OPINION: Common Core In Sweetwater County

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Opinion Article by R.G.B. Robb

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Throughout the history of the United States, there has always been a fight over state versus federal rights. When the framers of the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights were putting together the documents which would shape our nation, they opted for the individual to supersede the governments by claiming that the basis for our country would be built on the “unalienable rights” which include “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Now we are faced with yet another figurehead to this argument in modern times: common core.

Common core began in 2009 when President Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced the Race To The Top initiative. This was a contest that would give states access to $4.35 billion dollars in funding if they adopted the Common Core standards in math, english, and other school subjects. Immediately, a firestorm began.

There were many items that spurned opposition.

Having spoken to locals in the Sweetwater County area that deal both directly and indirectly on this matter, there are many facts that are not looked at. Some citizens feared the government would have access to student’s private information – a claim which, according to Rock Springs High School Principal Darrin Peppard, has been refuted. Peppard explained “It’s not information that we don’t already have.” He continues, “There’s some concern that student data is not secure. That would actually be a false statement.”

Another being that these guidelines are, according to House District 39 Representative Stan Blake (D), “[The federal government] Shoving [the guidelines] down our throats, but that’s absolutely not correct. These were adopted by the state board of education.”

The last, and at the forefront, is states’ rights (state educators and teachers choosing the curriculum) versus federal mandates (the government deciding what needs to be taught).

Christy Hooley, a former teacher in Green River, Wyoming, and outspoken critic of common core guidelines, left teaching because of how restrictive she felt the new guidelines were. “The more I started to research, the more I realized, as a teacher, I was being excluded.” But teacher exclusion was not the main goal of common core.

It’s goal, according to Peppard is: “It gives us consistent expectations across the United States. We live in such a transient and global economy at this point, students move much, much more frequently than they did 20, 30, 40 years ago.” Considering that according to a report by the U.S. census bureau, between 2007 and 2008, 7,728,000 people moved from one state to another, we are indeed, becoming a much more global society.

And this was one of the primary aims of Common Core: to make sure that if a student moves, their education will be seamless. Says Peppard, “Because when a student comes from, say, a school in Missouri to Wyoming, they should be relatively close to the same course work and same material.”

How teachers teach will not be impacted by common core, but WHAT they teach will, and this is drawing ire from many of those in the education field. According to Hooley, “What teachers are being given to select from now is limited because everything has to align to the standards.” In some states, this will be particularly difficult considering that what is being taught in public schools goes against the Common Core standards so breathtakingly.

In Texas for example, http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/11/17/texas-textbook-inaccuracies/19175311/.

And in Louisiana, http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2012/07/photos-evangelical-curricula-louisiana-tax-dollars.

When former teacher Hooley was asked that if she would support these things being taught to the students, although they are in alignment with state guidelines and not federal ones, she responded, “Difference is what made us strong.”

It was once said, “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” We have had the same educational processes in this country for many, many years.

Whether you agree with Common Core or not, the facts are definite. In 2012 the United States ranked 27th in the world in mathematics behind countries like China, Japan, and Switzerland.

After speaking to people on each side of the fence I have to agree with Representative Blake, who stated: “I just wish we would do something.”

Opinion Article by R.G.B. Robb
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