(Guest post by Greg Forster)
In today’s Journal, Sol Stern and Joel Klein attempt to sell conservatives on national standards by 1) misleading them about the federal government’s role, both in ramming the standards through and in continuing to shape them going forward, and 2) portraying the national standards as a patriotic way to patriotically patriotize our vulnerable young patriots, who are now at the mercy of the eeeeeeeeeeeevil progressives and their social justice agenda.
Now, what do you think the major Democratic party effort to support national standards thinks of that?
Paul the psychic octopus looks more right every month – national standards are built on an anti-school-choice, one-size-fits-all worldview and are therefore a one-way ticket to the worst kind of culture war.
Update: I wonder what Stern and Klein would say about Heather Mac Donald’s warning that the national “science” standards endorse an unscientific and anti-human environmental agenda?
Stern and Klein say we should support Common Core because it stems the tide of progressive education. And Randi Weingarten says “The common core is about problem-solving, critical thinking and team work…” (see http://stateimpact.npr.org/ohio/2013/05/14/aft-president-randi-weingartens-new-and-improved-definition-of-the-common-core/ )
They can’t both be right. Common Core can’t both usher in the progressive ed Nirvana that Weingarten and Linda Darling Hammond describe while repealing it as Stern and Klein suggest. Common Core is like a Rorschach test in that everyone sees in it what they want.
The only way to resolve what Common Core really means is to fight over it… just as Greg predicted everyone would.
You’re right, Jay, different people read different things into the Common Core — as different people read different things into Shakespeare and Dostoyevsky. Does that make the Bard a Rorschach test? Common Core is nothing more than a common currency, making the exchange of ideas easier. A free market works for the delivery of goods and services, including educational goods and services, but a free market (or free-for-all) in method of payment is something else. Tower of Babel?
The ambiguities in Shakespeare provide fruitful ground for learning more about each other because nobody is trying to force other people to obey Shakespeare. If the works of Shakespeare were treated as “standards” we all had to obey, the ambiguities would quickly become the ground of dehumanizing warfare.
For the same reason, Common Core cannot be compared to a “currency.” Common Core is like saying that because you use dollars printed by the federal government, the federal government gets to tell you what “standards” you must use to judge which items to buy.
Ditto for language, which I take it is the point of your somewhat cryptic reference to Babel. The whole point of language is that people get to choose what they say; it wouldn’t be language otherwise. Common Core is like saying that because you speak in the prevailing language, the federal government gets to tell you what to say.
By the way, the whole point of the Babel story is don’t try to impose central control and uniformity, because God saw what happens when sinful humanity is able to cooperate perfectly, so he has afflicted the entire human race with an inability to cooperate perfectly. This is why command and control systems always fall apart – we’re not capable of that level of cooperation. Whatever you may think of the authenticity of the story itself, the facts about human nature that it points to are real.
Biblical scholars point out that the story of Babel refers to the people’s, egotistical, “united and godless” efforts to establish world renown, where the kingdom of mankind would displace and exclude the kingdom of God. Sound familiar?
So, Peter, let me see if I can summarize your argument for Common Core… We don’t know what it will require but we should build a national infrastructure around it anyway so that we can fight over what it is and who will control it.
Not only is this the invitation for the Culture Wars that Greg predicted, but I’m willing to bet a large sum on who is most likely to win the battle for control. It ain’t you and the folks you like.
You have to pass it to find out what’s in it!
Jay, no you can’t summarize my argument 🙂 I have no idea how you shoe-horned my comments to mean we have to build “a national infrastructure” around something “we don’t know.” In fact, the CCSS are pretty explicit in what texts should be read and why. And they are also explicit in demanding that states and districts write curricula to meet those standards. See my comments about the implications of mandatory schooling in “Clash of the Petty Dictators,” but the point is that if we are going to taxing citizens to provide a public education, then we owe said taxpayers a decent bang for their bucks: some bullets for the guns!
The culture wars rage between the cognitive crowd v the three C’s, creativity, collaboration, and cooperation. While both are ardent defenders of their views, once the corresponding assessments hit the streets, the cognitive group will become the domineer while the folks touting the three C’s will be left playing second fiddle. The “soft skills” emphasized by the three C’s will become secondary and eventually somewhat unimportant after thoughts.
Does anyone really believe the New York Times or the Los Angeles Times will report on which schools are doing better on their “soft skills” or will they be more interested in student test scores from the new assessments in 2014?