*New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo looks like he is ready to throw in the towel on the Common Core educational standards. Yet I refuse to believe that it is as hard as it seems to get on the same page in terms of education.
In some areas I agree that everyone in the country shouldn’t be shoe-horned into a paradigm that has been predetermined by a committee in a central location. This is why we have different ecological laws or different speed limits. But there are other areas that are (or should be) of national interest. We have a common currency across the country, we have a common measurement system, and we need to have a common educational system as well.
Cuomo assigned a task force to focus on the implementation of national educational standards called the Common Core. What the group found was that no one liked it; not parents, not students, not educators. In fact many people chose to have their children stay home on the day of exams that aligned with the Common Core. What’s more, teachers supported this “opting out” because their job evaluations would be affected.
I get it. The way in which the program was introduced was sloppy. And unless every passage deals with some historical content it is probably unreasonable to evaluate Social Studies teachers based on how students perform on a English Language Arts exam. Nevertheless the Common Core should stick.
At the core of the resistance to the Common Core is the idea that education should be the responsibility of local districts. I disagree. Sure the local group should be able to emphasize local history in their curricula but there is little to suggest that local school boards can do a better job than a national committee in setting up standards. Furthermore there is plenty of evidence to suggest that certain local school boards across the country are doing a poor job of creating standards and getting students to meet those standards. That’s how the Common Core was thought up in the first place.
Another major factor in the dissent against the Common Core is the fact that many teachers do not want to change how and what they teach. In their defense, many of these teachers have seen their curricula help students progress in their education for many years. In addition parents remember what they were taught and it is comforting to know that their kids will get similar instruction. However by staying in their comfort zones these teachers and parents are ignoring the country’s standing in the world in terms of K-12 education. They are also teaching their students and children to stop trying when things get tough.
By succumbing to the pressure of local groups, Governor Cuomo is helping to create an environment where other states will delay and perhaps ultimately decide against the Common Core. The students of many districts and states quite simply aren’t achieving high enough to be in position to look down on the Common Core.
Students in the United States can be lazy. But they can rise to a challenge as well. The same two statements applies to the teachers. Governor Cuomo needs to push people toward the latter of these sentiments rather than settle for the former.
Trevor Brookins is a free lance writer in Rockland County, New York. He is currently working on a book about American culture during the Cold War. His writing has appeared in The Journal News. You can reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @historictrev.