June 3, 2015

What We Talk About When We Talk About Common Core (Hint: Not Common Core)

By Bellwether

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New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s flip flop on Common Core looked like pretty naked politicking. But that wasn’t as interesting to me as what it seemed to vividly illustrate: These days when people debate “Common Core” they’re not really talking about Common Core at all. I take a look at that in a U.S. News & World Report column today:

In 2013, Christie supported Common Core. “We’re doing Common Core in New Jersey, and we are going to continue. This is one of those areas where I have agreed more with the president than not and with [Education] Secretary [Arne] Duncan,” he said. But last Thursday he changed his tune. “We must reject federal control of our education and return it to parents and teachers,” Christie said. “We need to take it out of the cubicles of Washington, D.C. where it was placed by the Obama administration and return it to the neighborhoods of New Jersey.”

It’s easy to pick on Christie for shameless politicking – he offered little in the way of specific criticisms and the standards are unpopular with conservative primary voters in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina where his fledgling presidential campaign is struggling to get traction. He’s hardly the only politician pandering on the issue; calling Common Core the product of federal bureaucrats (it’s not) is a standard Republican talking point. Meanwhile, reasonable people can change their minds or disagree about the standards, which turned five this week. For my part, I think they have promise but their transformative potential has been oversold by many advocates and their adoption and implementation is inadequately supported.

None of that, however, is what makes the New Jersey situation so illustrative. Instead, the saga of Common Core in New Jersey (and elsewhere) highlights how our education debates are often proxies for other issues…
You can click here to read the entire column in U.S. News’ daily “Report.” Follow me on Twitter and share shameless political things you’ve done to woo primary voters or what problem Common Core is a proxy for in your life.

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