LEAD LETTER OF THE WEEK

Letter | Like it or not, Common Core has political ramifications

March 9, 2014 

Re: Feb. 12 letter from Barbara Goggans, “Objection to education standards political”

Barbara Goggans, English teacher from Pawleys Island, supports the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts and does not understand the objection of S. C. Parents Involved in Education (SCPIE), claiming that she is sure the objection is political and not about the standards. As evidence, she states that she has read the standards, is a 36-year educator, not a politician, and that she knows about standards. Goggans errs, however, in her contention. SCPIE’s objection is both political and substantive.

Goggans asserts that she is not very political. However, there is a great saying that “if you do not go to find the politics, the politics will come to find you.” Such is the case with respect to the Common Core State Standards, for Goggans and all citizens of South Carolina. Our support or non-support of any standards is political in nature, whether we choose to be political or not.

The political ramifications of these standards will destroy all that is left of the time-honored practice of states’ and local communities’ sovereignty over public education. National standards will result in national control. The implications will be far-reaching and society altering.

Despite the claim that the Common Core effort was state-led because it was under the auspices of the National Governors Association and Council of Chief State School Officers, both non-elected trade associations, with no accountability to the public, it is heavily financed by Bill Gates and the national government’s stimulus program, via Race to the Top. This is national bribery at its best and serves to unite big business and big government in a creative union to undermine state authority over public education.

Not only is the Common Core a very political issue, but it is quite substantive, as well. SCPIE has objections that go far beyond politics, arguing that there are many problems with the standards themselves.

Some of its major objections include early childhood standards which demand abstract thought and language demands that are far beyond the maturational development of many youth, causing inexcusable frustration levels which destroy a love of learning and result in negative behavior. SCPIE cites the ridiculous nature of Common Core’s fuzzy math and students not being prepared for selective colleges because of lowered math standards. Advanced implementation in New York state indicates massive retrenchment on the part of students, parents, teachers, administrators, and even the state teachers’ union. SCPIE’s objections are not only reserved for math but also for English Language Arts (ELA).

Goggans cites the implementation of numerous South Carolina ELA standards and revisions with which she has been involved and stands behind them as good efforts. However, she praises the recent Common Core ELA standards as even better than those developed by our state. While Goggans supports her contention with valid evidence, she fails to point out that these standards are empty skill-sets, not focused on required literary works. The exemplars she cites from Appendix B are just that, “exemplars.” What will actually be taught and required will be subject to what is going to be on the test, yet to be determined by the Smarter Balanced consortium, an entity funded, in part, by the national government. Testing will drive our curriculum and textbook content.

Goggans is one of the best educators with whom I have been associated during my 41-year teaching career. I know she has tremendous expertise in ELA. However, I would suggest that she investigate the history and philosophy of the Common Core and not simply focus on what she likes about the content. If not, the politics will find her.

The writer lives in Surfside Beach and is International Baccalaureate History instructor at Socastee High School.

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