Why the Friendly Atheist is Right (and Wrong) about Common Core

Why the Friendly Atheist is Right (and Wrong) about Common Core October 28, 2015

Common Core. Those two words send shivers down the spines of rock ribbed conservatives. My fellow Patheos Blogger , the Friendly Atheist, has gotten much traction from his Pro-Common Core posts deconstructing some viral Common Core criticism.  I wanted to hate these two posts: About That ‘Common Core’ Math Problem Making the Rounds on Facebook…” and The Dad Who Wrote a Check Using “Common Core” Math Doesn’t Know What He’s Talking About” But I found them persuasive. In fact, they do an excellent job of showing how bad some anti-Common Core arguments can be, it would be an equally stupid argument to therefore assume all anti-Common Core arguments are stupid. In fact, they aren’t. Common Core tries to do a very good thing – hold all students in American public schools to higher standards so they are prepared for college success or a good job that pays them good money to support their families. But like good concepts before, the federal government gets in the way and ruins a perfectly good concept. Constitutional attorney Joseph Williams explained that Common Core was originally voluntary for states. But then the federal government said that states could get more education funding for cash-starved school systems, but only if they supported Common Core. Or, states that fell behind on No Child Left Behind were given waivers to let them keep getting federal money… but only if they signed up for Common Core. What started out as voluntary is now increasingly mandatory… or at least mandatory if you don’t want to lose out on a lot of federal money for public education. Ramesh Ponnuru writes:

“Common Core is not a conspiracy. That doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. It could well end up wasting the time and energy of education reformers for a decade without doing much for students. And it may be that the reformers should face a truth that both No Child Left Behind and Common Core tried to deny: that there just is not much that can be done at the national level to improve primary education.”

There are other problems with Common Core too – the federal government continues to try to seize power in an arena that has traditionally been left to states, counties, and local control. When the federal government tries to solve problems, it makes it harder for local governments to solve the problems of their people. It also sometimes helps big businesses in charge of standardized tests and textbooks and other education products sold to thousands of school districts and millions of kids. One-size-fits-all doesn’t solve health care, poverty, or education. That doesn’t mean standards shouldn’t be higher. That doesn’t mean all arguments against Common Core are grounded in reality. But that also doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t take a hard look at Common Core and our other education policies and ask what is actually best for our kids and our future. I’d be interested in the Friendly Atheist’s thoughts on these all-too-real problems with Common Core. Read more on the Patheos Faith and Family Channel.


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