by Karl Kurtz
I don't pretend to know a lot about the common-core standards for math and English/language arts recently released by the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association. But I care deeply about the cause of educating Americans for their role as citizens in a democracy. Thus, I was disturbed by an online commentary, "Dangerous Blind Spots in Common Core Standards," in Education Week by University of Georgia Professor William G. Wraga. It begins:
The final version of the common-core standards for math and English/language arts, released in June by the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association, contain two educational blind spots that, if ignored, can undermine not only the quality of public education, but also the strength of our democracy. The standards devote insufficient attention to the need for an interdisciplinary curriculum, and represent a contracted view of the “common core” that disregards the role of schools in preparing students for citizenship.
Arguably, education for democratic citizenship is the historic national goal of education in the United States. Thomas Jefferson asserted: “Every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone. The people themselves therefore are its only safe depositories. And to render even them safe, their minds must be improved to a certain degree.” George Washington implored: “Promote … as an object of primary importance, institutions for the general diffusion of knowledge. In proportion as the structure of a government gives force to public opinion, it is essential that public opinion should be enlightened.” Preparation for citizenship in a democracy must be a substantive, expressly signified component of the common core for all students in the United States.
The CCSSO, the NGA, and other groups leading the common-core initiative must immediately withdraw and revise the standards, in order to promote interdisciplinary curriculum and instruction and to embrace a broader vision of the purpose of education in the United States, one that makes central the preparation of future citizens to participate in democratic governance.
NCSL's policy position on the common-core standards focuses more on staving off adoption of the standards by the federal government than it does on their content. The September issue of State Legislatures magazine has an article on the common-core standards, "For the Common Good?".