Nothing gets a gathering of local Republicans or conservatives riled up like the topic of Common Core.
For the uninitiated, Common Core is a set of education standards that, in some cases, offer a peculiar number of teaching methods when it comes to math, science and language.
Should you mention the term “Common Core” to the right person, it can invoke disgust and protests unlike any other hot-button issue.
For some, having been open to the idea of Common Core at any time during one’s political career is an automatic deal breaker. Bobby Jindal, Scott Walker, Jeb Bush and John Kasich, for example, are all eliminated from contention by anti-Common Corers at the get-go of this upcoming Republican presidential campaign.
The anti-Common Core push comes from this idea that a bunch of egghead liberals want to take our children’s minds and indoctrinate them for future political purposes, which somehow is just a stepping stone to creating a progressive utopia modeled after Plato’s Republic.
For the average person who isn’t as engaged in the day-to-day, blow-by-blow fight of politics, however, hearing that is just conspiratorial craziness. Getting riled up over Common Core seems a very small picture in the grand scheme of things.
There are a lot of other things, including kitchen-table, checkbook economic issues, public safety concerns and transportation and infrastructure problems affecting people’s daily lives. Preventing school children from being brainwashed into joining Barack Obama’s secret robot army is way down the list.
That being said, there is no question our public education system has problems. Some sort of reform is needed, be it on the power of the teachers’ unions, the federal government’s meddling in local schools or, as the Common Core proponents argue, curriculum reform.
What we have now isn’t serving the public as well as it could.
Rather than going John Birch Society, decrying the Illuminati and their effort to institute one world order, the stronger case to be made is one against the federalization of the local school systems.
The U.S. Department of Education, where all federal policies related to the American education system are executed, is a relatively new bureaucracy within the federal government. It was created by legislation then-President Jimmy Carter signed into law in October 1979 and officially began functioning in May 1980.
Since its inception, conservative politicians have been lobbying for its elimination, most notably President Ronald Reagan during his 1980 presidential campaign.
But somehow through three Republican presidents, including Reagan, and two Democratic presidents, the Department of Education has continued to survive and thrive compared to what it was during the Carter administration.
Instead of the minutiae of curriculum, teaching practices and the overarching plot to dominate the world through social studies books, the anti-Common Core movement should look to picking up where Reagan left off by arguing against any federal government involvement in U.S. public schools, which includes potentially dismantling the Department of Education.
That is the tack presidential candidates consistently opposed to Common Core are taking.
“I don’t think the federal government has any role dictating the content of curricula,” 2016 GOP hopeful Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) said in a radio interview last year. “I think education is a state issue and a local issue, and ideally at the local level, because that way parents can have direct input and control of what’s being taught to their kids.”
“If you’re for Common Core and you’re for a national curriculum, I don’t see it being a winning message in a Republican primary,” said one of Cruz’s opponents, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), at a campaign stop during the 2014 midterms. “If there’s a Republican candidate out there — let’s just say there’s a hypothetical one that’s for Common Core. I’m saying that [the] hypothetical candidate that’s for Common Core probably doesn’t have much chance of winning in a Republican primary.”
Those two responses were solidly in the anti-Common Core camp. Nowhere did they mention the bizarre mathematical teaching methods, or their perceived intentions of why Common Core proponents are making such a push for implementation.
While the anti-federalization argument is a proper response, it may not be enough. As acknowledged earlier, there are problems with U.S. public schools. But there needs to be a counterargument against a one-size-fits-all federal government approach to correcting the problem.
Putting an emphasis on parental involvement, taking on teachers’ unions, charter schools, school choice with or without a voucher system are all of the traditional responses from conservatives as to how to tackle the problems with public schools. But with each of those comes a counterargument.
Nonetheless, those are much better responses than pushing the Common Core hot button and spouting off talking points with Orwellian overtones. There aren’t many undecided voters who are going to buy into the idea that counting down backwards to do addition is a backdoor to communism.