The Common Core educational standards have been raising hackles more and more since they were first unveiled, but no state has attempted to shut them down altogether until now. Indiana Governor Mike Pence has just signed a bill dropping the Common Core and directing the state to create a new set of standards to replace it, as the WSJ reports:
The law directs the state board of education to create its own learning goals before July 1. “Indiana has taken an important step forward in developing academic standards that are written by Hoosiers, for Hoosiers, and are uncommonly high,” Gov. Mike Pence, a Republican, said in a statement.
Our objections to the Common Core aren’t really about the merits or demerits of the approach itself. Rather, we’re leery of federal, one-size-fits-all educational schemes. Education ought to be a state and local responsibility, for the following reasons:First of all, families should have as much freedom as possible to shape their children’s education. And the closer to the grassroots level educational decision-making resides, the more likely it is that parents can help shape important decisions about their kids’ education.Secondly, it’s clear that our educational system is in the midst of a period of change, as it needs to be. Society is changing, the economy is changing, yet our educational system is still a product of the Industrial Age. It’s designed to produce people who are good at following directions, coping with boredom, and sitting still for long periods of time. Coming up with a new model suited for the 21st century is going to take time and experimentation. Letting cities and states (to say nothing of individual schools, whether public, charter, or private) try out new approaches is the best way to do this. Let a hundred flowers bloom.More broadly, as the U.S. continues to grow, we need to work much harder to keep important decisions at state and local levels for the sake of national unity and the health of democratic society. The individual American has almost no influence over decisions at the federal level, but at state and local levels grassroots coalitions and social and civic organizations can make a real difference. America is based on the idea that ordinary people should be responsible for their own lives; a mass society dilutes that necessary freedom and authority. Our democratic society will wither away if Washington tries to make all our important decisions for us. Centralization of power also tends to exaggerate and heighten political polarization. Let Texas live as it pleases, and let Vermont be Vermont. America will be happier and more peaceful when smaller units of government make more of the really consequential decisions.Beyond these general reasons, another reason to welcome Indiana’s decision: The board of education doesn’t seem to be using the freedom to break away from Common Core as an excuse for dumbing down requirements. Indiana appears to be taking a sensible and practical approach. Let’s hope more states follow suit, taking responsibility for their own educational standards and exercising that authority in a sensible way.