MIAMI HERALD: Carlos Curbelo: Support Common Core Standards
By Carlos Curbelo
Those of us on the conservative side of the political ledger have, through the writings of Thomas Jefferson and others in our nation’s history, come to view the government with skepticism and even distrust — and with good reason. The scandals engulfing President Obama’s administration are only the most recent examples of government abuse and overreach in our country.
These activities, if not halted and rejected immediately, often herald a gradual deterioration to tyranny. Many of our neighbors to the south are experiencing this today as strongmen like Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela and Rafael Correa of Ecuador systematically use the levers of power, designed to buttress socio-political institutions and protect the most vulnerable, to instead punish their political foes.
These countries did not drift into such dire straits overnight. Democratic institutions were methodically and stealthily eroded over the years.
Today’s American conservatism is actually in many ways a justified reaction to the both real and perceived hyper growth, unaccountability, and overbearing nature of the federal government. I certainly identify with this line of thinking.
However, in order to win debates, and more important, elections, conservatives must brandish facts while ignoring scare tactics that yield irrational paranoia. Skepticism should not devolve into callousness, stubbornness, and the rejection of government in all its manifestations. Ours should be the belief that a limited and responsible government can contribute to the advancement of our nation and its people, and nowhere is that fact more evident or more critical than in the area of education.
That is why we should support the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for K-12 education. These standards were developed in states by educators and education experts from across the nation using international benchmarks, and together with quality implementation they can ensure that our children can compete with their peers both here at home and abroad.
The goal is to address two major issues our country is facing: the growing number of college students requiring remedial courses and the growing skills gap in our workforce. The CCSS do not indoctrinate children. They do not establish a national curriculum, and they do not threaten student privacy in any way. The CCSS do not require that teachers use any specific materials, books, or even teaching methods. In short, the CCSS are not part of a vast left-wing conspiracy to curtail parental rights and brainwash our children.
Instead, they seek to guarantee every parent that no matter where in America their child is learning, they will receive a quality education and acquire the skills necessary to attend a post secondary institution or join the workforce.
In fact, the idea of CCSS is in many ways a result of the conservative-led accountability movement in public education which demands higher standards and promotes data-driven reform in districts and schools that are failing children. It should be no surprise that a few weeks ago union boss Randi Weingarten of the liberal American Federation of Teachers called for a delay in the stakes associated with Common Core assessments.
Ironically, this was reported on the Heritage Foundation’s blog, The Foundry. When Heritage promotes the statements of a liberal union boss who was pivotal to President Obama’s election and reelection, we should worry. Neither should it be a surprise that 45 states throughout the country including many like Florida which has been governed by Republicans since the 90s, are voluntarily embracing the CCSS. After all, how could any good conservative be opposed to high education standards for mathematics and English language arts? Who can be opposed to standards such as this one for third graders: Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in text, distinguishing literal from nonliteral language?
In Miami-Dade County, where our public schools have improved dramatically in recent years, we are accelerating adoption of the CCSS precisely because we want to more aggressively work towards the goal of ensuring that every student that walks across the graduation stage is legitimately college or career ready. The implementation of the Common Core State Standards will directly assist us in achieving this goal, and our students and families will be better off for it.
So conservatives who have fought hard for increasing the quality of education in our country for decades should avoid the cognitive dissonance of standing in the way. Our opposition should be to the government that abuses and destroys — not the one that builds and facilitates a stronger nation where each individual is independent and self-reliant. The latter is what high, consistent education standards will yield.
Carlos Curbelo was elected to the Miami-Dade School Board in 2010. He represents District 7.