Stevens > The Common Core Debate

| February 21, 2015

Common Core

Tom Stevens, Valdosta Today Opinion Contributor:

The Common Core debate for the most part addresses the content and or utility of the program and occasionally the context or constitutionality of the program.

My former boss at the U.S. Department of Education, the renown conservative Bill Bennett, wrote recently in the Wall Street Journal (September 10, 2014) arguing the case for Common Core. Right away Secretary Bennett tells us that “we all agree that there is a need for common standards of assessment in K-12 education.”

Well, no, I for one do not agree. For instance, my personal preference for assessment as to whether my children or any child is educated is to sit down and talk with them. I would recommend that method to all parents and teachers but I know very well that for many parents and schools my method is simply not appropriate.

Mr. Bennett tells us that Common Core will “preserve and emphasize what is essential” in any child’s education. Really, and just who does Mr. Bennett think will determine what is essential, the Gates foundation (a major funding source for Common Core program development) or the DCI group (a major business lobby in support of Common Core who also pays Mr. Bennett for his efforts on behalf of the cause)?

I know that an essential element of my education and that of my children was a knowledge and appreciation of the Bible. And I dare speculate that is the case for many like me. But does anyone think that biblical concepts such as eternal truth will ever be an emphasis in any Common Core curriculum?

Mr. Bennett and others stress that we need testing which is “compatible across state lines” or to put it more forcefully we need to develop a universal computer-based assessment. Yet a few sentences later he assures us that “Common Core standards do not prescribe what is taught in our classrooms.” This part of his argument is a howler. If every classroom in every district in every state is tested using a universal computer-based assessment then do you honestly believe that these classrooms will vary at all in what is taught? I do not.

When we frame the debate in its context we are asking the question: Does the federal government have a constitutional role in curriculum development and school assessment or for that matter any role at all?

By my lights the answer to that question is NO. The Constitution clearly delegates the educational care of children to the individual states. I acknowledge that of course federal policy and law apply to schools as they do to business and other social institutions and so the federal government will monitor compliance with those statutes, for example laws governing the handicap.

Proponents of Common Core naturally argue that the initiative, the development and the content of Common Core are the result of collaboration among the 50 states and not the work of the federal government. Unhappily we do not find governors, state educators, teachers or parents involved in the process. Rather Common Core was developed by paid consultants of the National Governors Association, itself a purely political group, and funded by the Gates Foundation. Individual states have adopted Common Core in part because the federal government paid them to do so through the Race to the Top educational grants. Well known experts, like the aforementioned Bill Bennett, are paid by business lobbies. And these groups led by the federal government will determine what your child learns, when your child learns and how your child learns.

Common Core will work to the disadvantage of every child that I know in Georgia. The federal government and its inefficient bureaucracy, the National Governors Association and the Gates Foundation have no constitutional business telling us what to do. But tells us they will if you let them. And should you be tempted to listen do you truly believe that the federal government and the National Governors Association could effectively implement such a strategy? Ten years will pass before we could assess the assessment and billions of dollars of your money will be spent before we know the answer to that question. I do not need one year nor one dollar to answer the question.


Thomas A Stevens, a Savannah native, holds an undergraduate degree in Finance from Georgia State University and studied philosophy and religion for six years at the graduate level most recently at Syracuse University. He served as the Southeastern Regional Representative for the U.S. Department of Education in 1988 and 1989. He currently resides in Roswell, Georgia and is involved in small business management.

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1 Comment on "Stevens > The Common Core Debate"

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  1. tmswilley says:

    This doesn’t even touch on the fact that the gov. is collecting data on every child,their family members,likes, dislikes, religious affiliation etc, etc. And who has access to it? Surprise, surprise, the gates foundation and numerous for profit business that do the official testing for CC, like the one Jeb Bush just stepped away from so he could run. You think he will look at it with the best interest of our children? I think not!