Common Core, the controversial set of new national education standards touted by the by the National Governors Association and the Chief Council of State School Officers, with significant federal encouragement, is in the news again. This time, it's being called out for promoting politicized lessons spoon-fed to the captive audience of kiddies in the public schools. But this is an unfair charge. Common Core has a lot wrong with it, high-pressure included, but it doesn't specify lesson-plans or politicized content. The real problem is the much older one of schools controlled by government officials.
The specific complaint this time is about fifth-grade English worksheets which ask students to edit sentences including: "Government officials' commands must be obeyed by all" and "An individual's wants are less important than the nation's well-being." The sentences are a small part of a larger worksheet (PDF) called "Hold the Flag High" linked to the Civil War.
But what a part. Way to go, oh bait-the-critics educators! You walked into it with those loaded sentences. Even teachers are debating the propriety of this stuff now.
But Pearson Education tells Fox News that this worksheet was copyrighted in 2007 and has been in use ever since—predating Common Core. And Pearson is far from the only curriculum vendor out there. Besides, controversy over politicized education started far before Common Core came along to cause a fuss.
In 1996, New York State mandated the teaching of the Irish potato famine as an act of genocide by the British government against the Irish, no other interpretations allowed. The Tucson Unified School District in Arizona has managed a heated, years-long battle over race-infused "culturally relevant" classes without any input from Common Core. Control over textbooks has long been a political prize in Texas, with conservatives in recent years sculpting the lessons delivered to students there and, given the size of the market and the cost of printing multiple editions, elsewhere. And the use of liberal pundit Paul Krugman's Keynes-centric economics texts in high schools has raised a few hackles, too.
The problem isn't Common Core, it's that government officials control so many schools, even in the age of expanding choice, and schools are a handy delivery system for pet ideas to (presumably) receptive young minds.
There's plenty to object to about Common Core. But dumping the new standards won't solve the problem of politicized curriculum so long as government officials control schools and get to force-feed their messages to the children of people with very different ideas.