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Common Core: Bad for Teachers, and Students

By Henry Graebe, Grassroots Manager at FreedomWorks

Beyond the major scandals currently plaguing Washington, D.C., grassroots conservatives have been mobilizing on an equally important, yet underreported, controversial issue: Common Core. When Race to the Top was introduced as part of the 2009 stimulus, states were bribed with billions of dollars by President Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. Contingent upon qualification for the money was the states’ adoption of the Common Core Standards (CCS), a top-down “one-size-fits-all” curriculum, thus giving the federal government a roundabout entrance into localized educational systems.

This is not unlike our current situation with the alcohol age limits; states willingly surrendered their autonomy when Washington held federal highway dollars hostage until states came into compliance with the federal 21-and-up standard. However, as CCS implementation approaches, the backlash is beginning to take shape- and fast. Five states have refused to adopt CCS and fourteen states have introduced legislation to repeal, defund, or delay Common Core.

As more light continues to shine on the negative effects of these new standards, parents and teachers alike are becoming very concerned about the lack of say and influence they will command in the classroom. This brings us to the crux of Common Core- it undermines the very essence of choice. By eliminating and controlling options for teachers and families, it will leave our nation’s classrooms for the worse.

The founders of CCS assume that every classroom and school district function in precisely the same way. Of course, it is unreasonable to think that a child in a large city classroom will learn and perform just like a student in a small rural classroom. For this reason, parents and teachers have, from time immemorial, been entrusted to work hand-in-hand to decide what is best for their students. Are we ready to remove that trust and declare that our best math teachers are the Washington bureaucrats who are responsible for a $17 trillion debt? The Common Core standards have never been tested. Anywhere. And as many politicians are discovering, the country is not ready to follow the Obamacare and implement CCS prior to finding out what is in it.

Beyond the lack of choice within the realm of curriculum, Common Core leaves parents with a particularly troubling non-decision. As it stands, the government will begin to data-mine children from kindergarten until the time they enter the workforce. This data, which attempts to determine learning patterns based on the students’ (and their family’s) religion, moral attitudes, and political affiliations, is then sold to a private company, inBloom (funded by special interests, particularly Bill Gates), and returned back to the government. No less than nine states, including New York, prohibit parents from opting-out of this creepy data collection.

Parents who believe that their children will benefit from this massive data project should be extended the invitation of participating via an opt-in. If there is enough public support for data-mining students, it should be a family decision to enroll in such a program. But to forbid parents from having their young child’s future courses pre-determined based on the patterns of other students’ attributes and behaviors is nothing short of government arrogance and overreach.

Common Core collects and stores data on five year olds under the guise of education in the same way that the Patriot Act reads personal emails under the guise of national security. It is another classic example of ‘Big Brother Knows Best’, and we are expected to sacrifice personal choice and freedom for the presumed greater good of the state.

But Common Core not only diminishes choice and freedoms for families, it reduces the ability of teachers to create and innovate to meet the needs of their students. Students should be striving to outperform one another in attempt to attend better schools and receive better jobs. Similarly, teachers, like in every other profession, should be encouraged to outperform one another because a rising tide benefits all students. However, CCS removes any instructional flexibility despite the possibility that their curriculum may not be what works best for a particular class. If teachers are not handed the freedom to distinguish themselves and find new ways to connect with their students, we might as well eliminate the Teacher of the Year awards.

As it currently stands, an unhappy teacher has the option of moving to a private school or a new district where the curriculum may be more aligned with her standards. Or he may switch to a charter school with less bureaucratic red tape and higher pay. But if all public and private schools are adopting the exact same lesson plans, regardless of how socio-economic backgrounds affect student performance, then teachers too are losing their autonomy. Common Core forces all teachers to conform their lesson plans and cater to one large standardized test.

Parents and teachers are, and should remain, the most integral part of our children’s education. Big government and their special interests have enough scandals and inefficiencies to cope with. Let’s not add education to their list of dirty laundry.

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