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Jeff Meadors: Is Common Core all it's cracked up to be?

Jeff Meadors

Jeff Meadors

While many consider Common Core State Standards a national movement, opposition mounts. For classroom teachers, it feels like federal intrusion.

Common core advocates argue the national curriculum will give American history teachers an opportunity to use primary sources in the classroom.

But common core opponents from Brunswick to Athens share Fordham Institute evidence showing Georgia's performance standards, particularly in math and English/language arts, on par if not better than Common Core, which begs the question: If true, then why does Georgia lag behind most states on indicators of student performance?

Despite being crammed into AP classes, Georgia student AP pass rates remain unremarkable, with most science, language, history, and math pass rates below 50 percent based on College Board's 9th annual AP report to the nation in 2012.

Stanford's James Milgram, the only mathematician on the Common Core Validation Committee, refused to sign off on common core math standards, arguing they leave students two grade levels behind their international counterparts in math by grade 8.

But opponents could be worried about those primary texts. For whose version of history will go down in textbooks for future scholars under nationalized curriculum? Which one of the 11-times-revised and terror-scrubbed Benghazi talking points constitutes a primary source? And will acts of terror translate into spontaneous reactions to low-budget YouTube videos, while Fort Hood emerges in the annals of workplace violence?

Will historical fact become revisionist editorial, hand-crafted by disciples of D.C., men from GSA hot tubs, talking heads of Solyndra, or Kool-Aid drinkers of the western world where "war on terror" goes down as "manmade disaster" and "kinetic military action," while foreign leaders spout derision at a weak-kneed global apologist who announced in 2008 that America is "no longer a Christian nation."

Will historians get Putin's argument for American idiocy correct?

"Any fourth-grade history student," Putin proclaimed in 2009, "knows socialism has failed in every country, at every time in history. President Obama and his fellow Democrats are either idiots or deliberately trying to destroy their own economy."

Will this fit a national curriculum?

Who will tell the story of an American peace through strength? Will it be Washington sycophants, drenched in a culture of capitulation to Moscow on missile defense, deference to Iran on broadened weapons programs and polarization of Israeli allies, who sanitize historical texts for future scholars seeking a grip on unprecedented cowardice in U.S. leadership?

Noted educator Diane Ravitch's opposition to Common Core takes a different premise. Common Core standards, per Ravitch, "are being imposed on the children of this nation despite the fact that no one has any idea how they will affect students, teachers, or schools. We are a nation of guinea pigs, almost all trying an unknown new program at the same time."

Ravitch continues, "There is no reason for national standards to tell teachers what percentage of their time should be devoted to literature or information."

Time will tell if Common Core is the panacea for a nation at risk, but early retirees aren't willing to wait.

Jeff Meadors has served in elected and appointed positions in education and may be reached at pjeffreymeadors@gmail.com