- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 30, 2013

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

President Obama wants to be involved in drafting the curriculum in our local schools. It’s part of an initiative called “Common Core,” the brainchild of state educational bureaucrats crying out for more centralization. This administration is more than happy to advance this because it means a larger role for the federal government.

When Jimmy Carter opened the Department of Education, Uncle Sam was supposed to be just a financier doling out money to schools. Federal law prohibited the department from writing the curriculum or selecting “instructional materials.” Things began to change with the adoption of President Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” law, which opened the door for the feds to start dictating standards to local communities. The White House is now taking the next step by offering $4 billion in “Race to the Top” stimulus money to bribe states into embracing decisions made by a central committee.

Common Core is a one-size-fits-all approach to teaching guidelines and assessments that transfers control of what is being taught in local schools away from teachers, parents and administrators and hands it to a remote bureaucracy. Federal officials will eventually take charge.

A recent peer-reviewed study determined that the costs of adopting a national program at close to $16 billion. Though expensive, centralization will only produce mediocre results as teachers who move ahead or teach outside the book in order to bring greater educational experiences to the classroom will be punished, while those who “teach to the test” will be rewarded. Once a system of national standards is established, federal officials won’t be able to resist the temptation of inserting every trendy educational fad into the curriculum. Instead of values, kids will be indoctrinated in cultural relativism. The notion of teaching useful skills will fall before the altar of political correctness.

Parents realize this is a recipe for making kids more dependent. Initially, 45 states grabbed the federal money, but nine are now having second thoughts as a grass-roots rebellion brews. Michigan’s budget, which will come up for a final vote this week, forbids the use of state funds to implement Common Core. In Georgia, the governor signed an executive order placing restrictions on the program. Teachers are standing up, as well.

Last week, Ellie Rubenstein, a fourth-grade public school teacher, resigned her position in a YouTube video that decried the push toward centralization. “Raising students’ test scores on standardized tests is now the only goal, and in order to achieve it, the creativity, flexibility and spontaneity that create authentic learning environments have been eliminated,” said Ms. Rubenstein. “Everything I loved about teaching is extinct. The curriculum is mandated.” The video caught fire online and went viral, with many teachers expressing their agreement with Ms. Rubenstein. “Unless you are a ‘yes man,’” she explained, “you will soon find out that your only choice is to become one, or leave.”

The education system doesn’t need standardization; it needs competition. Give teachers flexibility, and let parents have the ultimate choice of what approach works best. Centralization only ensures more children will be left behind.

The Washington Times

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