The Populist Uprising Against Common Core Is Libertarian and It's Winning

It recognizes that there is no one answer to fixing education in America.


Rebekah Lampman / Wikimedia Commons

When Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-La.)  announced last week that he would pull his state out of Common Core, he may have been sounding the death knell of the national education standards. Though a confluence of pushy and powerful interest groups have promised that they invented the solution to the American education crisis, people just aren't buying that more top-down standardization of America's education system is the answer.

The populist uprising against the national education standards is a dramatic and recent phenomenon, given that almost no one had even heard of Common Core until just two years ago. The standards were developed in 2009 by education policy bureaucrats at the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. President Obama's Department of Education took an immediate interest, and the federal government encouraged state governors and legislatures to sign on to the standards by bribing them with Race to the Top grant money. This led 45 state governments to commit to Common Core implementation, even though hardly anyone knew what that would cost (lots of money) or require (retraining teachers, purchasing new technology).

Since then, the American people have had ample time to learn about Common Core—and the more they hear, the less they like it.

Fierce opposition to the standards is remarkably nonpartisan. Both conservative grassroots organizations and teachers unions are urging state legislatures to resist Core implementation. Thousands of parents and teachers have shown up to town hall meetings to demand that their school boards don't hand over curriculum sovereignty to regional or federal education authorities.

The outrage among Tea Party groups is particularly problematic for Republican leaders and prospective candidates who signed on to the standards, including Jindal, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, a major Core cheerleader. It is very likely that being pro-Common Core will be a toxic position in any conservative presidential primary. Jindal's denunciation of the standards last week is as good an indication as any that he wants to keep the base on his side.

Still, the Core is not without its supporters. A confluence of powerful interest groups—the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, textbook giant Pearson, and standardized testing partnerships PARCC and Smarter Balanced—remain dedicated to the standards.

As a nominally conservative think tank, the Fordham Institute has led the way in arguing that concerns about Common Core being a federal takeover of education are unfounded. According to Fordham's Michael Brickman, "There are absolutely legitimate examples of federal overreach from the Obama administration. But I don't think Common Core is one of them because… it was something that was led by the governors and the state education chiefs."

People are unconvinced. While polling on Common Core varies wildly depending on how the questions are phrased, a recent poll release by pro-Core group Achieve, Inc. found that people who reported knowing something about the standards gave them an unfavorable review. Achieve, Inc. blamed Core "opponents who in the past year have made their opposition known through all media outlets, leaving a more negative 'impression' among voters."

The opponents are winning, and if Jindal's flip flop is any indication, the momentum seems to be shifting against Common Core. Libertarians should see this as a triumph.

Indeed, the populist uprising against Common Core is undeniably libertarian. It recognizes that there is no one answer to fixing education in America. It understands that a new wave of fancy government-enforced solutions is likely to fall short of solving anything. Instead, government needs to get out of the way, stop trapping kids in failing public schools based on where they were born, and stop using them as conscripted labor for standardized testing companies. Efforts that empower parents to fix their own local schools will always be more successful than cumbersome national initiatives.

After decades of politicians trying to solve the education problem by spending more money and proposing more standardization, people of all political stripes are simply unconvinced that there is one magic "fix" and that it will be invented in a federal laboratory. Instead, people are wising up to the demonstrable fact that more choice and local autonomy produce the conditions most favorable for students to discover and flourish in school environments that suit their individual needs.

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  1. Cancel my subscription!

  2. This coulda been a comment.

  3. Congress should form a subcommittee that should manage Reason (located in DC) because clearly, there are systemic issues which aren't being managed.

    Market failurez!

  4. I never tell the truth.

  5. The only kind of winning I know

  6. yohohoho

  7. It recognizes that there is no one answer to fixing education in America.

    There is literally one answer to fixing education in America; And that is to utterly disinvest all government involvement in education.

    1. Well said. If you look closely at Common Core questions you will find a lot of liberal propaganda.

    2. At least the federal government, which has no Constitutional authority to mess around in what is essentially a state matter!

  8. My douche-y liberal brother-in-law insisted at the last family gathering that any criticism of common core is "faux outrage". I think it's like fake scandal but with an extra dose of smug elitism.

    1. Outrage that doesn't serve government power doesn't exist.

    2. Many people I know are complaining about it.

      I am the father of a daughter that is subjected to CCC.

      I guess our school system must have been pretty good here in NY State because when we went to CCC, I did see more homework, I saw different types of Homework, but my daughters are doing just fine.

      So, I'm not too too pissed off with CCC.

