Republican advocates for the Common Core State Standards have been surprised to discover deep and persistent opposition to a top down, educational system driven by a “testing to the test” mindset which seeks to push all students towards a four year university degree. You might say that, by failing to anticipate objections from grassroots conservatives, Common Core advocates are guilty of the soft bigotry of low expectations. But, the trajectory of the debate and the passion it engenders from many parents, educators, grassroot conservatives and employers dissatisfied with the increasing state and national control over local public education, is not at all surprising to those of us in Texas who have watched and participated in the battle over our state’s education policy in recent years. As Chairman of the Texas Workforce Commission, I was heavily involved in that battle.
Over the past two decades, intellectual elites took control of Texas public schools and implemented a philosophy that shares with the Common Core the same defining characteristics:
– a top-down, centralized approach
– an obsession with testing
– one-size-fits-all standards and curriculum
– the use of buzzwords like “rigor” so as to imply that opponents favor low quality education
– giving lots lip service to principles like local control while essentially threatening those (schools, districts, states) who don’t choose to comply to do so under state mandates.
In Texas, this approach to education goes back to initiatives begun by Ross Perot in 1984 which gained steam under Democratic Governor Ann Richards in the early 1990s. But, when George W. Bush was Governor, this top-down, centralized educational philosophy came to dominance.