So CPAC happened this week, at which various GOP future candidates try to see if they can win a little conservative love. And that means that Common Core had to be trotted out for ceremonial abuse, like a disgraced former party officer in Communist China.
There was a CPAC panel that addressed the Core, and Patrick Brennan at National Review said it was "...not good." The American Conservative also covered the panel, which included such educational experts as Phyllis Schafly.
The panel featured that kind of Common Core opposition that creates a bit of a conundrum for those of us who support traditional public education. Because some of the people who oppose Common Core are (and I'm sorry to say this, because some of you are readers of this blog) peddling baloney. This is how challenging the Common Core debate has become-- here we are standing in front of our house telling our neighbor, "Do not take that sack of poisonous snakes into your home with your family," and we find ourselves joined on the sidewalk by another neighbor who joins in, hollering, "Yeah, don't take those snakes in there! They will make all the electrical circuits spit blood and cause your paint to peel."
So CPAC included people who somehow blamed CCSS for the teaching of sex education and evolution, as well as the usual concerns about informational reading being code for liberal propaganda. This was intermixed with legitimate points, such as the observation that there's not a lick of evidence to support the notion that broadly-accepted standards fix much of anything.
But mostly what CPAC featured re: Common Core was the Whiplash Brigade, a group of aspiring Presidential wanna-bes who lined up to take pot-shots at the policy initiative that had been, just a few years ago, their educational BFF. Haley Sweetland Edwards at Time noted the phenomenon that featured all the candidate hopefuls downplaying, distancing and demolishing their previous CCSS support. Well, all but one. Jeb Bush continues to signal that he is prepared to fight and die on Mount Common Core. Bush, however, reportedly depends on busloads of high-priced friends to back him, so that battle is not going well.
So who will hold Jindal and Christie and Walker and Huckabee accountable for their flip-floppage?
None other than newly-minted reformstress Campbell Brown, who took to the pages of the Washington Post to throw the "P" word at the assembled hopefuls-- pandering.
Pandering is a great word. Its definition, of course, is "offering support for a policy with which I disagree." Politicians who support policies I agree with are showing wisdom and vision, or at a minimum, smart realpolitik sense.
Brown lays out the history of Jindal and Christie re: Common Core and boils their defection down to this sentence:
All this, of course, is not about education. Or facts.
Her outrage that these politicians are making political choices for political reasons mirrors an argument often used by reformsters in arguments about the Core-- why are you bringing up these political points? why make this issue about politics instead of discussing the educational merits?
How dare these politicians abandon CCSS because desertion id politically expedient?
Well, those who live by political expediency die by political expediency.
Jindal, Christie, Walker, and a host of other politicians did not ever support the Core because they had looked at it and determined that it was a sound educational package. They did not have a team of blue ribbon teachers examine the standards in order to render a solid educational judgment by which politicians might be guided. Heck, in many cases, the governors threw state support behind the standards before they were even written!
Nor were the CCSS birthed in education in the first place. They were created by corporate interests at the behest of politicians (or maybe vice versa). From the earliest sparks, they were created with an eye on the political angle, not by asking how can we create great educational standards, but how can we get some standards adopted by the entire country.
State leaders were convinced that it would be politically expedient to adopt the standards, that like most political education playmaking, there would be plenty of upside and no downside (remember those days not so long ago when saying you were for better schools did not start a cranky debate?). The leaders would adopt the standards, the standards would be driven down through the educational system, and leaders would get to call themselves part of a great transformative movement that made US education awesome.
Guys like Jindal and Christie were never looking at the educational effects or the best interests of students. They were doing political calculus, and the CCSS forefathers were cheering them on.
It's very hard to change the rules of these games in mid-contest. Core proponents wanted the standards to become victorious in a game played by the rules of politics and power, and that's what they got. Sad for them that they didn't anticipate how those rules could work against them one day, but they can't cry "foul" because no foul. By the rules of the game they set out to play, dropping the core because it's politically expedient to do so is right there in the rulebook.