      Only American (White/Black/Latinos) seem to be pissed off at it.

      The Indians, Chinese, Russians, and other people that i know like it actually.

      1. I've been missionary down south, married to my second Latin wife, living in Miami, and Latinos don't have the traditional cultural habit of treasuring their rights.

        Sometimes to follow left-fascist demagogues, to assert their "rights" to government care, sure.

        The ones that escaped socialist regimes appreciate freedom, and rights, like Cubans, Nicaraguans, now Venezuelans. Met a Hungarian Freedom Fighter once. Alexander Solzhenitsyn. Richard Wurmbrand. Dumitru Dudiman.

        1. Another reason to keep millions of Mexicans from settling here illegally. They don't give a shit about their rights, on balance. They just want jobs and free shit on my dime.

          It doesn't make them evil, but it's a good reason to not have them voting in our country.

    3. "My douche-y liberal brother-in-law insisted at the last family gathering that any criticism of common core is "faux outrage""

      Of course - even the article writer and headline calls it "populist"......

      For folks who claim they think for themselves, this is quite telling. They have twisted things so that the very basics of education are called into question.

      Make no mistake - the Christian Right - which is aligned with modern "libertarians" in many ways, loves the ability to teach non-science and get paid for it.

  9. I guess this wasn't a popular article.

    American's are hilarious.

    First, they setup admissions based on various criteria outside of merit (President of the Student Council, Sports, Glee-Club, Race, Gender, Sex, etc.)

    Then, the white-Americans want to get rid of the arbitrary criteria of Race.

    Now, white-America i guess is not too happy with the Merit System since we let so many Asian and Indians into America that Billy-Boy will probably have to settle for community college or Walmart.

    1. That's a strange and racist comment, Alice. I respect your right to be racist if that's your choice, but have you considered not being racist?

      1. I thought maybe it was a flat-out racist comment, but then I wasn't sure it meant anything other than Alice hit the sauce early tonight.

    2. Alice is off her meds again, methinks.

      1. It is really hard to tell if Alice is off her meds, trying new meds, or should be on meds.

        Sometimes we also confuse the effects of meds with just being stupid too.

        It is just hard to tell.

        1. Uppity asiatics!

    3. "Now, white-America i guess is not too happy with the Merit System" Darn those liberals?

    4. Alice, you are an idiot.

    5. Hardly. I'm school, I knew plenty of intelligent studious Asians. I also knew plenty who were not. Either way I had little fear of competing against any of them.

      1. 'In school,. Goddamn iPad auto correct.

    6. White people comprise 72.4% of the American population, so I don't think they're as worried as you pretend they are.

  10. From what I've seen of CC, it's kinda like Democratcare: The stated goals *may* be noble, but the implementation is a monster.

    And "too many comments", my ass.

  11. There was a piece in a major New York newspaper (probably the NYT) in the past week, and it's author was interview on the John Batchelor Show a few days later. It was a balnced look at how teachers and students were handling the new Common Core standards. It quoted an elementary school teacher as saying "This is the United States, there must be one standard for this to work" and I immediately thought "OMG, that's the problem! If we only use one standard method, how do we know that it is the best? Because smart people in DC thought about it and decided it was the best? How about letting everyone at the local level try their own ways and then tell each other what works and what doesn't (while realizing that even good ideas aren't the best way for everyone)"

    1. "f we only use one standard method, how do we know that it is the best? "

      Well, we do know this. Jindals state (LA) is among the worst in just about every measurable metric of the human condition - from obesity, to diabetes to gun deaths to STD's.

      Their educational level is usually in the bottom - they've been dead last to as "high" as bottom 30%.

      On the other hand, the most educated place in the USA is....the District of Columbia.

      I have to chuckle about stuff at the "local level", many of them being run by "young earth creationists and/or crooks whose main goals are power and nepotism.

      Tell each other what works? Didn't you yet get the memo that education was somewhat perfected back before the founding of this country? How about we use John Adams views on the subject?

      "The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves." - President John Adams"

      Notice he didn't say that the local idiots should set the standards....

  12. In my son's school, they've eliminated honors classes, because everyone has to be taught the "common core" standards at grade level. So this past year, he was in sixth grade, but in the super advanced math track, so doing the equivalent of the 8th grade math. Next year, as a seventh grader, he will have to do 7th grade math (which he got an A in two years ago!)

    Way to go Obama disciples! Dumb down everyone to the lowest Common Core, then raise the minimum wage enough so it is the standard wage. Soon everyone (except the elites and cronies) will be at the same joyous level!

