Is Democracy Too Messy for the Post-Dispatch Editorial Board?
Yesterday, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch released an editorial titled, “Republicans continue to peddle the Common Core lie.” A more appropriate title for the piece might have been, “Democracy is too messy for our refined tastes.” Rather than tackle any of the substantive arguments about the Common Core—Are they rigorous? Do they promote constructivist teaching practices? Was the federal government overly involved in adoption? etc.—the editorial team focused on denouncing legislative attacks on Common Core because they don’t actually remove Common Core. Of course, given their support for the standards, the editorial board likely would have been just as derisive had the legislature been 100 percent effective in removing the standards.
Thus far, the legislature has passed a bill which created workgroups tasked with developing new standards. I happen to be serving on the K-5 math standards group. The purpose of these groups is to come up with standards that have been created with the input of a wide swath of Missourians from varying backgrounds. If standards consist of the things we are going to teach our kids, everyone should have input. Now, this might mean that we have contradictory opinions and impassioned debate, but that is a good thing. That means the process has been inclusive and a wide range of views are being represented.
Sure, the Common Core sailed through the state department of education with little commotion, but that is not a good thing! They were not developed through an open, public process, but behind closed doors. This better, more inclusive process is going to take time. That is OK.
The legislature’s decision to remove funding for Common Core-aligned tests particularly drew the editorial board’s ire. The Post-Dispatch’seditorial board looks at these developments and says, “This is how we do education policy in the U.S. One step forward, two steps back.”
Regardless of whether the steps have been forward or back, the editorial board is right. This is how education policy works in the U.S. Our system of government is designed with checks and balances on purpose. These are not quirks, but features of the system designed to limit any one group’s ability, such as Common Core supporters, to railroad the entire population. These are exactly the features that were subverted through the development and adoption of the Common Core standards.
Our Democratic system can be messy at times, and it can frustrate well-intentioned central planners who wish to impose their will on us all, but this is an example of it working appropriately.