- - Sunday, December 21, 2014

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

COMMON GROUND ON COMMON CORE

Edited by Kirsten Lombard

Foreword by Ron Paul

Resounding Books, $25, 391 pages

Over the last several years, Common Core education standards have become an increasingly important issue for parents and teachers, as they see how children are affected by the policy. Yet, the details of what exactly Common Core is, how it works and how it came to be remain hopelessly complex and difficult for the novice to understand. In the face of slick advertising campaigns by Common Core’s corporate backers and lofty speeches from politicians, the truth can be difficult to ferret out. With the new book, “Common Ground on Common Core,” we finally have a handy, one-volume resource that answers all these questions and more.

This collection of essays, edited by Kirsten Lombard, brings together voices from across the political spectrum — liberals, conservatives and libertarians — to expose the dangers of Common Core, revealing that opposition to top-down standards is not a partisan issue. Among the contributors are teachers, psychologists and data scientists, whose distinguished careers give their words the weight of authority needed for a serious policy analysis, yet in a style that is easy to read and understand by the lay person. The book also boasts a foreword by former Rep. Ron Paul, who has been one of the most vocal champions of education freedom.

“Common Ground on Common Core” is divided into sections, each of which tackles the policy from a different angle. The early part of the book is devoted to detailing the history and mechanics of Common Core, how it was crafted by nongovernmental organizations in order to exploit a technicality in the Constitution’s prohibition against federal control of education, and how the Department of Education bullied the states into complying by threatening to withhold funding.

Other essays offer a neuroscience perspective on why these standards — which were designed by people with little actual experience or qualifications — are biologically inappropriate for the level of brain development young children have acquired. Significant space is also devoted to dismantling the false talking point that totalitarian governments like China’s are providing superior education for their students. Essays also expose the folly of becoming overly dependent on data to determine our children’s futures.

While we’re on the subject of data, the issue of student privacy is extensively covered here. Many people don’t realize the extent to which student privacy is suffering under the new standards, with reports of personally identifiable biometrics, such as fingerprinting and iris scans, being used on students without parental notification or consent.

The book concludes with a series of personal stories about the psychological damage that the new standards are inflicting on children. Particularly heartbreaking is the account from a New York therapist, who saw student referrals spike dramatically with the introduction of Common Core. The increase in depression, anxiety and even self-harm (we are told of one girl carving the word “stupid” into her wrist after failing a Common Core-aligned test) is truly horrifying.

One anecdote has a young girl walking away from her Common Core homework, explaining that she has “more important things to do in life.” What a perfect summary. We all have more important things to do in life than waste time with arbitrary, inappropriate and harmful education standards imposed by clueless bureaucrats.

The depth of scholarship, diversity of opinion and precision of analysis presented here make Ms. Lombard’s book, quite simply, the best single resource for understanding, and fighting back against Common Core that exists. Any parent, teacher, activist or concerned citizen owes it to himself to pick up a copy and become educated on what is turning out to be a defining issue for our times.

Logan Albright is a policy analyst at FreedomWorks.

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