Opt-Out of Common Core? Great! But Let's Opt-Out of All Government Programs

CheckboxPublic DomainIn response to my piece criticizing Common Core standards for threatening education choice by binding publicly funded schools to lock-step pacing and goals, Michael Petrilli, Executive VP of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and editor of Education Next, concedes the risk and suggests some schools should be able to opt out. Let schools opposed to rigid standards prove their mettle some other way, he says. Making Common Core standards voluntary down to the grassroots is a great idea, I think. But why stop there? We should be able to opt out of so many other government programs.

In his response to me, Petrilli points to an article in which he proposed that "there might be, say, 10 percent of the schools for whom the Common Core, or any state standards, may not be a good fit." Among those schools, he suggests, are high-achievers and schools that are philosophically at odds with standardized measures.

Which schools belong in this 10 percent? First, some schools of choice (including charter schools and magnet schools)—particularly those on the far progressive end of the spectrum—fundamentally don’t believe in testing as a great measure of what kids need to know and be able to do. Their educational approach that is not a good fit with standards-based reform...

Another group of schools that should be eligible for the opt-out are uniformly high-achieving schools—those where virtually all the kids are high achieving and for whom the Common Core standards (or any other state standards) are actually well below where they’re already achieving. These are largely going to be schools in our affluent suburbs or exam schools in our big cities.

Part of his argument is that many of these schools are really a lousy fit with standardized measures—often intentionally so—and need to be judged by different criteria. He also argues, though, that "the limited use of an opt-out will release some steam from the political backlash to standards and testing." That's because people tend to stop objecting to programs when they're not dragooned into them.

But doesn't that same logic apply to so many other government schemes?

Lots of people complain that they don't want Obamacare, or Social Security, or the surveillance state, or the war on drugs, or Medicare... These programs "may not be a good fit" for people who value privacy, self-sufficiency and personal freedom.

Exit signSheDreamsInRedAs for critics... A CBS poll shows that nine in ten Americans are "unhappy" with the federal government, with 43 percent flat-out angry. That follows on a Gallup poll showing that sixty percent of Americans think the federal government is too damned powerful—and a separate George Washington University poll that finds that many Americans want not just the government, but federal workers themselves, to get lost.

So...If letting people opt out of a program that is just a lousy fit for them, and that excites their vocal opposition, is a good idea, why should it stop at public school standards? Wouldn't it make sense, and settle some of the boiling political tensions in this country, if more of the government's growing menu of intrusive, presumptuous and expensive programs were optional?

What if we could say, either at will, or during a limited dis-enrollment period, "Umm, no, thanks. I'll skip the entire right side of the menu." We would escape rules and taxes, and open up new options—though we'd have to surrender the supposed protections offered by state programs, and the state would have to be serious about holding us to our choices.

Frankly, I'd go so far as too give up fire protection (you need a gander at the local department to understand) if, in turn, I wouldn't be bound by stupid building regulations. I'd surrender police protection if that would give me a pass on what I grow and smoke in my backyard, or tuck into a holster.

Opting out of Obamacare, Social Security and Medicare are no-brainers—I'll check those boxes, now, thanks.

Opting out of the security state will probably be a tougher sell, because of the rather nebulous, holistic protections the NSA and company claim to offer. But it is a lousy fit for me, and I insist, at least, on the right to encrypt the shit out of any data they try to grab. Let them try to figure out what I've steganographied into some photoshopped images of Joe Biden and James Clapper.

A good time will be had by all.

Letting critics of government programs opt out because they're a bad fit? Brilliant. That should be standard policy.

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  • Hugh Akston||

    You must be one of those Randian atomists who hates cooperation. As we all know, people would never cooperate or coordinate their efforts if they weren't gently encouraged to by a caring and benevolent omnistate.

  • Brian||

    Wouldn't it make sense, and settle some of the boiling political tensions in this country, if more of the government's growing menu of intrusive, presumptuous and expensive programs were optional?

    Go ahead and try. Tell some old person you want to make social security and medicare optional. Watch them blow a blood vessel, not because they're worried about you, but because they're worried about themselves.

