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Carroll County Times

Jim Lee: Hypocrisy in core objections

The hypocrisy of those who oppose new education standards takes away a lot of their credibility and suggests that their motivations have more to do with their own personal agendas than what is best for students.
Opponents to the Common Core State Standard Initiative, which sets minimum educational standards in reading and math, say it is an attempt by the federal government to dictate what our kids are taught.
This may be a surprise to some folks, but that ship pretty much sailed when Republican President George W. Bush enacted the No Child Left Behind law. Republicans and conservatives didn't complain when that happened, of course, but now they are trying to tie the Democratic Obama administration to common core and portray it as an evil that must be fought and defeated at all costs.
Common core standards are the product of the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. Developing the standards, which are meant to improve education across the country and help our students become more competitive in the world, took years and included input from school systems and educators everywhere. It is a blatant lie to say that the standards originated with the federal government, the line used by some ardent opponents.
Right now, the standards involve math and reading. To me, I really don't see the problem. Does it matter whether it is the federal government, a state government, a local school board or even a home-school child's parent saying kids should know math and should be able to read? And do these opponents really think that the federal government is going to start teaching kids that two plus two equals five? Where is the controversy?
Commissioner Richard Rothschild has been a vocal opponent of common core, saying in one video that the standards will "turn [students] into propaganda institutes driven by the federal government." Rothschild says the Obama administration is waving grant money at states as way to coerce them into adopting common core. For my dollar, if the government wants to give us money to help kids learn to read or help learn math, I really don't see a problem with that.
Rothschild says government shouldn't be involved in education, but then I remember how he threatened to withhold funding to our school system if the board of education - a body directly elected by voters - didn't acquiesce to his will and close schools that he personally doesn't think we need. At the time, some school board members said he was bullying them.
Rothschild's railing against federal control of schools while trying to exercise dominance over a locally elected school board is pretty much the epitome of hypocrisy. If Rothschild is right and the government should stay out of education, then the rule should also apply to him since he is a government official. As it stands, he is a government official railing against government involvement in schools while at the same time trying to control our school system. Explain that.
No, this whole controversy isn't really about whether all kids should know how to read or know that two plus two is four. It is about right-wing fundamentalists worried about their ability to influence education through their view of revisionist history taught in classrooms.
Texas has been in the headlines in recent years because some of the state's school boards are pressuring the makers of textbooks to revise history. They want more prominence given to conservative political figures and they want to downplay contributions of minorities through history, among other things. They'd also like to see more Christian fundamentalism in textbooks, and we have seen many areas of the country fight over whether creationism or evolution should be taught in schools.
I've always been one for giving kids all the information on all the topics. As they work through conflicting theories and test them themselves, it helps them gain a greater understanding of society as a whole. Education should not lean right, nor should it lean left.
As common core standards develop in other areas, it would be good to have some of these conversations concerning what is and what is not taught.
But regardless of whether the standards are adopted - and 45 states and the District of Columbia have adopted the math and reading standards - battles concerning some of these other issues have been going on for decades and will continue to go on.
Fundamentalists who want creationism taught in schools aren't going to stop just because there are minimum standards of learning through common core.
Logically, if those who say they are opposed to common core really want the best for their kids, I would think they would be arguing for more and greater standards as opposed to no standards. But logic plays no role if your only true objective is to push your agenda. When that happens, your basic arguments do little more than expose your own hypocrisy.


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