Acton Institute Powerblog

Common Core: Homogenizing Schools and Our Children

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Politicians and public educators seem to constantly revert back to status quo arguments of further centralization as a way to reform education failures in the U.S. The most recent push for uniformity in the public school system is the Common Core, a set of national assessment standards and tests that has been adopted by 45 states and will be implemented possibly as soon as the 2014 school year.  President Obama enticed the states to adopt Common Core with his $4.35 billion “Race to the Top Fund,” promising stimulus money to any that complied.  He also announced that $350 million of that fund would be spent on developing the tests that would be aligned with the Common Core Standards.

Common Core constitutes another government takeover under the Obama Administration. While defenders of the Common Core correctly point out that Obama and his cabinet had nothing to do with the design or implementation of Common Core, they fail to recognize the coercion of the governors to adopt Common Core through Race to the Top. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has also used questionable tactics in support of Common Core. In a recent speech at the American Society of News Editors Annual Convention, as reported by the Huffington Post, Duncan claimed, “When the critics can’t persuade you that the Common Core is a curriculum, they make even more outlandish claims. They say that the Common Core calls for federal collection of student data.  For the record, it doesn’t, we’re not allowed to, and we won’t. And let’s not even get into the really wacky stuff: mind control, robots, and biometric brain mapping.”  Such straw man arguments appear to be desperate attempts to obfuscate opponents’ central criticism: Common Core wipes out competition amongst states to produce better education programs, and it severely cripples school choice through more centralization.

National standards mean national tests aligned to those standards, and consequently curricula will also be aligned to such tests. Residents of states implementing Common Core will be hard-pressed to find any distinct schools with comparative advantages to benefit their children. Not only will public schools be made uniform, but private schools, home schools, and religiously-affiliated schools will be pressured to adapt to Common Core. Students at non-public schools won’t be forced to take Common Core assessments but will have to adapt a decent part of their curricula to prepare their students for changes in these tests, which are paramount to students’ entrance into college. Nevertheless, the person credited as the architect of Common Core is David Coleman, current CEO of College Board, the company that administers the SAT test. Coleman officially announced that the SAT would be redesigned to align with Common Core. The designers of the ACT and GED tests followed suit, declaring they would also change to meld with Common Core.

We should not strive for a cookie-cutter educational system because there are no cookie-cutter children. Some learn at different paces, some learn visually and others kinetically, and some have learning disabilities. Common Core continues the top down educating of students and forces them to all learn the same way at the same pace. Felix Adler, chair of political and social ethics at Columbia University from 1920-33 once wrote, “The freedom of thought is a sacred right of every individual man, and diversity will continue to increase with the progress, refinement, and differentiation of the human intellect.”  Adler argues here that basic human diversity hinges on the fact that we think differently. Common Core simply disregards the diversity of thought with which humans are created. God designs every person with unique qualities and gifts, and to shove our children all into one mold is to ignore this truth.

Quinn Treleven A passion for the morality of free market economics was ignited in Quinn Treleven when he researched and wrote a thesis paper on the subject during his senior year of high school. Now pursuing majors in Political Science and Economics/Finance at Olivet Nazarene University near Chicago, Illinois, Quinn is preparing himself for a vocation in free market advocacy. Quinn supplements his studies by reading classic primary sources written by Hayek, Menger, Hazlitt, Friedman, and Mises. He also follows Cato and National Review Online. In June 2010, Quinn was honored to attend FEE’s “Introduction to Austrian Economics,” where his understanding of free market philosophy was deepened beyond his expectations. In the second semester of 2011-12, Quinn participated in a study abroad program with a business emphasis at Xiamen University, China, where in addition to language, culture and history, he studied Chinese business, ending the semester with an internship for a manufacturer based in Xiamen. Quinn spent his 2012 summer volunteering on the campaign of a GOP candidate for the U.S. Senate and participating in FEE’s “Communicating Liberty” seminar. An unashamed Star Wars fanatic, Quinn enjoys rock music, movies, hiking and rock climbing.


  • Blanca

    “The freedom of thought is a sacred right of every individual man, and diversity will continue to increase with the progress, refinement, and differentiation of the human intellect.” That’s a wonderful quote and it embodies exactly what the Common Core means to give every student across the nation. It is the very thing CC is about!

    Given your argument, It seems you missed important parts of the CC standards!

    Please do a close read of pages: 10, 18, 22, 25. Here you will find the gist of what the standards expect students to know and be able to do by the end of their K-12 education. Here is the link:

    Common Core State Standards do not prescribe how to get students to those goals, that’s where educators expertise comes in to use as they are being called upon to create/design content rich curriculums that will assist students in developing the knowledge and skills outlined on those pages.

    Common Core standards are the exact opposite of a cookie cutter approach and/or disregard for creativity and human thought.

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  • Teresa Suarez

    I agree with this analysis of the perils of the CC. Its implementation will force educators to lower standards in schools where the majority of students are from low socio-economic backgrounds, and bring back mandatory vocational education for those underprivileged students. The other commentary fails to mention that many of the desired outcomes for student learning rely solely on the auditory delivery of content, so here we go…back to lecturing and leaving behind the majority of learners depicted in Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences.

    • Blanca

      The CC focuses on reading (informational and literature), writing, foundations of early reading, listening and speaking. No where on the document does it state it has to be exclusively auditory. If so please cite the evidence, I would be happy to read it so that I can be informed. Another fact is that being from low socio-economic background does not equate to being learning disabled it just means that teachers must create thoughtful and creative conditions for learning. That means rich lessons that provide students time to listen and participate to topic related read alouds, interactive discussion of the text, teacher led modeling of how to ask and answer questions, analyze text structures, etc., collaborative learning with peers to extend the ideas and skills with some support and finally independent reading, writing, speaking. There are big differences between lecturing and interactive discussion around learning concepts. One is passive and the other is active.