Saturday, April 21, 2018
Education

Hernando School Board shows that more local control is not better

Ask yourself whether the person who made this statement should be deciding how our children are taught:

"What's important to Florida is not important to Arkansas or Mississippi. What's important to this part of Florida is not important to the south part of Florida, which has a whole different ball game. … Basics is basics, and you need to learn the basics first."

That was Hernando County School Board member Cynthia Moore taking a shot at the rigorous, nationwide, already-being-implemented Common Core State Standards.

And, like a lot of similar shots taken at last week's School Board workshop, it made absolutely no sense.

Basics, presumably, mean reading, writing and math, all of which get extra emphasis in Common Core. Also, the most basic lessons are the most universal. Two plus two equals four in Brooksville, Vicksburg, Little Rock, Miami and around the world, which is one reason why it was especially discouraging to hear these comments at this workshop.

The whole point of it was to inform know-nothing critics of Common Core that education is, by and large, the same ball game everywhere — a game at which our kids are now regularly getting thumped. Common Core is designed to help American kids compete and, along the way, ensure that they get a good enough education to find a place in a job market that increasingly demands it.

If there was one bright spot in board members' critique of Common Core it was that they accidentally made a beautiful argument in the standards' favor.

The main thrust of the argument — I think, because most of this argument was an incoherent mess — was that national is bad and local is good. After this workshop, however, most people would want these particular locals as far away from deciding the course of our kids' education as possible. They made local look very bad.

Yes, some board members offered valid objections: These standards will indeed burden teachers and make a lot of money for the people who sell tests and testing materials.

But, from Moore and fellow member Gus Guadagnino especially, I heard knee-jerk hostility toward government.

"I hate the Department of Education," Guadagnino said at one point.

There was mindless nostalgia.

"We used to get a little speckle of everything," Moore said.

There was a maddening failure to realize that Common Core is the best way to accomplish the education goals that board members said they value.

"What bothers me is that we're trying to build a system where we can compete globally. …. How about we educate our children in a way that we can build our community?" Guadagnino said — without saying how these aims are mutually exclusive.

Finally, and inevitably, there was the question about whether the board can abandon Common Core in favor of something it likes better.

The answer, thankfully, was "no."

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