    Redistribution doesn't work when it's optional. Therefore, with them, it's a nonstarter.

  • Rufus J. Firefly||

    I agree. I do test runs with people all the time. The blank stares I get in return are priceless. Way too abstract. It's almost as if they don't want to make a choice.

  • ||

    That, and collectivists hate it when people try to opt out of collective things (like homeschoolers, for instance). They feel rejected. How can the collective work if people are allowed to opt out? Why don't you want to stay in? Do you think you're better than them?

    Their insecurities undergird all that they do, including being collectivists. People opting out makes them feel angry and rejected, and so they'll go to the mat to force everyone to stay in.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    Did you bring gum for the whole class? Hmmmm....?

  • ||

    "Mr. Spicoli has been kind enough to bring us a snack. Be my guest. Help yourselves. Get a good one."

  • flye||

    Oh, you want to opt of of a government program, huh? [rubs nipples]

    I'm sorry, those are only available in the a package. Maybe you could try another government.

  • flye||

    ...opt out of...
    ...available in a...


  • ||

    Ohhh you have to pay for the whole government. You can't just pay for what you want. Darn it.

    (rubs flye's nipples)

  • Rufus J. Firefly||

    I proposed the idea of choosing programs like you do a meal on a menu years ago. Send a form every to people asking them to put a check next to the service they want. More democratic than that you can not get and I imagine it would help the government determine who gets how much money.

    Could you imagine the money we'd save and the energy wasted on arguing?

  • Drake||

    Imagine the horror of DC bureaucrats having to compete with private businesses for customers?

    "Opt out of Social Security with our guaranteed annuity at 10% higher yields!"

  • Sevo||

    ..."particularly those on the far progressive end of the spectrum—fundamentally don’t believe in testing"...
    Those are *exactly* the schools that must be *forced* into CC. The proggies demand others be forced into their BS.
    Goose, gander.

  • Pelosi's Accommodator||

    I don't think you're using progressive in the same sense that they are. Montessori would probably fit the definition of progressive as he used it, but it was endorsed by Ayn Rand and some modern libertarians.

  • Rufus J. Firefly||

    Wasn't Montessori a she? As in Maria?

  • Whahappan?||

    Yes, Montessori was a she, I think "he" refers to Petrilli.

  • Paul.||

    Fastest way to see who's on the tit:

    Show of hands, who would go without any government for say, a year?

  • Rufus J. Firefly||

    It's been a wet dream of mine to have that happen. /raises hand.

  • Sevo||

    I don't think you'll find many here who won't raise a hand to that.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    Oh Jesus! Start a debate on the merits of anarchy. Why don't you throw in circumcision and the Confederacy for good measure?

  • Dweebston||

    Having had the stars and bars tattooed on my prepuce, I can agree with only half your suggestions.

  • ||

    (raises hand)

    The problem with that question, Paul, is that there are a lot of people who probably don't receive much in the way of shit from the government, but they are terrified of not having police and firemen and somebody in "control". You might get more interesting results with "show of hands, who would go without any government except for police, firemen, the courts, and a basic government for say, a year?"

    Of course, changing it to that sort of ruins your point.

  • Paul.||

    I see it as win-win. If we glibertarians come back to government, crying, then the progs win and we'll shut up.

    If we don't, hehehehehe.

  • ||

    If we don't they'll just come after us. To paraphrase what was said upthread, collectivism doesn't work if everyone isn't forced to participate.

  • Rufus J. Firefly||

    That's the oddest part of all this. Take my buddy. High income earner (high six figures) he's the last person who would have to rely on the government yet he never ceases extolling its virtues and who lucky we are to have "free" public services and all that ragtime gibberish.

    Moreover, he's savvy with his money. For example sinking it in hard assets, yet, he doesn't 'complain' having to pay high taxes since he'd rather that than have corporations run things.

    It's fucked up.

  • Rufus J. Firefly||

    'how' lucky we are.

  • ||

    Remember, a lot of these people are animists. The gun banners give an object magical, evil properties and hate and fear it terribly. They fear a piece of metal. The corporation haters give legally defined business constructions magical, evil qualities, practically personalities, and hate and fear them terribly. They fear a business. The health nannies and food banners give soda or fat magical, evil properties and hate and fear them terribly. They fear...food.

