I’d rather be a noble unicorn than a mindless puppet.
Dan Juneau, late of the sometimes evil empire known as the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, now leads a big-money group called the Alliance for Better Classrooms that seems utterly afraid to debate the actual merits of the Common Core educational standards.
ABC and Juneau support the standards but are so disdainful of the large coalition of earnest parents bitterly opposed to the Core that they passed out stuffed pink unicorns on the floor of the Legislature, implying that all arguments against the Core are as mythic as the horned horses are.
Juneau issued a prepared statement charging opponents with “misconceptions and outright misleading statements” but then made himself unavailable for interviews that day. Gee, dude: Nice debate.
Get a spine.
The truth is, most of the self-organized, underfunded parents’ groups come well armed with facts and logic. (They have set up a rudimentary website called “Crawfish are Real,” with a domain name of www.crawfisharereal.blogspot.com/.) But they can’t get legislators to pay them any heed. The low point came last year when one lawmaker announced at a committee hearing that of course he was for Common Core and then shortly thereafter asked if anybody could tell him what was actually in it — because he didn’t know.
I myself have written time and again, with great specificity, about problems with Common Core. I’ve asked the chairman of LABI why he is for the Core. The answer, in effect, was that, dadgummit, we need standards. I asked the president of LABI the same question. I got the same answer. I asked for specifics. Why should we have these particular standards?
No response, other than, in effect: “Well, everybody else is doing it.” It is thus, in the name of (supposedly) promoting skills of critical thinking, that Core supporters repeatedly use the most egregiously hackneyed excuse by which most adolescents avoid critical thinking.
I’ve seen the chairman of the Senate Education Committee waste an entire essay on Common Core, promising specifics, only to offer not a single specific example of what the standards actually contain.
But boy oh boy, when it comes to making legislators come to heel — even in the face of outraged parents who, I guarantee you, will make the lawmakers pay at the polls this fall — LABI and its spinoffs like ABC have their bases covered. They do their lobbying, remind their legislative lackeys where campaign cash comes from, pull the puppet strings — and then, in place of reasoned debate, they insult the concerned parents who disagree.
Herewith, then, a challenge to any member of the Education committees in either Louisiana’s House or its Senate, or to Juneau, or to LABI’s chairman, its president or even its highest-paid lobbyist: Debate me, anywhere in Louisiana, on the Core. No stuffed animals. No campaign money. Just facts.
Let them explain why it’s OK that children are brought to tears by simple arithmetic made needlessly complicated, while parents have no clue how to help them understand the new teaching methods required by the Core. Explain why standards for literature now call for greater focus on nonfiction documents, out of their ordinary context of formal history classes, and a lesser focus on works of real, yes, literature. And explain why they don’t seem to mind that not only does this threaten students’ appreciation for great works of fiction but that leading biographers say this also will harm a real understanding of history.
Let them explain why it’s OK to ask teachers to understand, much less apply, standards written in bureaucratic gobbledygook that is virtually indecipherable. Let them explain why the standards were implemented without being field-tested anywhere. Let them defend the abandonment of “cursive” writing despite voluminous brain research indicating that cursive is a great aid for the proper development of brain physiology.
If they can’t explain these things, then the bully-boys pushing the Core may find themselves on the very real unicorn horns of a dilemma.
New Orleans native Quin Hillyer is a contributing editor for National Review. You can follow him on Twitter, @Quin Hillyer. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org, and he blogs at blogs. theadvocate.com/quin-essential.