As the Common Core takes hit after hit, it's easy to get excited. We shouldn't. There are dangers to public education waiting in the wings.
When the Lion Sleeps, the Jackals Feed
An antelope may fight off a lion, may even convince the lion that it's not worth the trouble. But the fight with the lion may leave the antelope weakened and easy prey for other predators.
I've written before about the folks who feel that CCSS is simply the "government schools" showing their true oppressive colors. As Common Core is pushed back, these folks are not going to say, "Okay, well now that we've chased CCSS out of here, our work is done and we can go home." They are going to say, "While we have the gummint on the run, it's time to clean these schools up for good."
That may mean upping the choice ante so that they can rescue their children from government schools. It may mean a level of school oversight unlike anything we've ever seen-- after all, if they can successfully challenge that awful PARCC test, why not also challenge Mrs. Guttershmidt's awful test about Shakespearean literature? It may involve replacing public schools entirely with a network of privatization and homeschooling.
Public school supporters who have been fighting the enemy in front of them had better be prepared to swing around to cover their flanks quickly.
Getting Rid of Practices Doesn't Change Premises
North Carolina, a state that has proven itself spectacularly hostile to public school and public school teachers, is making noise about canning the Core. Does anybody really think that what would come next would be good news for public education?
There are plenty of people opposing Common Core who still believe that
-- we need some sort of nationalized standards and/or curriculum
-- we need some sort of test-based acountability
-- that our schools are failing and they need a swift kick in the ass
-- and that it's teachers' collective fault
Getting rid of the Common Core Complex without altering the premises that powered it is like trying to deal with your aged-whitened hair by shaving your head-- it's just going to grow back. Mow the dandelions in your yard, and they'll just grow back. If we don't address the ideas that allowed CCSS to take root, we will just grow more of the same.
Concurrent with the rise of the Core is the discovery that American public education is a giant cash cow just waiting to be milked. Pearson et al will not be saying, "Oh, so, never mind? That's cool. We'll just pack our stuff and go home."
Part of what has appealed to the biz community about CCSS complex stuff is that A) it reflects a dog-eat-dog, stack and rank, winners and losers, sticks and carrots world view and B) it costs money to implement it. But A) the dog-eat-dog competitive worldview is a lousy idea for educating children, and B) we need to focus our limited resources on things that actually help educate students.
Folks in the edubiz world have found beautiful new Lexus-spawning business model. It's the golden goose, the magic beans, the pot of gold that keeps on giving. They are not going to walk away from that easily or ever.
It's a New World
CCSS supporters were right about one thing-- we can't go back to the way things were. Not because it's a bad idea, but because the landscape has changed. The CCSS will collapse, sooner or later, because even the giant pile of money being fed into them will not compensate for reformsters' ever-growing record of failure. But when they collapse, we will be in a new place, a place that will still be shaped by what the reformsters have done.
It's ironic. Even people who disagree with the reformsters' ideas for solutions have quietly accepted the reformsters' framing of the problem. If we want to really change the conversation about public education, that's where we will need to focus our energy.