Common Core: A Well Intentioned Disaster
Dr. James Shuls on Common Core as originally reported in the Show-Me Institute’s June 2013 Newsletter:
Milton Friedman once said, “Concentrated power is not rendered harmless by the good intentions of those who create it.” The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are a well-intentioned idea, but they will have a disastrous impact on individual liberty and academic freedom for students. With full-scale implementation of these de facto national standards looming, Missourians may want to heed Friedman’s warning.
The idea is simple. Set common, rigorous standards for what all students in the United States should know and then watch them excel. No harm, no foul, right? Wrong.
Supporters of these standards will have you believe that the development and our subsequent adoption was completely a state-led process. The fact is that the U.S. Department of Education heavily influenced these standards. The end result is a reduction in local control.
Supporters of Common Core will also have you believe that these are just content standards. The Common Core sets the standards for math and English language arts; other subjects are forthcoming, but simply saying these are content standards could not be further from the truth. Establishing a set of national standards will have far-reaching implications for all Missourians, even those who homeschool or send their children to private schools. The standards will influence textbook development, teaching practices, college entrance exams, teacher preparation, and much more.
Ultimately, the whole Common Core movement is built on the flawed mindset that we can mandate and orchestrate improved student achievement through centralized government. For standards-based accountability to work, it must be followed by heavy-handed government accountability.
Improved student achievement comes from having great teachers in the classroom who can meet the individual needs of their students and from having parents engaged in their child’s education. States, schools, teachers, and even students are far too unique to have one centralized approach that is suitable to all of their differences.
There is nothing wrong with having high academic standards for students, but a federal consortium of states does not have to set those standards. Neal McCluskey of the Cato Institute wrote: “Only a free market can produce the mix of high standards, accountability, and flexibility that is essential to achieving optimal educational outcomes.”
Parents and taxpayers in Missouri are right to be wary of the Common Core State Standards because they are nothing more than the camel’s nose under the tent for more federal involvement in our local schools.
James V. Shuls is the education policy analyst at the Show-Me Institute, which promotes market solutions for Missouri public policy.