There has been a lot of discussion recently surrounding the new standards for education known as common core. The goal of the common core state standards initiative is “to bring diverse state curricula into alignment with each other by following the principles of standards-based education reform”.
President Obama and his Secretary of Education Arne Duncan support this is initiative so it should come as a surprise to no one that Republicans hate it. But while the president has made common core part of what is a truly disappointing education reform effort, it was the brain child of the bi-partisan National Governors Association. It is not some liberal union designed government takeover of education. As a matter of fact there are plenty of people in the education community that have concerns about these standards while others flatly oppose to them.
The problem is that educators have heard this all before. There is always a new set of standards or a new method of teaching or a new model of instruction that will fix the crisis of education. Unfortunately as noted economist and mustache aficionado Friedrich Hayek said “‘Emergencies’ have always been the pretext on which the safeguards of individual liberty have been eroded”. This is especially true in Michigan where government has taken over school districts, changed tenure laws, created new state controlled districts, weakened unions, added teacher evaluation requirements, attempted to revive vouchers, and expanded charter schools all under the guise of a crisis in education.
But the reality is that there is no crisis in education. The only emergency in public education is the one drummed up by the corporations that are offering their books, their methods, and their publicly funded corporate schools as the solution. To gain access to the public piggy bank these corporations and the media, push a myth that the US was once number one in education and years of mismanagement have ruined a once proud institution. The truth is that since international testing started the US has always been in the middle of the pack.
And this fact is perhaps the single greatest indictment of the standardized tests that the common core relies on. After all, if for the past half century the US has had average results on these tests while becoming the greatest country in the world, isn’t it possible that how we rank on some standardized test doesn’t actually mean much? Isn’t it possible that our failure to churn out the best test takers in the world says more about societal issues than the education system? Isn’t it possible that teaching to the test drowns out the very creativity and innovation that makes America great?
The goal of our education system should be to prepare students for the real world. While that includes rote learning that standardized tests can measure it also includes creative problem solving and critical thinking skills that are not nearly as easily measured. Making students into experts at test taking will not prepare them for a job market that according to a survey by the American Management Association values “critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity” in an employee
The reality is that common core is just the latest in a wave of corporate sponsored solutions to a completely manufactured “emergency of public education”. In a vacuum, making sure that all students have a basic level of comprehension may seem paramount however in practice standards like the ones present in common core force a teaching to the test methodology that often ignores the type of varied education students truly need to be prepared for the ever changing job market. Because regardless of how well prepared students may be if their test scores don’t meet a certain standard – the teachers, the administrators and the school systems will be branded as failures and politicians will again use the results a flawed standardized testing system as justification of further malinformed government intervention.