Sunday, February 25, 2018
Opinion

Ruth: Don't let conspiracy talk cloud Core truth

Perhaps nothing does more to underscore the need to impose the Common Core standards on our public schools more vividly than the resounding cacophony of ignorance being raised in illiterate opposition.

It is one thing to express skepticism about Common Core on the basis of some intellectually honest reservations. It is quite another to raise a chorus of "We're all doomed!" hand-wringing over Common Core because it is perceived to be a U.N./Communist/Kenyan plot by a cat-stroking Ernst Blofeld to bring the United States under Agenda 21 control.

Or put another way, the future of Common Core to improve academic achievement is largely being undermined by — and there is no gentle way to put this — very shrill, stupid people.

Irony abounds. After all, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush — hardly a tool of Moscow — is a huge disciple of Common Core.

But even Bush, the beefcake boy of conservatives, has come in for his fair share of slings and arrows over Common Core, which is really nothing more than a rational effort to create a system of national academic standards so that students from Oregon to Mississippi, from Maine to California, from Montana to Florida can be fairly measured against each other.

And then by those Common Core standards the United States can be more competitive across the globe, where the rest of the real world lives. Indeed in most world rankings of educational quality, the United States rarely breaks the top 10. So much for American exceptionalism.

Yet Common Core is viewed as a Bolshevik plot? It's probably not too early for that first cocktail.

The problem, of course, is that opposition to Common Core is mostly grounded in addled right-wing paranoia. Even the governor of the Villages, Rick Scott, while giving tepid lip service support to Common Core, pulled out of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, a national testing consortium and an essential component of Common Core, on the groundless, delusional fear of "federal intrusion" into the program.

In fact the federal government has little to do with Common Core, which began as the bipartisan handiwork of 45 state governors and educators.

That hasn't stopped the black helicopter crowd from fretting that Common Core is little more than a socialist conspiracy by the federal government to gather more than 300 data points on our little darlings. What would we call this — Mr. Chips meets Minority Report?

The reality is that states already have gobs of data points about students — age, gender, IQ ratings, race, income levels, addresses, vaccinations, test scores and school attendance — data that are scrubbed for personal identifications and sent on to the federal government to measure performance. The tea party types didn't know this?

Across Hillsborough County, the state and the country, we used to be a people who treasured knowledge, education, intellectual curiosity. Just about all of us can recall a teacher who made a difference in our lives, challenged our critical thinking skills, pushed us to do better.

Common Core — if the pitchforks will simply stop their loopy whining — will serve to begin the long process of turning out more literate, more prepared students.

And that can only begin with that rarest virtue of any public policy reform: common sense.

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