As I've spoken by phone with a number of homeschool curriculum providers over the last several days, I've often been asked about the root of my opposition to the Common Core Standards (CCS). Especially by those who've chosen to align, but even by many who are remaining independent, I've been asked to delineate what I believe to be the problems with the initiative.
Of course, I don't come at my views in a vacuum. I've based my opinion on a good deal of study over the past few months, including but not limited to what I've read here. And, essentially, it all boils down to three main problems:
The Problem of Principle
On principle, the CCS is completely unconstitutional. Specifically, it is essentially a federal mandate for education despite the fact that the Constitution clearly delineates (in the 10th Amendment) that education is a matter of states' rights. Now, CCS proponents claim the states - 45 of them and the District of Columbia - "voluntarily" chose to concurrently adopt the same education standards, but anyone with half a brain knows that can't be true. Honestly, could even five states ever agree on something simple - let alone 45 legitimately concur on something as significant as an overarching education policy? Of course not. But when money came into play - very simply put, the federal government blackmailed the states by threatening to withhold billions of dollars on which the states had come to rely - the fat lady enjoyed a good round-robin sing-along all over the country.
And, thus, whether or not a person feels that national education standards would be a good thing, the fact that the adoption of the CCS violated the nation's Constitution should be enough to make every American stand up and shout, "Stop!" We are a nation still ruled by law, after all, and that should mean something.
Now, if we think national standards should be pursued, we'd have to go about it in the right way - which would mean working to amend the Constitution to allow federal education mandates in the first place and then moving forward from there. But unless that happens, the whole idea of national standards should be a non-starter.
The Problem of Probity
Of course, then there's the whole notion of whether or not national standards would be good. CCS advocates claim they're essential - so all children (at least all children educated in the public schools) could learn the same things at the same ages in the same ways. Thus, kids in our mobile society would supposedly not miss anything if they moved from one school district or state to another.
Now, setting aside for the sake of argument the fact that it would be patently impossible to so tightly regiment lesson plans in every classroom across the nation to insure such an outcome, let's consider the cost of that philosophy. Do we really want to try to force all children at a particular "grade level" to learn and master the exact same content at the exact same time in the exact same way as everyone else just because a standards document says they must? Really? How immoral! Children are not robots; learning is not supposed to look like an assembly line. And, frankly, anyone who thinks otherwise is either foolish or evil.
The Problem of Pedagogy
But let's say we could somehow justify treating our children as if they're part of a Borg-like collective. Would the CCS work then? Of course, that's a remarkably big "if" since the very notion of treating uniquely-created individual children like machines is so beyond the pale. But even if we could get past that, there is still the problem of these particular standards.
And, to put it bluntly, they are wrong in terms of both content and style. They don't delineate concrete measures of what children are supposed to know and be able to do at certain points in their lives; instead, they spout a lot of theoretical jargon that lacks real meaning "in the trenches" of a classroom. And, to make matters worse, they forbid teachers from using creativity in delivering the lesson content, instead requiring that they all use the same mandated materials in the same mandated way with every child, individual differences be damned.
Furthermore, where one could possibly pluck particular skills and abilities from the semantic mud of the verbiage, the directives are usually developmentally-inappropriate in one way or another. Sometimes, the expectations are ridiculously too high for a particular age and, at other times, they are laughably too low. In fact, it's almost as if the standards were not written by teachers and experts in child development but, instead, were cobbled together by bureaucrats and ideologues. Oh, wait; that's exactly what happened. In point of fact, very few teachers were involved in the development of the standards. Rather, those in charge had partisan, vested interests and were more determined to see their particular (collectivist, socialist) worldview perpetuated than in assuring a full, meaningful education for each child. The standards are long on indoctrination and short on meaningful educational content. And for that reason alone - even if Principle and Probity were non-issues - the CCS is bad news.
All that said, any parent of a child in public school should be up in arms - and I have no doubt most would be if they really knew what was going on. Of course, why they don't "get it" is a topic for another day. But for homeschoolers - as well as for those who've chosen to utilize private schools - all of this is even more of an issue.
We haven't taken any money from the federal government; in contrast, we pay for our children's educations out of our own pocket in addition to paying property taxes for public schools we do not utilize. Therefore, even if national standards were constitutional, they shouldn't apply to us. We pay; therefore, we get to make the rules for our own children.
Secondly, we not only know that each of our children is an unique individual, we celebrate that fact and customize learning to suit each one's needs. No child should be forced to endure a cookie-cutter education, but that applies double to homeschooled kids, whose parents have purposed to get them off the government-run conveyor belt. Thus, to suggest we should somehow put them back onto the hamster wheel by virtue of complying with formulaic nationalized standards is unthinkable.
Finally, homeschoolers have very specific ideas about what our children should be learning - both in terms of worldview and specific, measurable content. And, very often, those convictions run contrary to the notions expressed in the CCS. Thus, to even hint that we may have to comply with content and perspectives that run afoul of our own convictions for our own children - just because the government says so - is anathema. If children belong to anyone, they belong to their parents, not to the government - especially when those parents consciously take full responsibility for their children's education. Homeschoolers have standards; in fact, we develop appropriate individualized expectations for each of our children. We don't need the government mandating that for us.
I have yet to meet an informed homeschooler who supports the CCS - and with good reason, as is apparent from this short treatise. The foisting of the CCS on any of America's children is a big deal, and it should be combatted at every turn - most of all by homeschoolers because of the very nature of the type of upbringing we are working so hard to provide for our kids.
Photo Credit: Chiot's Run