    These people are animists. They are not rational, and they lock onto various totems (they also have totems that they give magical, wonderful properties, like unions) and that is how they try and make sense of the world. They are the equivalent of a primitive thinking cameras will steal their soul. They're that stupid and irrational.

    The reason it confuses you is that it is not rational, not logical, it is superstition.

  • Rufus J. Firefly||

    One word: Unicorns!

  • Dweebston||

    I like it; I like it, but I disagree. I don't think it's animism in quite the sense you're suggesting. I think it's the legacy of lazy, shorthand thinking and political convenience. Guns = conservatism, unions = liberalism; since conservatives suck, guns suck, and since we rock, unions rock, too. I think animism captures part of the mindless cheerleading and superstition, but really it's just theistic thinking generally, the civic religion of buying into a political ideology rather than a spiritual or philosophical modality. And in that sense, it is rational: they quite rationally embrace anything that advances the cause they believe in.

  • Drake||

    People who are "terrified of not having police and firemen" and therefore support a giant federal government are idiots (by the old medical definition).

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    Despite my cop joke below, I'm not really into anarchy. The thugs who go into government under the present system would simply become private gangsters, and they'll all be extorting protection from innocent civilians - the civilians will be caught in the crossfire until the gangsters divide up their territories, and then you'll be back to Square One with a new system of states, but this time without checks like a legal system, elections or other avenues for innocent civilians to fight back against the gangsters.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    What if there were no "civilians"? What if every man, woman, and child knew how to protect themselves and had at least one rifle or carbine with which to do so?

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    *Some* of them would violate the NAP. The armed libertarians would have to be constantly vigilant against such violators. Eventually, the good guys would band together for self-defense, taking turns as watchmen, operating a sewer system, punishing those who don't comply with the rules of the community (shitting in the creek, collaborating with the NAP violators outside the community, etc.). Then they'd draw up some rules to govern their activities, to designate persons to coordinate these activities, etc.

    Then one day all these armed libertarians would wake up and say, "OMG, we have a government!"

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    Fair enough, but anarcho-capitalism doesn't preclude "societies of mutual aid and benefit". I'd have no problem calling the state of affairs you propose "anarchist" if the association was a product of consent and one had the right to leave it.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    Squirrels seem to have swallowed my reply. Too bad, because I'm all about dialogue.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    Let's try again:

    The right to leave used to be much stronger, at least in practice, than it is now. The city-states of pagan Greece, and the medieval European states are examples (even serfs could change locations if they evaded detection for a year and a day).

    Today's megastates are cranking up their repressive apparatus to restrict freedom of movement.

    Speaking of medieval, guess who said this:

    "He decried a world "that does not care about many people who have to flee poverty and hunger, flee seeking freedom and many times they find death, as happened yesterday in Lampedusa".

    "Francis was referring to the sinking of a migrant boat off the southern Italian island, in which more than 300 people are believed to have died. "Today is a day for crying," Francis said of the tragedy."

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    The right to leave used to be much stronger, at least in practice, than it is now.

    You don't have to tell me twice. When I was overseas, my British expat friends were astounded that I, as an American who was living out of the country on a long-term basis, was still expected to pay income tax on my earnings.

    Francis was referring to the sinking of a migrant boat off the southern Italian island

    I bet the Italians loved that!

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    He's all up in their grill about this right now.

  • ||

    You mean a legal system that legally allows them to steal your property by accusing it of a crime and then making sure you have no legal recourse to get it back? You mean a legal system that will legally throw you in prison for possessing an "illegal" plant?

    Damn, legal systems sound great.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    I think it's possible to distinguish between a legal system with lots of bad features (eg, ours), versus a legal system where the bad features are kept to a minimum.

  • ||

    All legal systems become jam-packed with terrible features over time. And the nature of legal systems (and the lawmakers) makes it so the bad features are almost never removed.

    Legal systems allow the warlords to pretend legitimacy, that there is rule of law, not rule of man. They use the legal system to fool people into thinking they're not warlords. If more people saw them for what they really are, there might be more resistance to them and they'd probably get deposed a lot more.

