Rotten to the Common Core

Common Core, an education program developed with funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to improve academic standards in public schools, will fall far short of its stated objective, but not very far from the tree upon which it grew.

Its promoters tout it to be a “state-led effort to establish a single set of clear educational standards for English-language arts and mathematics…” to provide teachers, parents and students with a set of well defined expectations and “[h]igh standards that are consistent across states…”

Underlying these statements is the proposition public schools are not performing very well or completely failing to educate students to a necessary standard. Based on the fact SAT scores, since 1962, have twice been adjusted downward to artificially depict higher scores among students taking the exam but have continued to decline and national literacy scores continue to decline as a percentage of the United States population it is difficult to refute the dysfunctional public school proposition. Their solution to this very real problem, however, is like putting a gangrene infected band aid on a gangrenous open wound.

Common Core is just another Johnny-come-lately one-size-fits-all national standard that attempts to fix a problem created by the original national standard; our public school system.

America’s modern public school system is the manifestation of its founder’s vision, the father of American public education, Horace Mann. Horace Mann, a Unitarian Massachusetts school board member in the 1840s, wrote twelve annual reports on public education that was to become the foundation of every public school in America. Mann prototyped his “Common Schools” in his reports on the Prussian school system.

Prussia was the first European state to institute public schools, from which every other country in Europe modeled their public schools. So it is no coincidence Mann modeled his “Common Schools” off the ones he observed in Prussia while visiting schools in Europe.  Neither is it a coincidence Prussia, known for its autocratic and dictatorial society that ultimately unified the other German states under its control, would impose an uncompromising uniform standard upon its population.

In his seventh report, Mann ironically claimed, “we do not desire to copy or to study the systems of foreign nations, usually so different from our own,” but then he went on to say “surely we may copy his [the Prussian school system’s] modes of teaching these elements, without adopting his notions of passive obedience to the government[.]” Evidence of Mann’s lack of success in adopting the Prussian model without instituting its passive obedience to the government is found in America’s modern myopic obedience to the national government.

That America has become passively obedient to the national government can be seen throughout the 20th and the 21st Century in that Americans sit passively by or actively cheer when: Congress passes laws violating the Constitution, Presidents exceed their limited authority by issuing orders not supported by any law passed by Congress and the Supreme Court, when asked to interpose on behalf of we the people, uphold these things through the most ridiculous, convoluted, humanistic and illogical arguments a human mind can conjure. One only need compare the grievances listed in the Declaration of Independence to similar modern occurrences to see contemporary American society does not have the political will of its forefathers.

For America, that was founded on and has celebrated its diversity of ideas, extensive government control and standardization of any kind seems counter intuitive. The framers of the Constitution were careful to preserve the independence of the States by only delegating finite powers to the national government. This allowed the citizens of each State to preserve their cultural diversity and pursue their own happiness.

Now, control over students in what and how they learn has been institutionalized in America by Mann via public schools. Mann, through his Common School system, was able to undo what so many sacrificed in the War of Independence to acquire and the founders carefully guarded in both the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution. This centralized control over public school students continues to grow and its latest adaptation is the voluntarily imposed Common Core curriculum.

Common Core is rotten to the core, because no one can justify its expense by any potential gains in scholastic improvement, it strips parental oversight of what children should be taught, and it is a one-size-fits-all program that will not serve any child to their maximum potential.

First, according to the Pioneer Institute and the American Principles Project, which conducted a state by state comprehensive cost analysis[1] of implementing Common Core, in Pennsylvania alone the extra cost of implementation was estimated to be $645 million.  As of January 2012, Pennsylvania was set to receive only $40 million in Obama’s Race to the Top funds, which were contingent upon adoption of Common Core standards, student Longitudinal data collection, and a teacher evaluation program.

Adding this up, for the adoption of a national standard, Pennsylvania might receive up to 6% of the extra costs from the government, but will have to foot the bill for over a half a billion dollars on their own. None of this makes fiscal sense when considering if Pennsylvania did not adopt any other new program their education costs would remain relatively constant.

