Common Core Problems

Joy Pullmann at Heartland put up a note that made sense about the current Common Core wars.

Common Core is not the reason for everything that’s wrong in public school pedagogy.

Her spin on it:

From Heartland Institute of Chicago

You’ve got to give Mike Petrilli credit for repeatedly coming out to debate Common Core while most of its supporters hide behind snarky jabs at parents or dodges like renaming the hotly contested national curriculum and testing mandates. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce recently sent around a blog post of his complaining of those who blow up every ridiculous post-Common Core lesson plan as if Common Core is to blame for teachers who label Abraham Lincoln a liberal or schools that ban kids from using bathrooms too often.

Petrilli has a point here, which is why School Reform News, for which I am managing editor, refuses to publish articles blaming Common Core for things it didn’t directly cause, even though these salacious falsehoods can hook cable shows.

There is no need to make up bad things about Common Core or to lather it with guilt by association, because Common Core is rotten enough all by itself. Hoover Institution fellow Bill Evers demonstrated that in his recent debate with Petrilli on Alabama Public Television. Petrilli was at his best telling how politicians used federally mandated, pre-Common Core tests to lie to the feds, kids, and the public about student achievement. Evers was at his best pushing Petrilli to talk specifics about Common Core, to explain how standards below the best foreign nations and best U.S. states could be honestly labeled “internationally benchmarked,” or explain how it benefits poor and minority kids in states like California to expect them to enter algebra a year later because of Common Core, or how math standards can be “rigorous” if they don’t mention conversion between fractions, decimals, and percentages, which math experts say is crucial for high school math.

It seems to be a tactic of the pro-Common Core crowd to huff at and highlight the outrageous accusations against Common Core as an excuse to avoid answering those who point out its serious, substantive flaws. In collegiate debate, we called that tactic the red herring. It recalls Hillary Clinton’s dodge over a different leadership failure: “What difference does it make?”

Well, as Petrilli said in Alabama, when bureaucrats and politicians lie to families about how well students are learning, it ruins kids’ futures. They can’t read well, have little ability to engage history or literature, have no knowledge by which to navigate their futures and our future country. Further, inching toward a centralized, Soviet-style system of education degrades these kids’ birthright as citizens in a representative republic. If, as Evers charged, Common Core generates the same old deception with a new name – “the college and career readiness illusion” – yet another generation will burn while central planners fiddle.

4 responses to “Common Core Problems

  1. Friend of John Galt

    The real problem is that we have Government schools for our children. The government does nothing well (the few examples of success generally cost many times what it would have cost produced in a free market). Everyone complains about the nonsensical policies of schools (like punishing a child for “shooting” a pastry bitten into the shape of a pistol)…. but they fail to understand that the basic systemic problem is that there is no market discipline to get better results — either in silly policies or in overall outcomes. School systems need to be privatized and put in competition with one another. Costs will drop and outcomes will improve.

    • Interesting addendum, according to NCES.ED.GOV the federal taxes per year per student in public school is $12,743. That includes infrastructure and interest on debt and does not include any state or local taxes thrown on top. I’ve personally researched several private schools that charge less than that per year.

  2. All probably true, but more specific reference to the actual Common Core curriculum would be helpful. Mathematician James Milgram, professor emeritus of Stanford testified against Common Core math standards before the legislatures of Texas and Indiana. His criticisms are that Common Core has lower math standards than the state standards. His recommendation therefore was to reject Common Core standards.

    These links came from Milgram’s letter to Diane Ravitch at

  3. The comments are appropriate, and no doubt the only math guy on the Common Core big committee, Milgram, said–the standards are substandard.

    However the Pullmann note was about being careful to blame Common Core for Common Core problems, not all the other problems of public schools. I had to let that one stand. She’s right. Precision in the critique sometimes makes it more effective.

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