Rick Hess at Education Week wrote about the Gates Foundation’s CEO’s Common Core Mea Culpa:
It’s reassuring to see Desmond-Hellmann acknowledging missteps and blind spots and pledging that the Foundation will do better. I admire people who are willing to revisit their assumptions. And the point here is not that “some of us told you so.” We all make our share of mistakes and miscalculations. The point is that the problems were predictable and foreseeable.
Given that the problems were predictable, why did they catch so many advocates off-guard? Part of it is that Common Core advocates were in such a hurry to do good that they just didn’t show much interest in hard questions or uncomfortable cautions. Having lived this, I can safely say that they mostly talked to each other, reassuring one another that any problems were the product of malicious politicos, ignorant Tea Partiers, and misinformed parents. Skeptics, even reasonably sympathetic ones, were greeted only with quiet intimidation or public ridicule. For one thing, conceding the legitimacy of the concerns might have argued for pursuing the enterprise in a less sweeping and more incremental fashion. Advocates opted for another route.
This is the way these things routinely go. Conservatives raise concerns about how things will play out, focusing on the immutability of human nature, institutional constraints, and all those forces sure to frustrate ambitious plans. Progressives get annoyed that conservatives don’t understand why dramatic structural reforms are so urgent, and for not grasping that they would work if everyone would just join the team and put their shoulder to the wheel.
I think Hess may be onto something in terms of why Common Core’s most vocal critics (in most cases conservatives early one) were ignored. He seems to miss that the implementation problems are not the only ones that Sue Desmond-Hellmann should have offered a mea culpa for.
Ze’ev Wurman, who is a senior fellow with American Principles Project and a visiting scholar with the Hoover Institution, straightens Hess out in a comment he offered today which I thought was worth sharing.
Absent in this discussion is the mediocrity of Common Core, which the Gates Foundation didn’t yet acknowledge.
Implementation is one thing. Yet when the whole enterprise leans on intentional academic mediocrity (does anyone remember that the *end* of CC in math was initially supposed to be ALGEBRA 1? Check the September 2009 “college readiness” standards!), and when the focus of ELA standards is to avoid naming great literary works and instead focuses on skills, a conservative realizes that the focus is not on improving academics but rather in engendering social changes, peddling a fictitious academic equity, and growing Washington’s intrusion into states’ teaching objectives.
It is therefore unsurprising that the writing of the Common Core standards was given to unqualified people with little to no experience in K-12 education. The goals were — despite the pretense — not academic but of social justice.
Mea culpa on “bad implementation” is nice, but where is the mea culpa on PLANNED dumbing down of American education?
HT: Jamie Gass