Saturday, September 6, 2014

The Other Conservative Reform Argument

If you've been scratching your head and wondering why several prominent conservative ed writers and thinky tankists have been turning on the Common Core lately, we have an reminder of where a new argument could be headed.

Over at SFGate, we find Vicki E. Alger, a thinky tankist from the Independent Institute (libertarian) in Oakland, presenting this article-- "American Education Needs Competition, Not Common Core."

The title pretty well says it all. The article is loaded with baloney. Did you know that the CCSS standards writers compromised on real toughness in the standards in order to get buy in from teachers' unions? Of course you didn't, for much the same reason that you weren't aware that the flames on the sun are maintained by dancing fairies.

There's more in a general Glen Becky way-- federal overreach, data gathering, feds many broken education promises. But here's the pin on which the argument pivots.

Ultimately, Common Core rests on the faulty premise that a single, centralized entity knows what's best for all 55 million students nationwide. Raising the education bar starts with putting the real experts in charge: students' parents.

For much of the new wave of reformy goodness, choice, privatization and the Core have traveled hand in hand. The premise was that CCSS would be a yardstick by which all schools could be measured, and by using it (by way of super-awesome tests) we would find out that public schools were sucky and needed to be escaped by sending students (and their money) to charter/choice/private schools.

In this newer argument, the Core is no longer a yardstick of excellence, but a straightjacket of government naughtiness. The Core used to be a tool for helping students escape terrible government schools; now it's a symbol of why government schools are terrible. This is not a new argument; it's just one that we haven't always clearly associated with the conservative fans of reforminess.

Bottom line: Reformsters who are fans of privatization and free-market voucherish solutions for the dismantling and monetization of public education-- these folks do not really need the Common Core to push their agenda, and can easily move from fighting for it to fighting against it without having to drop any other piece of their program. Alger has been beating this drum for a while; who knows when her band might suddenly get bigger.

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