Allen B. West

Common Core is rotten to the core

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Last week I attended the Constitutional Coalition Education Policy Conference in St. Louis on the issue of Common Core. Let me explain, I support standards in education but I do not support top down government-driven standards. Our American children are unique in many ways, and to believe we can have a common direction for all our children is ludicrous and actually dangerous — in fact, it is socialist.

There is a reason why we have local school boards, but what I see happening is a usurpation of the ability of parents and local communities to take the lead in educating their children. Also, Common Core was not developed as legislation to be debated in committee and on the House and Senate floors, it was done by bureaucratic fiat. And no, I did not agree with No Child Left Behind.

Common Core is the manifestation of the collectivist progressive mindset. It treats every student exactly the same way at exactly the same pace. It is the culmination of what progressives began in the late 1970s with the creation of the Department of Education. Their end game is to establish complete federal control of what our children are taught in school – effectively eliminating local control of curricula. It’s a one-size-fits-all, top-down, national curriculum for all K-12 students – and not just those in public school — homeschoolers and private and religious schools will be affected as well.

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This is the year when Common Core goes into effect – having been jammed onto nearly every state in the union by the Obama administration, by pressuring cash-strapped states to surrender control over their curriculum in exchange for federal education funding. So far 45 states have decided to participate but now some are starting to back away, especially as more American parents find out what Common Core actually does.

We are spending billions of dollars at the federal level on education but the return on that “investment” is lacking. A Harvard University study noted only 32 percent of American students who graduated high school in 2011 were proficient in math and only 31 percent were proficient reading. According to a 2011 comparative test of students in 65 countries around the world, American students slipped down to 30th in Math, 23rd in Science and 17th in Reading. Here’s a real kick in the pants — we spend more money on education per pupil than 55 of those countries. Talk about a poor return on that “government investment”. And we’ve declined in global education rankings while our federal government spending has gone up.

I taught high school for a year in Deerfield Beach, such an enjoyable experience that I volunteered to return to Afghanistan for two-and-a-half years as a civilian-military advisor to the Afghan National Army. What I saw in Deerfield Beach was depressing. We are teaching kids to take a test, solely in order to achieve a certain test standard, with the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT). We’re teaching test-taking strategies and developing robots who focus on rote memorization. Education is supposed to be about developing critical thinking skills. But then again, that wouldn’t please liberal progressives since they seek more low- to no-information voters who can be manipulated by their lies and deceit. Education in America has to be relevant and prepare our young people with a productive skill and ability. Once upon a time we had automotive, woodshop, and other mechanical programs right in high school.

Recently I had lunch with Wayne Huizenga Jr. who heads up the Rybovich Superyacht Marina and refit facility in West Palm Beach and we discussed education. We talked about how we’re not training young men and women in the skills to be a part of the South Florida Marine Industry. In other words, we should make education relevant to local communities and their economy. Yes, there must be a foundational knowledge of basics: reading, communications, math, and something I thin is vital — physical fitness. Then we must channel energies and intellect to specific developmental programs, not government-driven common standards that seem to focus on celebrating diversity. And we also need to accept not every student needs to go to college.

We must embrace innovation in the classroom; we must prepare students to compete globally; and we must give parents the freedom to choose the school that their child attends. Peter Thiel, the successful entrepreneur who helped launch PayPal, has started a fellowship program for aspiring young innovators.The Thiel Fellowship gives a no-strings attached grant of $100,000 for qualifying young minds to skip college and focus on their work, their research, and their self-education. We can all agree that college can create opportunity and teach valuable skills. But Thiel’s program is special. It unlocks a student’s potential without dunking them into tens of thousands of dollars worth of debt. It is tailor-made education, custom fit to each individual’s talents, passions, and skills. And that fellowship forces colleges and universities to compete. That’s exactly what American education needs – a shock to the system.

I challenge you all to learn more about Common Core because it’s rotten to the core. We need less government direction in our education system and more parental and local engagement and involvement. We need to increase competition and lessen the impact of teacher’s unions, such as the National Education Association (NEA) of whom even Bill Maher stated, “For the good of our children, this overly powerful and selfish union needs to be busted. This union is bad news.” And President Obama? Heck, never forget that he cancelled the DC school voucher, scholarship, program in April 2009 de to pressure from the NEA and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). Common Core is another aspect of the “fundamental transformation” of America. Do not surrender your rights as a parent and your children’s education to the federal government.
Tell your Congressional Representatives, Senators, but mainly your State officials, to back away from Common Core.

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