Printed on: October 31, 2013

Learning nothing from the past


Rarely is freedom taken away in one fell swoop, but instead by degree. An immediate crisis may be used or created by a government large enough to evoke fear, but trusted enough to have the solution to every imperfect, yet free system. Although we have seen the federal government's encroachment in our public educational system for years, it has nearly achieved its long-sought-after centralized control with the help of a fiscal disaster, an "immediate" education crisis and the means to fix both through stipulations of stimulus money leading to the adoption of Common Core.

During the recession, cash-strapped states were offered hundreds of millions of dollars and No Child Left Behind waivers to adopt common standards and assessments, enhance their data collection and develop a system to define teacher equity and distribution. The sell was easy to state governments, but more difficult for the public concerned about the loss of local education control. Suddenly a campaign began and words like "rigorous," "internationally benchmarked" and "college and career ready" were written and spoken everywhere.

Apparently our kids weren't cutting it and massive untested educational reforms were praised while questions of intrusive data collection and other binding agreements with the federal government went unanswered. Common Core was going to save our children's inferior education and finally make them internationally competitive -- never mind that Idaho adopted these "superior" yet untested standards sight unseen.

Yet, the proponents of Common Core continue to keep the dialogue about the standards themselves and avoid questions about the constitutionality of the federal government's financial involvement and its entanglement with special interest groups leading this education takeover. They must not engage in a discussion about the wisdom of common mass learning and "one size fits all" instruction, with its consequences of frustration and mediocrity, but continue to use buzz words that placate the masses. Never must they mention the dismal failure of the last quest of national standards two decades ago leading to an alarming rewriting of American history. Instead, they must constantly refer to the process as "state-led" while promising local control. That promise is sure to be broken once teacher and school evaluations are linked to students' performance on the national assessments and standardized curriculum and pedagogy become the save-all for poor outcomes. Common Core ties the hands of our educators, looks past our children's individuality and diminishes our state's educational sovereignty.

Foster, a resident of Ammon, is a mother of six and has a B.S. in elementary education. Concerned about the future of education in Idaho, she co-founded idahoansagainstcommoncore.com.