I was hoping last night's Common Core meeting in Sioux Falls would be a conservative grilling of the South Dakota leaders pushing the status quo practice of education reform churn. Instead, Secretary of Education Melody Schopp and paid Common Core consultant Rick Melmer appear to have walked into a packed house of anxious potential Common Core opponents and owned the show.
The formal press coverage focuses on the pro-Common Core statements. The only opposition quoted comes from Rep. Jim Bolin (R-16/Canton), whose overstated concerns about secrecy and local control reporter Beth Wischmeyer strongly rebuts with quotes from Schopp and Melmer. Wischmeyer quotes one audience member with vague concerns about political ideology behind Common Core (it's a liberal plot, she says). Wischmeyer gets no comments from Iowa panelist and Common Core opponent Shane Vander Hart.
Purported Common Core opponent Sen. Ernie Otten (R-6/Tea) has apparently been seduced by the Dark Side. Otten's neighbor Michael Larson, who sat on the floor amid the SRO crowd to get blog notes, reports that after talking to teachers and administrators, Otten sounds like he supports Common Core. Otten also rejects the notion that the state was "heavy handed" in implementing Common Core.
Larson also reports that Common Core supporter Sen. Phyllis Heineman (R-12/Sioux Falls) says all of the teachers she talks to think Common Core is great... but that's only because she doesn't talk to teachers like Leo Kallis and me. Sensing the futility of fighting the status quo in education, Kallis tries one more time to point out what's really wrong with Common Core: it's just more reform churn, with private entities ginning up myths of education in crisis to sell new materials and tests, plus the added harm of pushing the reading of fiction out of the curriculum. Vander Hart drops by Kallis's comment section to agree on the fiction point.
Vague and false fears of ideology and secret plots won't stop the education policy churn. The real problems Kallis cites with Common Core won't get traction in South Dakota, because a lot of the conservatives willing to pack the Common Core meeting in Sioux Falls last night don't want to believe that corporations pose a greater threat to their liberty than government. They are more interested in concocting their own Koch-funded mythology than in discussing the merits of reading and teaching mythology in the classroom. And when ed policy aficionados can whack down sincere, thoughtful opposition by saying opponents are lazy bastards who don't care about children or the future, you can bet that you will not form a working majority of busy legislators or school board members to oppose Common Core.
Fighting Common Core takes more rationality and effort than the Tea Party can muster, as evidenced by Larson's final observation on last night's forum:
Many different people encouraged the audience members to go to the school board to find out what was really happening in their district. Sadly, when Betty Otten asked the audience how many of them planned to go to the next school board only a smattering of hands went up [Michael Larson, "More on Tonight's Common Core Forum," Taking a Left Turn in South Dakota, 2013.09.17].
Common Core, alas, is here to stay (at least until the next textbook/test-rewrite wave hits in a decade), because its real failings don't fit the false foes that Tea Partiers would rather fight.
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Alfie Kohn pops up with this serendipitous tweet about what standards churn like Common Core makes it harder for us teachers to do:
Boundless admiration for tchrs who help kids read gd books thoughtfully w/o turning it into a tedious, reductive, structured exercise
— Alfie Kohn (@alfiekohn) September 16, 2013