Why is a National Curriculum So Outrageous?


By United States Department of Education (ED) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
A thought today about the “backlash” against the Common Core. I was thinking about how those of us who generally support it are always gently reminding folks that no, it’s not a “national” curriculum, nor any curriculum whatsoever.

Another common refrain while engaged in such backpedaling, especially in conservative quarters, is to lament the involvement of the federal government in the standards, when they incentivized state engagement through Race to the Top funding. Why did those meddling Feds have to get involved in state education business whatsoever?

But there’s a strange void in this discussion in our nation–very few would openly suggest that it would be better if our federal government got more involved in the arena of public education. And no one would possibly suggest anything so unfeasible and impolitic as developing a national curriculum.

Yet when it comes to public health, is anyone really questioning the importance of federal involvement, oversight, and infrastructure in the protection of our nation’s citizens against outbreaks of disease?

When the CDC speaks and acts on issues, Americans take it seriously. Meanwhile, our secretary of education travels across the country in a bus like an itinerant musician, trying to drum up support for federal initiatives.

The very little power that our federal government wields in the realm of education is to channel funding down to states; that Obama’s administration utilized that limited funding stream to incentivize its priorities seems not so much intrusive, but rather innovative. What other mechanism do they have, other than bully pulpit speeches?

Why is the development of a national curriculum so unfeasible as to be unspeakable in our country? Would it really be such a horror to have guidance and direction from our federal government on topics of study that an appointed commission of educators could develop for use in our public institutions? The USDOE, then, would stand for the content of its curricula, and curricula could be publicly reexamined and determined on a recurring basis.

If there really were an outbreak of Ebola that struck more than a handful of American people, then fingers would unerringly point to our federal government. Why? Because the danger of our entire nation would be at stake, even if the fault originally might be attributable to local institutions. Yet we have thousands upon thousands of our nation’s children attending schools where they are denied access to knowledge and skills that would provide them with greater opportunity. Is that really a “local” or “state” matter? Because it seems to me much more critical than Ebola to the future well-being of the United States.

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2 thoughts on “Why is a National Curriculum So Outrageous?

  1. The first biggest misconception is that Common Core is a national curriculum. It is not. Common Core are standards that brings equality to what kids should know in any given part of our country at various grade levels. In a transient culture as ours this really is a positive aspect. The truth is educators are free to design what ever curriculum they desire to meet the core standards.
    The second biggest misconception is that the government created the CC standards. Do you really think the government is capable of collaborating to the high level the Core standards are developed? They could not agree on what day of the week it is. This body of work was carefully and intentional written by a diverse group of stakeholders and is well grounded in research. Our educators in Vermont have embraced the value of the CCS for our students and more importantly we are given the support we need to implement.

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    1. Hi Jay,

      Thanks for your comment. But you’re misreading my post. Please re-read (close reading, as we call it in Common Core parlance) and see if the two misconceptions you’ve outlined are in fact demonstrated here.

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