    I'm so looking forward to the future where everyone lives in tiny apartments over public transit stations, and commutes to work and home without ever leaving the one corridor, and receives their daily portion of government approved nutrition. In this fabulous utopia there will be no more inequality! What a wonderful solution to the definitive issue of our time!

    1. everyone will be equal (except, of course, those who are more equal)

      1. When everybody is super, nobody is super.

    2. Complain to your board of ed. They're the ones who adopt Common Core standards, in whole or in part. The Fed has nothing, and I mean nothing, to do with it. There's not even any money attached to adoption.

      1. It's public knowledge that states get money for Common Core. From both government and quasi-government money (see the list up top). Quietly of course. States don't like to admit they do it for the money when it's education. Media is Fourth Estate, Propaganda Arm.

        Try teaching in government indoctrination centers that adopted Common Core, but teaching with stuff that works, methods that works. See how fast the money enforces it.

        Taxation is theft.
        Inflation is devaluation.
        End the Fed. Get a big long lash out for the Money Changers.

    3. Common Core math is more difficult, actually.

      1. Only because they made the process of solving the problem more difficult. Now a student is being instructed in solving problems using 5 or 6 steps when only 1 or 2 were necessary before.

        Efficiency in solving problems is replaced with gimmicks and processes that little to do with mathematics.

      2. Actually, the MATH is easier, the puzzling way they present it is harder.

        I am an engineer, so obviously lots of math all the way through Diff Eq in college. Reading some of my 3rd graders math questions left me with "Huh?, what are they trying to say?.

        Common Core is Standardized stupid.

        1. Fortunately, since my child is homeschooled, we generally blow off that crap and move on to the actual math.

          My 3rd grader can explain Newton's Laws and explain how socialism is slavery with moral arguments. Clearly not Common Core.

          1. "explain how socialism is slavery with moral arguments"

            That's called brainwashing and repetition. If you taught your 3rd grader that it was OK to do many things, they would repeat them with moral arguments also.

            Just saying....

        2. They often are trying to make you use different methods to solve problems so kids see how different math properties work, or let them see new ways of doing things.

          So, yeah, sometimes it will be slower than doing it directly, but some kids might need that to get the deeper understanding.

          But of course, there will always be poorly written problems, or ambiguous ones.

      3. Have you seen the shit ass way you're supposed to solve math problems? They must have based it on the mental gymnastics progressivekind uses to justify stupid shit.

        Like common core. The old way stuck around fir good reasons.

    4. In future America, everyone will be equal but some more equal than others. But how educated must one be to simply support a totalitarian government which decides everything for you? You only need to know two words-Yes, Master!

      1. Yes comrade, but you must remember that your ignorance is strength.

        Now excuse me, I must go serve the state.

  13. To be absolutely clear, Common Core was developed as a private initiative to be adopted by state DoEs on a purely voluntary basis. There's some Dept. of Ed grants at the federal level, but this is absolutely not federal overreach. Federal waste, maybe, but it pales in comparison to almost any other initiative you'd care to mention.

    Again, if you have a beef with Common Core, complain to your state board of ed. That's who is implementing it. Seriously. There are way bigger problems with the federal government. Don't take your eye off the ball because a bunch of SoCons got nervous about creationism.

    1. Common Core was developed as a private initiative to be adopted by state DoEs on a purely voluntary basis. There's some Dept. of Ed grants at the federal level, but this is absolutely not federal overreach

      It is, like all "public education", evil.

      I consider parents who send their children to public schools to be thieves. For a thief to complain about the quality of his take is laughable. The fact that the collectivists who run the public indoctrination system want to collectivize the education of millions of school children is part and parcel of their evil.

      Proverbs says: "If a man does not discipline his son, he hates him". I believe that if a parent delivers his child up to the tender mercies of government bureaucrats, he hates him.

      1. "I consider parents who send their children to public schools to be thieves."

        You understand that it's compulsory, right?

        1. No, it's not. You can send your kids to private school or you can home school them. And children themselves can drop out at age 16.

    2. To be absolutely clear, Common Core is a federal program constructed with indirect funding and control to obscure the fact that it is a federally funded program.

      And you are a shill for it.

    3. It is a problem. It's grooms children for state obedience the way Roman Polanski grooms 12 year olds for anal sex. The end result being similar.

    4. @wwhorton - Nice straw man attempt to mis-represent the facts about common core. Bottom line is that Common Core has been exposed as a major con, a federal level scam like so many before it from No child left behind to race to the top. States were bribed with Race To The Tops funds if they would sight-unseen agree to adopt common core before it was even finalized and ready for review. Its clear that Common Core was intended to be the next step in the federalization of education. Thankfully this was one time when the Feds failure was exposed before the process had time to take root and cause large amounts of damage.