    Legal systems are a smokescreen. And so many people fall for them.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    All right, but suppose we dissolved the US, state and local governments and replaced it with armed citizens - eventually, as discussed above, the good citizens would have to band together to protect themselves from the predatory robbers, to provide sewer systems, and to adjust disputes arising from clashing interests. Then we'd be back to having some kind of justice system.

    As for the bad guys, they would set up a system without even the safeguards of modern US law - no juries, no hearings of any kind other than the whims of the local warlord.

  • Oso Politico||

    As with religion, there should be a separation of State and education.

  • Heroic Mulatto||


  • Swiss Servator, Kneel to Zug!||

    Heh. Nice.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    Opt out of police services? Who will ignore and insult you when you report a stolen car? Who will stand by while motorcycle goons beat you?

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    I think the guy quoted in the article is shrewd. He calculates that the people making a fuss about Common Core are under 10% of the population, and rather than let these engaged and informed people ruin the whole enterprise, he'll just let them opt out so he can push it down the throat of the unengaged and passive 90%.

  • Marshall Gill||

    Let schools opposed to rigid standards prove their mettle some other way, he says.

    Rigid standards? Rigidly low.

  • Oso Politico||

    I wonder how those lunkheads, the FF's, ever managed without Public Education and Common Core?

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    Let's be fair, as far as academic rigor, from my own personal study of the Common Core standards, I believe that they are much better than what most states had before.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    Sounds like the tallest midget!

    What do you think of this video which was linked by another commenter:

    How to use emotional words and phrases when (eg) telling your parents to support more resources for public schools:


  • Heroic Mulatto||

    Oh, don't get me wrong. I'm not a fan of Common Core, and standards-based reform in general, at all. And one of the reasons I don't like CC is that it's Count Orlok waiting at the doorstep waiting to be invited in the house and institute a national curriculum.

    As for the video, I think the dude is hyperventilating a little. What the lesson ostensibly teaches is one of the three modes of classical rhetoric, pathos, i.e. emotional appeal (along with logos and pathos). Personally, I think there is nothing wrong with that; however, I do agree that the example assignment given in the teacher's manual stinks of indoctrination. Nevertheless, that's an issue with the textbook publisher and not the Common Core Consortium itself.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    Hmmm...I forgot the part about teaching rhetoric...nothing wrong with that...but this is for *first-graders* and the examples involve propaganda for the public schools.

    These particular texts have already been approved for use in Utah - Utah!

    ""For if they do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?"" Luke 23:31

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    Well, we have to be clear on the difference between standards and curriculum. The Common Core are standards, that is, they are expectations of what a student should learn in Reading and Math at each grade level. Basically, "By the end of 2nd Grade, a child should be able to add and subtract 3-digit numbers." (If you're interested, you can read them all here.)

    A curriculum, which at this point is still developed by the states, is the texts and methods used to achieve the expectations of each standard. The standards are pretty value-neutral, in my opinion. The curriculum, as we have seen in the video, is where you run into trouble. In my opinion, this is where CC is making things worse. As so many states have adopted CC, (47, I think), textbook publishers no longer have to market their textbooks by region, leading to less curricular choice. Likewise, since the standards are the same across state to state, the Boards of Ed. in smaller states are going to have the incentive to "not reinvent the wheel" and adopt the curricula of bigger states wholesale.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    All right, I think I understand more after your explanation.

    Still, from the standpoint of a parent seeing this text, and learning that these texts are widely used, telling them that "well, the CC standards didn't *require* this textbook, the CC states have simply adopted it as part of the process," ends up with the same bottom line - under the CC rationale, they're smuggling in textbooks telling first-graders how to use emotional rhetoric to press for more school funding.

    So your skeptical parent is going to ask, "wait, what does the use of emotional language to get your parents to spend more on school sports programs have to do with what the CC people told us about learning math and science and getting ready for the modern economy? This sounds like some kind of bait-and switch. And why are parents getting arrested for questioning CC in public forums? What are they trying to hide?"

