Legislators Should Know Better

I'm not surprised that Maine is engaged in a debate about rolling back high standards for kids, mostly because that seems to be happening in a lot of places. More than that, though, It's a state with a deep vein of individuality, sort of our own Alaska at the tip of New England. I don't mind sincere arguments against standards, rooted in skepticism about centralized power. But this argument from republican state legislator William Tuell is just wrong and ahistorical:

Common Core in Maine has gotten away from the principles which have guided generations of schoolkids since our country’s founding back in 1776.

The history of schooling in this country is nothing like a linear story. To the extent that there is a coherent narrative since the eighteenth century, it's a Jeffersonian tradition that relies on an educated populace to fuel democracy. In the twenty-first century, how could that not include high standards for all children?

The United States has been engaged in a three century project that revolutionized public education worldwide. The schools we have today have almost nothing to do with whatever Rep. Tuell imagines 1776 might have been like, even if classroom instruction itself hasn't changed as much as we might like. Most children didn't go to school in the pre-Revolutionary period. High schools didn't exist, and teaching was barely a profession. It might be fun to wave American flags and declare fealty to the ways of old, but no serious analysis of this country or its history suggests that rigorous, internationally competitive standards are against the principles of this country.