CCSS: The Pushback Gains Momentum

Since the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) were introduced, The New York Times has been in constant, clamorous support. Columnists as diverse as Paul Krugman and David Brooks have lauded them; new stories have assumed their obvious utility and necessity.

Today, however, that started to change. Columnist Timothy Egan wrote this:

The push for Common Core standards in the schools came from colleges and employers who complained that high schools were turning out too many graduates unprepared for the modern world. That legitimate criticism prompted a massive overhaul affecting every part of the country. Now, the pushback, in part, is coming from people who feel that music, art and other unmeasured values got left behind — that the Common Core stifles creativity. Educators teach for the test, but not for the messy brains of the kids in the back rows.

Egan is wrong about the push for CCSS–colleges and employers have complained about the quality of our high-school graduates, yes, but I have yet to hear one argue that imposition of random and universal “standards” would solve the problem–but it is wonderful to finally read someone give even the slightest criticism of CCSS in the Times.

The central problem of CCSS isn’t that it “marginalizes messiness” (a charge Egan levels against Amazon) but that it assumes the universe can be boxed and shipped (a charge I will also level against Amazon). If you can’t package it and place it, it doesn’t exist.

As any “educated” person knows, the more we learn, the less we are willing to claim we know. When we know little, we believe there is little to know; when we know more, we become astonished by the meagerness of what we have learned so far. That’s the core problem with CCSS: it is created on assumptions about knowledge (and creativity) that only the willfully ignorant (and uncreative) can hold. I doubt that Krugman and Brooks would continue to support CCSS if they really looked into it, its creation and its distribution.

The current “goodwill tour” by Bill Gates and the other supporters of CCSS is failing. They are not turning public opinion to their side. Nor are they convincing anyone that the only opponents of CCSS are Tea Partiers who ‘want nuttin t’do wid no gummit.’ Even support in the Times may be cracking–as Egan’s column today may suggest.

Let’s hope so.


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