Tuesday, December 12, 2017
Opinion

Ruth column: Common core meets hysterical fringe

At first things seemed to going pretty well for a country that can't seem to agree on the color orange. Republicans and Democrats were on the same page: America's schoolchildren risked becoming international dunces if school standards didn't improve beyond a requirement to count to 20 without taking off one's shoes.

So several years ago in a bipartisan effort, especially on the part of the nation's governors, the Common Core State Standards began to be forged, offering the opportunity to create a national system where children would be taught essentially the same stuff and measured in the same way. So far, 45 states and the District of Columbia have signed on to Common Core. And pigs flew. Cows jumped over the moon.

The need for Common Core would seem to be self-evident. Despite the fact the United States leads the world in Hangover sequels, meaningless Twitter postings and Lindsay Lohan court appearances, the nation is well down the international list for academic achievement at 17th. That's way behind places such as Finland, South Korea, Japan, the United Kingdom, Denmark and Germany, but ahead of Hungary, Slovakia and Russia.

Still, support for Common Core began to erode when the worst possible thing happened. President Barack Obama thought it was a pretty good idea, too. Before you could say Agenda 21, Common Core turned into a Marxist/socialist international conspiracy to turn our children into Kenyan foot soldiers in the service of world domination.

We pause briefly here for a forehead slap.

The Airplane-like hysteria threatens to upend the mission of Common Core in states such as Florida. State House Speaker Will Weatherford and Senate President Don Gaetz have gotten all wobbly in the knees over a key Common Core provision calling for a universal assessment of student achievement that can easily be compared between states.

The whole point of Common Core is that if the United States is going to compete for jobs, lead in technology and remain an innovative economic engine, our children must meet a higher standard of educational accountability and be able to compare their performances. This is an "aha" moment meets "duh."

Think about this, which already puts you well ahead of the intellectual firepower in Tallahassee: Florida is poised to become part of a program that will have a long-term positive impact on the education of our children and the future of the nation. Yet legislative leaders are opposed to one of its most important elements because tea party types don't like Common Core.

To the tea party crowd, Common Core is an example of the federal government's overreach into the lives and privacy of our tots since universal testing data would be collected, stored and (cue The Minority Report theme) "protected," which could be used later by the black helicopter crowd to enslave us all.

Radio's Glenn Beck has opposed Common Core because he views it as part of what he calls Political System X. Beck sees it as a plot between the U.S. Education Department, Rupert Murdoch, Bill and Melinda Gates, Jeb Bush and the United Nations to data-mine public schools for information about the kiddies.

Like every government reform project, Common Core will have its glitches, its shortcomings, its setbacks. But The DaVinci Code of the ABCs it is not.

So Weatherford and Gaetz have an interesting choice to make. Do they want to cater to a paranoid tea party movement in opposition to Common Core led by a conservative radio personality? Or would they prefer to follow the lead of Jeb Bush, who supports the goals and objectives of Common Core, including testing? Weatherford and Gaetz say they still support Common Core but believe Florida should come up with its own testing system. Designing separate tests for particular states seems to defeat the purpose of national education standards.

What's more important? Pandering for votes? Or a future better educated citizenry? Do we really want to know the answer?

Comments

Another voice: Privacy in the internet age

How much information about you is on your cellphone? Likely the most intimate details of your life: photographs, internet searches, text and email conversations with friends and colleagues. And though you might not know it, your phone is constantly c...
Published: 12/10/17
Updated: 12/11/17
Editorial: Grand jury could force reforms of juvenile justice system

Editorial: Grand jury could force reforms of juvenile justice system

Confronted with documentation of sanctioned brutality and sexual abuse in Floridaís juvenile detention centers, the reaction from Gov. Rick Scottís administration was defensive and obtuse. So itís welcome news that Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine...
Updated: 12 hours ago

Editorial: U.S. House sides with NRA over stateís rights on concealed weapons permits

With the horror of the mass shootings at a Las Vegas country music concert and a small Texas church still fresh, the U.S. House finally has taken action on guns. But the bill it passed last week wonít make Americans safer from gun violence. It is an ...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

There is no satisfaction for anyone in the standoff over pay raises between the Hillsborough County School District and its teachers. Most teachers across the nation already are underpaid, but this district simply cannot afford the raises teachers ex...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

With a buildout of $3 billion encompassing entire city blocks, itís obvious that Jeff Vinikís plans will change the look and feel of downtown Tampa. But the Tampa Bay Lightning owner unveiled a broader vision last week that reflects how far the impac...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/08/17
Editorial: Make texting while driving a primary offense

Editorial: Make texting while driving a primary offense

It is dangerous and illegal to text while driving in Florida, and police should be able to pull over and ticket those lawbreakers without witnessing another violation first. House Speaker Richard Corcoran has lent his powerful voice to legislation th...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17

Editorial: Outsourcing common sense on St. Petersburg Pier naming rights

St. Petersburg officials predict that selling the naming rights to parts of the new Pier could generate $100,000 in annual revenue. But first the city wants to pay a consultant to tell it how and to whom to sell the rights. Why do city officials need...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17

Another voice: Trumpís risky move

President Donald Trumpís decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israelís capital has a certain amount of common sense on its side. As a practical matter, West Jerusalem has been the seat of Israeli government since 1949, and no conceivable formula for Pa...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Editorial: Tampaís MOSI reinvents itself

Editorial: Tampaís MOSI reinvents itself

A tactical retreat and regrouping seems to be paying off for Hillsborough Countyís Museum of Science and Industry. After paring back its operations, the museum posted a small profit over the past year, enabling the attraction to keep its doors open a...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Times recommends: McClure for Florida House District 58

Times recommends: McClure for Florida House District 58

Voters in Temple Terrace, Plant City and Thonotosassa have an easy choice in the Dec. 19 special election to replace state Rep. Dan Raulerson, who resigned for health reasons. Republican Lawrence McClure is the only credible candidate.McClure, 30, ow...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/07/17