If Common Core is a plot, then it’s a conservative one

The News TribuneJune 23, 2013 

To the hoax of the moon landing, George W. Bush’s secret masterminding of 9/11 and Detroit’s suppression of the water-fueled car, add another conspiracy theory:

Common Core is an Obamanian plot to seize control of America’s public schools.

This canard, astonishingly, is fast becoming an article of faith of the tea party movement and has even been picked up by the Republican National Committee, which ought to know better. As the adage says, a lie can make it halfway around the world while the truth is still lacing up its boots.

The Common Core State Standards — now being adopted by school districts in Washington and most other states — ought to be uncontroversial, especially to conservatives who beef about the basics that don’t get taught in public education.

For one thing, the standards are anything but “Obamacore,” as some tea partiers have dubbed them. Common Core has been brewing since the 1990s; it began when the states’ education leaders started talking to each other about the country’s patchwork of incoherent and typically lax academic standards.

The final product — released three years ago — was an initiative of the National Governors Association. Most of the nation’s governors are Republican.

One problem they address is of great importance to the South Sound’s numerous military households. When military families move, they often discover that their new school district is out of sync with the old: Kids wind up bored silly by lessons they’ve already learned or find themselves struggling to catch up with their classmates.

Common Core aligns grade-level expectations across the country. States don’t have to adopt it; the notion that Obama is forcing it on them is pure myth. And school districts retain discretion over how to help students reach the standards.

Nor is this a sinister, left-wing indoctrination plot. On the contrary. The standards encourage districts to teach, among other texts, America’s foundational documents — such as the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence and the Gettysburg Address.

The suggested works of literature encompass American and Western traditions; authors include plenty of “dead white male” geniuses — the likes of Robert Frost, George Orwell, Mark Twain, Winston Churchill, Euclid and Sophocles — who are supposedly being banished from reading lists. Longfellow’s “Paul Revere’s Ride” is in there, for heaven’s sake.

The math standards are also rigorous. They are designed to help young Americans catch up with countries that are doing a far better job of teaching scientific and technical skills to their youth.

This isn’t a scheme hatched in secrecy; the standards have been developed and adopted in broad daylight, even if some weren’t paying attention.

They’re strong. They’re American. They weren’t concocted by the Illuminati, and they won’t leave the country in the clutches of a Manchurian candidate born in Kenya.

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