Second, if parents allow the government or any other entity to dictate how their children must be educated or what they must learn, the parents might as well just give their children to the government or entity to raise. Even now, parents have limited control over what children are taught in public schools and everyone has to pay for public schools whether they have children or not. Common Core will add more of the same to an already burdensome tax system through another layer of bureaucracy whose standards, if history is any indication, have limited hope of being achieved.

Third, children are not ginger bread men to be cut out of common dough; they are unique individuals with unique learning talents, interests and needs. A common standard may fit everyone, but it will not fit anyone very well and its results will be as disappointing as the results from the public schools system, which the program is intended to fix.

Furthermore, children in America do not belong to any government, community, business, or labor consortium. They belong to their parents and to them alone. Parents, therefore, must decide the values, morals and information from which their children will most benefit to live in society. To abdicate this responsibility is to allow someone else to make a decision that will not always be to the benefit of the children or the parents.

Like every other aspect of life, the Bible provides guidance on whose responsibility it is to teach children. Any government; national, State, or local that dictates what children must be taught and extorts money through taxation to pay for their vision has overstepped the bounds of their biblical jurisdiction. Romans 13:3-5 describes the purpose of government: to wield the sword of justice against evil doers, but nowhere in the Bible will you find education as one of its functions.

In Proverbs 22:6, one will find the Bible giving responsibility of a child’s education to parents. The Bible also states in Proverbs 1:7, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,” and since public schools have completely pushed Christ out of the classroom it is no wonder their academic performance has gone with Him.

Mann’s utopian pursuit of standardized universal “free education” was the European totalitarian bridgehead into America and it has turned into the coercive failed public school system America has today. Like all utopias, the only way to achieve them is through coercion.

This coercion is nearly absent from non-publicly funded schools and these schools most always cost less to operate and produce better educational results in nearly every measurable way than their publicly funded counterparts. A 1997 study[2] found home schooled children, on the average, outperformed their public school counterparts by 30 to 37 percentile points on all subjects. These findings were further supported by Dr. Lawrence Rudner who found children that were homeschooled all their school aged years had the highest academic achievement.

Since uniformity and top down imposed standards do not work, the solution to deteriorating performance in America’s public schools is simple, return responsibility for education to parents by defunding public schools and restoring parents’ right to decide where and how to educate their children.

Some may argue defunding public schools would deprive many “under privileged” children of an education, but considering what they receive now, it might actually be an improvement. Besides, violation of property rights, through taxation for public schools, or any other violation of the rights specifically mentioned in the Declaration of Independence is never justified, no matter how noble the cause.

Additionally, it is an individual’s responsibility to be charitable to the under privileged, because when a government does it through taxation it is called theft or extortion, not charity.

Much of the resistance to defunding public schools comes from the fact most people living today, who grew up in America, are a product of a public school, have known no other system of education, and cannot imagine how another system would work. Those who think this way are oblivious to the fact that prior to 1840, all American schools were non-public, biblically based, and produced the founding culture, which in turn established the most successful nation in the history of the world. The secularized standardization of Common Core, by contrast, is rotten to the core just like the seed of “Common Schools” from which it was germinated that produced the culture who voted for the politicians America has today. If people were to take the time to compare the results of the two systems they too would see for themselves what Mann has done to education.


[1] Pioneer Institute and American Principles Project, National Costs to Aligning States and Localities to the Common Core Standards, No 82, February 2012.

[2] Dr. Brian Ray, Strengths of Their Own: Home Schoolers Across America.

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2 thoughts on “Rotten to the Common Core

  1. The school system in place today is a product of constant iterations of government attempts to “fix” it. This is the latest example of never ending attempts to further centralize power over education resulting in more powerless parents. One important facet that needs research and debate is Why? and Who benefits?
    Is it really just well intentioned politicians and “experts” who believe if they are only given more power to regulate education over the bewildered herd of incapable parents not “licensed” to teach, that the end product will be improved? Or, is there a group within society who stand to benefit by controlling the end product that is a human being after 13 years of “education”? And if we all are a product of virtually the same education how do you rate or measure a “good education”? – without substantial time invested in reading and re-educating yourself.
    If knowledge is power and you can control the knowledge one receives…can you not exercise great control over a population? Is it remotely possible that is really what’s going on here?

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