolution in public schools.
“What we teach in school should not be dependent on the political leanings of a governing body,” Doll said. “With this, there’s less chance of that happening.”
This is dangerous nonsense.
First, by removing decisions about curriculum from state and local school boards, you deny parents and students accountability and their rightful voice. It’s certainly true that 2+2 = 4 whether you live in Honolulu or Hanover. But things are bound to get dicey when it’s a question, say, of whether to teach Richard Dawkins or Howard Zinn.
Second, who’s to say a national governing body would be any less political than a state or local one? A public school system more centralized under the federal government is all but guaranteed to be further co-opted by the Blob.
School Reform News contributor and our friend Neal McCluskey argues at Cato’s blog that hopes for political comity or any sort of consensus about national standards are misplaced:
…[H]aving national standards will only push the fighting to the national level, threatening to tear apart the entire country with conflicts that could have been contained within state or district boundaries. Moreover, the fighting is likely to be even more intense, because with national standards there’s nowhere to go but out of the country if you lose. And that raises what should be the most alarming point for national-standards advocates: What happens if and when you are not in power?
Or, as I put it in an op-ed for Investor’s Business Daily a few months back, if you thought the fight over Texas history textbooks was bad, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.