On Thursday, sporting my tin foil hat, I drove to Jefferson City to testify against the Common Core State Standards. For a long time, proponents of Common Core have tried to paint detractors as a bunch of kooks. And to be honest, there are some ideas floating around that are a little wacky. But proponents who attempt to smear all Common Core cynics as conspiracy theorists, nut jobs, or crazy people ignore many of the issues surrounding the new de facto national standards.
Part of the problem is that supporters and opponents of the standards are too often talking past each other. Supporters put blinders on and say, “Common Core are just standards.” Opponents, on the other hand, too often point to all of the other stuff – data mining, recommended texts, etc. – and they ignore that the “Common Core are just standards.”
While I believe “all the other stuff” is important, let’s not neglect the argument about standards. Sometimes, we need to engage the proponents on their terms. Sometimes we need to talk about the standards. That is what I tried to address in my testimony.
Do we even need centrally imposed standards? Missouri did not adopt statewide standards until 1996. That’s right, for 175 years Missouri did not have centrally imposed standards. I imagine many of you reading this grew up in an era without centrally imposed standards. Does that mean that we did not have any educational standards? By no means. Rather, these decisions were decided at the local level.
Think about private schools. Without government coercion, many private schools have established learning standards that are more rigorous than our state standards. Yet, for some reason, we have come to believe that the only way we can have a world-class education system is to have a centrally governed education system that imposes standards on local schools. That is simply not the case.