The Common Core Commotion: Haven’t We Seen this Movie Before?

The above headline is from an interesting post by Andrew Ferguson at the Weekly Standard. The answer to the question is, obviously, yes — and it was a truly awful movie. Nevertheless, we keep allowing the politicians and the “educational elites” to keep showing us the same piece of junk all the while they act as if they’re not.

Ferguson writes that Common Core is the “latest in a long line of revolutionary approaches designed to improve our public schools”:

The indifference most Americans are showing to Common Core is likely a symptom of reform fatigue. Reform of an “unacceptable status quo” in public education has been going on so long that many of us can’t recall what the pre-reform status quo was, or why it was unacceptable.

We all remember the thriller “No Child Left Behind.” And who can forget the exciting “Goals 2000”? Recently on these pages I noted the 1983 horror flick “A Nation at Risk.” Ferguson writes that the Department of Education —

— which had been started in 1979. The department was Jimmy Carter’s idea. He worried that lax standards were destroying American public education. A federal department, he reasoned, might be able to oversee a revolutionary new approach that would set things right.

For nearly 40 years, it’s pretty much been all reform, all the time for the nation’s public school students, teachers, and parents. Many of the children whose schools were supposed to be revolutionized by America 2000 in 1990 now have the chance to see their own children’s education revolutionized by Common Core. Nothing can stop the impulse to reform our nation’s public schools. For professional policymakers, it is the itch they just can’t scratch.

There are at least three reasons for this. First, whenever a new education reform program is introduced, a nice effusion of private and public money follows, and while the reformers always insist that the sum is scandalously inadequate, it is always just large enough to keep the appetite whetted for reform.

Second, and more important, the reforms never seem to work. This makes the need for reform all the more urgent.

If you’re dying to know what reason #3 is, read the article here. Ferguson does a good job covering the history, but he doesn’t address the most important thing: The reforms don’t work because the public schools can’t be fixed. Some of us have been saying this for a very long time, comparing school reform to “Perestroika“:

Mikhail Gorbachev took over the reigns in the old Soviet Union in 1985 and then set about trying to find a cure for what ailed communism.

“Almost from the start, he strove for significant reforms, so that the system would work more efficiently and more democratically. Hence the two key phrases of the Gorbachev era: “glasnost” (openness) and “perestroika” (reform).” —

Gorbachev’s efforts to fix communism were doomed due to one simple fact — a fatally flawed system can’t be fixed.

Many will be offended by the comparison of [K-12] public education to Communism, but there are fewer apt analogies if you look at the economic parallels and terrible results.

Like communism, the participation of taxpayers, parents, and students in our public schools is compelled by the power of the state, and all three groups are ill served. Like communism, government run schools are immune from free market competition, the very thing that produces efficiency and excellence. Command and control rarely works well with human nature.

It’s time for everyone to come to grips with reality: “you can’t fix the unfixable, even with more money.” It’s time for the ash heap.

A couple of years ago I wrote “Close down the Lord of the Flies child warehouses”:

It seems obvious to me that the first thing that needs to be asked when determining how to improve the public schools—or any school — is “can a child learn in this environment?”

The question isn’t “what to teach?” or “how do kids learn?” or “which teaching methods work best?” It’s — “is this place conducive to learning?”

But alas, the pro-school reformers get lost in the issues of spending levels, class size, curriculum, merit pay for teachers, and almost a hundred other matters. The public school BLOB is happy to join in this conversation (and argue every point to infinity as a delaying tactic) because the more time that passes, the closer the current members of the BLOB are to collecting their theft-based ridiculously high so-called “pension.”

If a kid can’t learn inside the school because it’s chaotic, violent, or filled with any number of distractions from learning, all those other tweaks are a waste of everyone’s time. Especially the kids’ time.

Am I suggesting I know more than all those highly paid and “brilliant” “educators”? If they’re not talking about learning environments, speaking in terms of educational liberty, and aggressively fighting the information war over it, then they don’t know what they need to know. And thus we’re subjected to the same bad movie over and over again.

For more on educational liberty, read this excellent article by Anthony Esolen. (I excerpted it here.) Here is the introductory blurb from Esolen’s piece:

The Common Core exists only because we have forgotten that parents have a right to educate their children. The state has no educational authority of its own apart from what parents delegate to it.