IN a triumph of irrationality over reason, House Speaker T.W. Shannon abruptly announced that lawmakers might try to repeal Common Core academic standards in the legislative session's final days.
“A lot of people are becoming very concerned about its ability to open the door for kind of a federal takeover of our education system,” Shannon said last week. “We've already seen it in our health care system.”
This comparison is legitimate only if Obamacare were a state law that Shannon, R-Lawton, voted to implement. In a call straight from the John Kerry political leadership playbook, Shannon was for Common Core before he was against it.
The Common Core State Standards Initiative, spearheaded by state governors and state education commissioners, is meant to establish a set of clear, rigorous, multistate educational standards in English and math. Participating states voluntarily adopt the standards — as Oklahoma lawmakers (including Shannon) did in 2010. Oklahoma received no federal money in return.
The standards aren't unlike a recent Senate resolution that calls for “collaboration between the states utilizing the McClellan-Kerr (navigation system) to establish goals to maintain the system for best use and identify opportunities for future development ...” Shannon supported that measure as well.
Common Core endorses such things as teaching third-graders to “develop understanding of fractions as numbers” and expecting children to “read and comprehend literature, including stories and poetry, in the grades 2-3 text complexity band proficiently” by the end of second grade. Does achieving those goals really place Oklahomans on the road to federal serfdom?
Keith Ballard, superintendent of Tulsa Public Schools, declares Common Core “is not a ‘national curriculum.' We continue to make local decisions on curriculum and appropriate teaching methods, just as we always have.” Given that Ballard has resisted even much state oversight of schools, it isn't plausible to claim he's a front man for federal takeover.
Heather Sparks, the 2009 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year, praises Common Core as “a framework for a rigorous education” that's filled “at the local level.”
Paul Risser, former chancellor of Oklahoma's higher education system, notes Common Core standards “are not a national curriculum” and that local school officials still control “how teachers should teach.”
In contrast, a speaker at a recent Capitol protest claimed Common Core was a “dangerous Trojan horse” tied to the United Nations. The group Oklahomans for Sovereignty and Free Enterprise insists Common Core is somehow connected to Obamacare and designed to “enable these technology systems (i.e. ‘standardized' computer hardware and software systems technology) to be interoperable,” predicting the standards will help create a “cradle-to-grave” electronic record “on every single person.” The full blog is actually weirder than the above nugget would suggest.
Another critic, Restore Oklahoma Public Education, directs readers to a blog declaring Common Core a federal takeover of curriculum that is “one of the necessary requirements for the United States to comply with U.N. Agenda 21,” a part of the “scheme” and “globalist agenda” of ... George H.W. Bush.
We kid you not.
In short, serious, credible local Oklahoma education officials and civic leaders support Common Core as a way to increase state education standards. Its opponents embrace bizarre conspiracy theories that defy logic.
Shannon and House members should align with the first group, not the latter.