The Perfect Storm: National Education Standards

In case you weren’t watching the “Educational Weather” we are about to be engulfed by the perfect storm: National education standards in mathematics and language arts. We have never had national standards in the history of our nation because the 10th amendment of the US constitution gives the states and the people power to control everything that is not expressly delegated to the federal government. There is not one peep about federal involvement in education in the constitution. Unfortunately, events have come together that are about to sink that notion to the bottom of the sea. Those events are; national focus on a sputtering economy, mathematical chaos caused by so called mathematics reformers, and an administration in power that sees fit to take over every private sector function it can get it hands on.

What’s wrong with having national education standards? President Dwight D. Eisenhower expressed it like this:

“A distinguishing characteristic of our nation — and a great strength — is the development of our institutions within the concept of individual worth and dignity. Our schools are among the guardians of that principle. Consequently . . . and deliberately their control and support throughout our history have been — and are — a state and local responsibility. . . . Thus was established a fundamental element of the American public school system — local direction by boards of education responsible immediately to the parents of children. Diffusion of authority among tens of thousands of school districts is a safeguard against centralized control and abuse of the educational system that must be maintained. We believe that to take away the responsibility of communities and states in educating our children is to undermine not only a basic element of our freedoms but a basic right of our citizens. “

My number one objection to Common Core State Standards (CCSS) is that they exist at all. The CCSS has been pushed by the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) with the help of funding from Bill Gates and others. Regardless of their merit, they were put together behind closed doors, in a big hurry when few were looking, without proper time allowed for input, by a list of people that was kept secret for a long time. Now, through a form of soft extortion, they are being forced on cash strapped states by the Obama administration. These facts alone would cause me to be against the CCSS.

No one seems to understand who would really own the CCSS or who would be able to modify them. Removing the power to control education from the states and the people is both unacceptable and unconstitutional. Of course, many claim the adoption of these Common Core Standards is voluntary and the federal government is not involved: Wink! Wink! So why is the Obama administration requiring adoption of the CCSS in order to qualify for the Race to the Top funds? And why have they provided 300 million dollars to develop national assessments on the CCS standards? This is just the beginning of the requirements that the Obama administration will force on states to get them to adopt these “voluntary” standards.

If there are problems with these standards, or the sure to come national standards in history and other subjects, who would be able to do something about it? I don’t trust the government or political driven associations to have this control at any level. In fact, the more government involvement we have had in education the worse things have gotten. Canada has no government involvement in education; they don’t have a federal department of education or national standards and they score far higher than us on international exams.

The citizens of Washington State saw a problem with what the state government had done with regard to math education. It was the citizens that forced the legislature to have the math standards reviewed and rewritten. The result was that we ended up with math standards that the Fordham foundation rated higher than the CCSS. It would be nearly impossible for Washington citizens to affect change on national standards and the standards themselves would be subject to political whims.

For over 200 years local and state control of education has served this nation well. Federal government involvement through the department of education has been costly and totally ineffective. The citizens of Washington don’t need big brother to tell us how to educate our children.

Bob Dean

Bob Dean

Former Math Educator

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