Written by Tim Pope
My Google Alert for “Common Core Mathematics” has recently supplied me with no shortage of reading as a fair number of states are engaging in debate around the Common Core. The debate has created some strange bedfellows as the Tea Party and the teachers unions share antipathy for the standards while many Republican governors and legislators are joining President Obama’s administration in support of the Common Core. Healthy debate on what is best for our schools and our children is not only appropriate, but a necessary part of a successful society. What concerns me as a parent and an educator is my fear that the Common Core debate is being removed from a true conversation about preparing our children for a challenging future. Learning standards seem to have become another pawn in the seemingly ceaseless polarized rhetoric that passes for political discourse.
Five states have, for various reasons, not adopted the Common Core. A few others have been debating them for a while. The number of states questioning the Standards jumped this spring when the Republican National Committee adopted a resolution condemning the Common Core. Not wanting to use this blog to cover ground that others have covered, the Fordham Institute has provided their response.
Red – Committed to CCSS
Blue – Adopted CCSS, but state legislature considering rejection
Gray – Did not adopt CCSS
The discourse has become heated as some of those wanting to abandon the Common Core accuse the federal government of conspiring to take over schools, invade the privacy of families, and increase the profits of companies involved with the new standards. Not to only focus on one side of the traditional political debate, teachers unions have also provided lukewarm responses as they worry the new assessments may impact their job security.
In the Heath brothers’ latest book, Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work, they explore the common mistake of confirmation bias when making a decision. Our politics have become so polarized, I think we often look for reasons to assume the worst and the Common Core is falling victim to this bias. Tea Party groups are looking to confirm their beliefs about the federal government and unions are looking to confirm their beliefs about perceived disrespect. The Heath brothers suggest assuming positive intent as a strategy for overcoming the bias.
Is it not possible to assume the writers of the Common Core are capable individuals seeking to ensure all students are prepared for college and careers?
Is it not possible to assume the Department of Education was looking for a scalable solution to the incredible challenge of preparing students to make positive contributions to our nation?
Is it not possible to assume publishers and other instructional materials vendors are simply reacting to the policy makers, districts, schools, and teachers that make up our customer base?
It is also possible that there are great conspiracy theories looking to cheat the American people, and our children, from a quality education. However, starting with that premise only eliminates the possibility of true dialogue and any opportunity we have to improve student learning.