Shocker: Common Core Is about Politics, Not Academic Standards

In what should be a surprise to no one, once we let Washington determine what schoolchildren should study in school, the curriculum is going to be politicized.

It is already well publicized that the latest federal push, Common Core, has resulted in standards that are mediocre, costly, unconstitutional, and yes—highly politicized.

Controversy erupted in 2012 when it was reported that recommended Common Core ELA informational texts included a New Yorker article that was sympathetic to the Affordable Health Care for America Act, also referred to as ObamaCare. President Obama’s Executive Order 13423, “Strengthening Federal Environmental, Energy, and Transportation Management,” was another recommended informational text.

This school year it was also revealed that pro-labor union reading material was being assigned to third graders as part of the recommended Common Core curriculum under the auspices of teaching students about American rights and responsibilities.

Also this school year Arizona parents in one school district learned that one Common Core recommended novel assigned to tenth graders under the guise of promoting diversity and toleration included misogynistic and graphic adult material. Apparently that’s okay because the author is a Cuban-born woman.

Just last week it was revealed that Common Core lesson plans purporting to teach fifth graders how to edit sentences include such gems as:

“(The president) makes sure the laws of the country are fair,” “The wants of an individual are less important than the well-being of the nation” and “the commands of government officials must be obeyed by all.”

But the politicization isn’t limited to English classes.

A number of experts serving on Common Core review committees who were supportive of the standards in theory now express concern that academic rigor was compromised for the sake of political buy-in.

For example, there was only one math-content expert on the 25-member Common Core validation committee, Stanford University mathematician James Milgram. He explained that numerous questionable content decisions were approved to make Common Core standards “acceptable to the special interest groups involved.”

Milgram concluded that the Common Core is “in large measure a political document…written at a very low level and does not adequately reflect our current understanding of why the math programs in the high achieving countries give dramatically better results.”

State politicians may have rushed to adopt “voluntary” Common Core national standards, but that doesn’t mean parents have to go along with it—and a growing number of them aren’t. In fact, increasingly parents are opting their children out of Common Core altogether.

Given just what we know about Common Core so far, this latest national “standards” agenda could be one of the greatest catalysts for parental choice in education in a long time.

Vicki E, Alger is a Research Fellow at the Independent Institute and Senior Fellow and Director of the Women for School Choice Project at the Independent Women’s Forum. She is the author of the Independent book, Failure: The Federal Misedukation of America’s Children.
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