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    I agree 100 percent. I'm just saying that if we are to successfully fight CC, we need to be accurate in our criticism. And that doesn't even cover the worst part of CC. While the CC Consortium is a private organization, the Department of Ed. tied "Race to the Top" money to states adopting CC standards. If a state didn't adopt the standards, they didn't qualify for the money. That's why you had states adopting CC, before the standards were written!

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    "the Department of Ed. tied "Race to the Top" money to states adopting CC standards."

    Wait, I thought that those critics saying this was some kind of federal initiative were paranoid!

  • sarcasmic||

    Teach the kids to emote. No thought necessary.

    I'm not looking forward to my kid going to public school. And it's not like I have much of a choice. Neither of us can quit our job to homeschool, and for private schools we've got a choice between an unaccredited Baptist cult or a college prep school where the yearly tuition almost equals my salary. Not looking forward to it at all.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    Teach the kids to emote. No thought necessary.

    Or teaching how to recognize appeal to emotion in other people's rhetoric. Glass half full. Glass half empty, I guess.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    It would be great if they were teaching the 1st graders to recognize the various types of rhetoric.

    But given that their examples - for first graders! - include propagandizing their parents for more school funding, does it seem likely that this is an attempt to teach critical thinking?

    Traditionally, at what age did they teach rhetoric?

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    I agree with you that the example in the teacher's manual is a horrid bit of propaganda, but again, that's due to the biases of the textbook author(s) and not the CC standards, per se.

    As for rhetoric, if you're talking about the Greeks and Romans, they started learning it at Day One. The classical curriculum was known as the Progymnasmata, which was a series of exercises that started with the learning and writing of fables and trained one up to arguing for the goodness or badness of a proposed law.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    And in case anyone is interested in homeschooling rhetoric, here are some textbooks intended for 1st to 4th grade that teach the progymnasmata.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    And here's another point: It's not as if the education establishment has exactly established a lot of credibility with parents.

    They keep coming up with one fad after another - each fad is either sold as the magic elixir to make students achieve academically and become wonderful citizens, and then turns out not to have such an effect, or its smuggled into the curriculum under the radar and parents who ask about it are labelled paranoid fundamentalist fanatics.

    So we get whole-language, new math, busing, values clarification, death education, zero tolerance, mainstreaming of the emotionally troubled kids, collaborative learning, No Child Left Behind, yada yada - each time, it either doesn't exist (why are you so paranoid) or it's the great new secret to great education and citizenship training. Then when they don't have the advertised results we hear less and less about it and hear about another great new idea.

    Here's the context in which parent hear about the Latest Big Thing, which seems to involve textbooks like the above, the arrest of protesting parents, and the usual condescending, head-patting reassurances that this is all about training children for the modern world and why don't you paranoid teabaggers trust us?

  • Aloysious||

    "Let them try to figure out what I've steganographied into some photoshopped images of Joe Biden and James Clapper."

    Let me take a wild, stabbing guess: fuckhead and dipshit?

  • Winston||

    You Know Who Else wanted to Opt Out of something?

  • Archduke von Pantsfan||

    is it Hitler?

  • Rufus J. Firefly||

    Josh Freeman?

  • grrizzly||

    Here's the first sentence in Tucille's article on Common Core:

    When it was time for my wife and I to pick an education strategy for our son, we were pretty lucky.

    If Common Core could teach an author and a journalist to write such a phrase correctly: "for my wife and me," perhaps it wouldn't be a bad standard.

  • Tony||

    What if someone wants to opt out of traffic laws? Laws against theft and murder?

    "Oh well that's different."

  • Redmanfms||

    Yup, opting out of your glorious education collective's curriculum is completely analogous to reckless driving, theft, and murder.

    You really are comically stupid, and horrifying.

  • Tony||

    Just trying to understand the moral principle here.

    Because it sure as fuck doesn't seem to be coherent whatsoever.

    Stuff I don't like--that's not legitimate. Stuff I like--OK!

  • Gilbert Martin||

    "Opting out of Obamacare, Social Security and Medicare are no-brainers—I'll check those boxes, now, thanks."

    Good luck with that.

    You are vastly outnumbered by the sponge, leech and parasite class who counting on getting something for nothing at your expense.


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