Worked Up About Standards

Last year, I spent a lot of time on the blog focusing on the intersection of racial justice and education. I will continue to do that this year, in the spirit of yesterday's post.  I'm also going to discuss to other issues that affect kids and families, in particular, high standards. I interviewed dozens of kids, teachers, and parents last year, and the most common aspiration across demographics and communities was the desire for rigorous, high standards for all kids. Unfortunately, there is a lot of political fighting and name-calling about standards, which often masquerades as legitimate education critique. I'm frustrated with that and will be spending some time digging into the real issues of high standards, starting today.

It’s a new year, and with the turning of the annual page I had hoped that we could move past the overtly politicized “should we or shouldn’t we” debate about high standards in schools. There are valid, substantive concerns about standards, but that’s not the debate we seem to be having as a country. Take Joy Pullman’s piece in the Federalist today. It’s hard to know where to start in unpacking her arguments; she careens from a critique on capitalism, to tearing down Exxon Mobil, to invoking the Northwest Ordinance. To be honest, the vast majority of the piece has nothing to do with the actual Common Core standards, but rather is an attempt to indict the standards through “guilt by association,” lumping them in with every bugaboo of the political right.

Here’s the one graf that has anything to do with the substance of the standards, I think:

That’s one reason I’ll never trust either Common Core or the public schools that celebrate it—neither give a damn about self-government or the public purpose of public education. Common Core doesn’t once mention anything but “college and career readiness” as its aim, and all but a few brave teachers and administrators like Burris are either too scared or too stupid to stand up and object to this outrage.

Pullman can’t make an actual critique of the standards without throwing teachers and administrators under the bus. This year, let's stop pretending that arguments like this are anything but political. Bring on the substance, please. But leave the ad hominem political dreck for other issues, ideally ones that don’t involve the lives and futures of children.