Common Core: Confusion is the Enemy of Clear Policy Choices
Around the State
Ed Ball, the late head of the duPont trust, had a favorite toast: “Confusion to the enemy.”
I knew Ball and he was no liberal. He was instrumental in defeating the staunch New Dealer Claude Pepper's re-election to the Senate by sowing confusion in voters' minds.
Take the Common Core education standards.
Liberals blame standards and accountability for all the ills in public education – and public education is pretty sick. Results from the Programme for International Student Assessment recently showed the United States is making progress, but not as fast as other countries whose students will be competing with ours for jobs.
For liberals the only medicine is money. Keep throwing money at schools and they will get better – someday. They also blame poverty for the poor performance by schools, a ridiculous assertion only a liberal would embrace.
Common Core builds on the standards and accountability model that Florida has been a leader in for the past 15 years.
Yet Common Core is opposed not only by liberals but also by some conservatives.
Here's why: They confuse standards with curriculum. Liberals, of course, help create the confusion.
Standards establish what children are supposed to learn. Curriculum is the materials and methods used to teach them what the standards say they should know.
Various organizations are proposing curriculum for Common Core.
“The wants of an individual are less important than the well-being of the nation,” said one that could have come out of the Little Red Book of Chairman Mao.
But curriculum would continue to be set by local school districts and, to some extent, state legislatures.
In rational areas of Florida, the left-wing way of teaching is not going to fly. In university towns and South Florida, some of it might be adopted. But they could adopt it now, if they chose.
Conservative parents would have other choices, because Florida is a leader in that area also.
They can home-school. They can put their kids in private schools. There are charter schools.
If liberals want to drive more people out of the public schools, imposing more socialist indoctrination is a good way to do it.
Former Gov. Jeb Bush is primarily responsible for higher education standards, accountability and school choice in Florida, to his vast credit. Liberals savage him for this achievement. They falsely state that the reforms have not worked, contrary to overwhelming evidence.
There are valid concerns. Fearing that the federal government will intrude on the process is well-founded. But Big Government intrudes on everything, so this is just another area where Americans need to resist.
A former school superintendent in Jacksonville often said, “Students will rise to the level of expectation” and the Common Core standards that were put into motion by collaboration among several states set the level of expectation high.
It puts the onus on local districts to ensure that students reach that level, using teaching materials and methods that are acceptable to each community.
Lloyd Brown was in the newspaper business nearly 50 years, beginning as a copy boy and retiring as editorial page editor of the Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville. After retirement he served as speech writer for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.