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  15. We have Common Core because of the federal "Race To The Top" Department of Education initiative that was funded with the 2009 stimulus bill. $4B was set aside for this program.

    States had to access the funds in a prescribed order. First was the Stabilization fund program.

    In order to receive these funds, states had to assure the federal government that they would adopt "rigorous college and career ready standards." The elements of the standards were dictated by the federal government in the America COMPETES Act, and as part of their application for Stabilization funds the states had to sign an assurance page that specifically required them to align their state programs to the language of that federal law.

    The Stabilization funds were awarded in two phases, with states submitting an application outlining their plans to adopt the standards to receive the first phase, and then submitting a progress report showing that they were actually completing those plans in order to receive the second phase of their Stabilization grant. The U.S. Department of Education had to approve each state's plan before Phase Two funds were awarded, effectively giving the federal government control over each state's education programs.

    States who had successfully completed the Stabilization grant process could then compete for Race to the Top funds.


  16. I work on a site that aligns learning resources to Common Core State Standards (CCSS). It has organizations and teachers creating these learning resources. Anyone can create learning resources. You can take existing learning materials and align them to the standards. The standards are simply statements, like:

    "Ask and answer questions about key details in a text." - CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.1.1 (I can only include two links)

    "Retell stories, including key details, and demonstrate understanding of their central message or lesson." - CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.1.2 - (I can only include two links)

    Check out English Language Arts (ELA) here: http://www.corestandards.org/ELA-Literacy/
    Check out Math here: http://www.corestandards.org/Math/

    Common Core curriculum is adopted/bought by local school districts, not the state or federal government.

    I really don't get the opposition.

    1. I think people oppose the actual curriculum and assume its CC who's writing it.

      Or just a general fear of top down.

      But I have heard many smart people oppose it, so who knows?

  17. I'm as Libertarian as they come but I have no problems with common core. I would do away with the Dept of Education and federal funding altogether and MAYBE build a NASA like Federal program to research better ways to teach. That being said, there still should be national standards that set benchmarks for where kids should be by each grade when it comes to math, science, social studies and language skills.

    1. Based on your first statement, you are not.

  18. The only accurate part of this article is the word "populist" - which perfectly describes idiots like Jindal pining to leave their population clueless (which every measurement shows it is already)....

    CC is NOT a program which mandates every aspect of education. Rather it covers the very basics that the rest of the world has long ago embraced. You know - basic math, science and reading???

    The alternative is.....dumb people, which is very libertarian.

    I guess if I were younger I would cheer this effort because it means much less competition in the workplace for those who actually know things. But since I am a bleeding heart, I lament Jindal and other would-be populists keeping the population down.

    1. "CC is NOT a program which mandates every aspect of education. Rather it covers the very basics that the rest of the world has long ago embraced. You know - basic math, science and reading???

      The alternative is.....dumb people, which is very libertarian ~ craiginmass"

      @craiginmass - Good news for you is that Common Core forgoes teaching students how to think logically. Bad news is that true libertarians are taught this and so my kindergarten age kid was able to see right through your false dichotomy. Go ahead, we'll wait while you look that up.

  19. You're a progressive who cheers government overreach and considers libertarians to be stupid? Imagine that. It's not like your statement is a huge cliche, right?

    I look forward to one day seeing you and all your fellow statist true believers where you belong. Piled in landfills.

  20. My understanding of Common Core is it is a list, by grade, of skills and information the student should have mastered at the end of that grade. It is NOT a curriculum, it does NOT specify how these skills and information are to be attained.

    If Common Core is being implemented in your locality in a way you dislike, the fault is with your local school district, not Common Core.

    It only makes sense, to me anyway, that we write down somewhere what the expectations are we have for teachers and students to attain at a given grade level. Governors and education experts getting together to determine what these standards are should not be threatening to anyone.

    The federal government involving itself into education, OTOH, should be considered a threat.

  21. I have no opinions in favor of or against "common core", but Robby Soave is dishonest and contemptible. He wrote an article saying pupils should just memorize things instead of trying to understand things, because understanding things, even simple things that little children understand, takes a few more seconds and makes him feel like pulling his hair out.

    Memorization is useful and good, but it is not understanding. Understanding does take more time. But an example in which the additional time is about three seconds and involved something only a profoundly retarded person wouldn't follow was offered by Robby Soave as something horrifying, and proof that pupils should just memorize and obey instead of wanting to understand.

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