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Suggested readings about the Common Core controversy, pro and con


There was plenty of vitriol and hyperbole going around the statehouse in the final few days of the session as conservatives made a last-minute attempt to block any public funds from being used to implement the Common Core standards in reading and math, and to prevent the State Board of Education from adopting the Next Generation Science Standards.

Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook, Republican from Shawnee, called Common Core a "dramatic centralization of authority over the nation's traditionally decentralized K-12 schools." And Rep. Allan Rothlisberg, a Geary County Republican, compared them to a Marxist-like effort at central government command and control of education.

That kind of rhetoric, in turn, prompted Rep. Julie Menghini, a Pittsburg Democrat, to label the anti-Common Core legislators paranoid.

“I’ve got an inside tip: invest in tinfoil,” Menghini was quoted as saying in the Topeka Capital-Journal, referring to the common "tinfoil hat" shorthand for paranoia and conspiracy theory. Thereafter, outside observers could follow much of the Kansas legislative debate on Twitter under the hashtag, #tinfoil, an area of conversation usually reserved for sports maniacs who think the referees or umpires are conspiring against their team.

It's probably safe to say, however, that as with most public policy debates, neither side of the Common Core debate has a monopoly on reason and enlightenment; nor is the other side completely deluded.

There are, in fact, intelligent arguments being made on both sides. So for those interested in doing a little more reading on the subject, here is a short list of better (and more easily digestible) discussions.

First, some pro-Common Core articles:

Can Academic Standards Boost Literacy and Close the Achievement Gap? A Brookings Institution paper by Ron Haskins, Richard Murnane, Isabel V. Sawhill and Catherine Snow. This offers a fairly objective description of how the Common Core standards came into being, and why.

BRT Letter to Republican National Committee Supporting Common Core State Standards, a letter by John Engler, former Republican governor of Michigan and now president of the Business Roundtable, arguing that the standards, "are critical to building and maintaining an American workforce that can compete in the global economy."

Myth v. Fact: Taking on the Tallest Tales about Common Core State Standards, a blog post from the Foundation for Excellence in Education, taking on some of the more extreme criticisms of Common Core.

And from some skeptics ...

Dispatches from a Nervous Common Core Observer: by Michael McShane of the American Enterprise Institute. This is an ongoing 10-part blog series in which McShane, a research fellow at the institute, lays out some well-reasoned concerns about the loss of local control and homogenization of education, as well as the challenges Common Core poses to textbook publishers and the school administrators who select and buy them.

The State of State Standards—and the Common Core—in 2010. This is a review by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute that attempts to answer the question: Are the Common Core standards better than the old standards? Answer: Yes or no, depending on where you live. It includes links to lots of other articles both for and against the Common Core standards.

Morning Bell: Join the Fight Against Common Core, a blog post by Lindsey Burke, a policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation. This article actually makes more use of platitudes and bumper-sticker slogans than evidence or argumentation. But it does put the debate into context as a competition for the "school choice" movement (think vouchers, charter schools, etc.) vs. greater investment in traditional public schools.


Hadley_says 5 years ago

When one side of the debate actively uses the hyperbolic language of "socialism" and "communism" and "federal takeover of our schools" and "Obama's power grab" about the standards, when the standards had their creation in non-federal government venues like the National Governors Association,and have been adopted in virtually every other states, I am not so inclined to need to do too much research.

It may be ad hominem analysis, but if when I see the likes of Mary Pilcher Cook and Walt Chappell leading the charge, I am quite comfortable in charging the other direction.

Mike Wasikowski 5 years ago

The pro-Common Core articles are written by groups with a variety of political perspectives. The anti-Common Core articles all come from nominally conservative organizations.

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