(Guest post by Greg Forster)
Before things get out of hand, which they will when this hits the rounds, let me say something about this horrifying story.
The Rialto public school district asked eighth graders to write an essay about whether the Holocaust really happened. Students were pointed to several informational documents to help them, including one that argued the Holocaust was a “hoax” invented by nefarious Jewish groups to raise money. The assignment will be changed.
Interim Superintendent Mohammad Islam said he was going to talk to administrators to “assure that any references to the Holocaust ‘not occurring’ will be stricken on any current or future Argumentative Research assignments,” according to KTLA-5.
But this is not just an anti-Semitism story. Common Core has, of course, been invoked. The L.A. chapter of the ADL seems to have originated the CC connection:
ADL does not have any evidence that the assignment was given as part of a larger, insidious, agenda. Rather, the district seems to have given the assignment with an intent, although misguided, to meet Common Core standards relating to critical learning skills.
Uh-huh. However that may be, media reports are already picking up the CC connection from ADL and re-broadcasting it.
Now of course it’s nonsense to attribute this kind of thing to the Common Core as such. This is a locally generated scandal, and no doubt Mr. Islam will not rest until he gets to the bottom of it and makes sure those responsible are held to account.
At the same time, I have never had much sympathy for CC supporters who beat their breasts and wail every time a local scandal (poor exam questions, bad pedagogy, etc.) is labeled a “Common Core” scandal and laid at the feet of CC.
Folks, from the moment you set yourself up as the dictator of the system, you officially own everything that happens in the system. This is not a new phenomenon. This is simply what you get when you announce that you have set a single standard for a huge, sprawling, decentralized system with literally millions of decision-makers, very few of whom have much incentive to do what you want, but very many of whom have some pet project they’d like to push through using your name to do it.
When you undertake a huge reform effort, you have only three options:
- Loose: Allow systems to adopt Reform X if they really want to. You get fewer systems adopting it, but those that adopt it will really adopt it.
- Tight: Force, bribe and cajole systems to adopt Reform X, then take over the daily responsibility of running those systems to enforce the reform.
- Tight-Loose: Force, bribe and cajole systems to say they’re adopting Reform X, but don’t take over their daily operations.
What we have with CC is case #3. And the unavoidable reality of case #3 is that everyone at every point in the system will suddenly start doing whatever they wanted to do but were previously forbidden or unable to do, and will call it Reform X. I feel embarrassed that I have to point out these obvious realities.
Common Core did not invent most of the awfulness being done in the name of Common Core, but it opened the back door for all the awfulness to slip in. Simplest solution: close the door.
HT Jim Geraghty