When people who hold vastly different political views come together on the same side of an issue, it’s a good idea to pay attention.
That thought occurred to us as we spoke recently to Andy Anderson, a Columbia-area parent of seven-year-old Maleah, about the nationalized school curriculum known as Common Core. Anderson has formed a kind of ad hoc partnership with a number of other parents whose children attend Maleah’s school, and they are deeply unhappy with the imposition of Common Core on South Carolina’s public education system.
“We love the school, and it’s got a great reputation and deserves it. But Common Core has taken a system that was working and basically done away with it.”
True enough, the Andersons’ school does have a great reputation, in large part because it has been able to “track” each student according to his or her skill-level and development. But this year, according to Andy and other involved parents, the school has moved toward a system in which all students are placed in the same classroom and taught the same material at the same pace – all in order to comply with Common Core.
“Maleah has told us, unprompted, that she’s ‘bored,'” Andy tells us. “When we asked what she meant, she said, ‘We did these things in kindergarten and first grade already.’” Other students, according to a letter to the school principal the Andersons have drafted, are lumped in with more advanced students, and they can’t keep up. “One student,” the letter says, “when asked by her parents why she chose a book far above her reading ability, said, through tears, ‘because that’s what the other kids were picking, and I didn’t want them to think I was a dummy.’”
Like many parents who’ve questioned school officials on the subject of Common Core, the Andersons have essentially been told there’s not much anybody can do about it. “We’ve been told that the decision to comply with Common Core has already been made. My response is: That’s fine, but what are you going to do about changing it?”
Andy, although generally conservative, isn’t a typical right-winger and says he isn’t normally the kind of guy to blast governmental intrusiveness. Another member of his group, he tells us, could accurately be described as “left of center”; still another is a self-described Tea Partier. Four others are faculty at the University of South Carolina – not a typical indicator of anti-government fervor.
“It’s not just about lumping all the kids into one class,” he tells us. “Some of the homework assignments we’ve gotten have a lot of ‘touchy feely’ stuff, and some of them seem rather silly. But we’re told it’s part of Common Core, so we’re stuck with it.”
Last week the South Carolina Policy Council, The Nerve’s parent organization, published the first part of its analysis of several Common Core-approved lesson plans. The brief analysis, which highlights passages from 8th-grade, 11th-grade, and 11th/12th-grade lesson plans, concludes by noting that the cited material “encourage[s] the kind of default progressivism that kills critical thinking rather than fostering it, and it seems extremely unlikely that most South Carolina parents would approve of them for use in their children’s classroom.”
Are we witnessing the formation of a coalition opposed to the federal government’s latest intrusion into K-12 education? “I’ve never been involved in politics,” Andy says. “But I will be about this because it doesn’t just affect me; it affects my child and her future. If I need to, I’ll go to my state senator and representative and say, ‘Look, you need to explain to me why this is happening and what we can do about it.’”