One of the country’s most respected conservative leaders recently made what he called the “Conservative Case for Common Core” in a guest opinion published in The Wall Street Journal.
William Bennett served as the Secretary of Education in the Reagan Administration and has been one of the most credible conservative thinkers of the past 40 years. In other words, he is a true conservative who sees the Common Core – otherwise known as the Idaho Core Standards in our state – as something that should be embraced by conservatives everywhere.
Bennett’s comments are important because across the country – and especially here in Idaho – conservatives have been the most outspoken critics of the Core Standards.
Bennett wrote that all Americans, and especially conservatives, should be able to agree on a few fundamental principles:
- That there should be common standards to assess how students in K-12 public education are performing
- That there are “common and shared truths in English literature and math”
- That there should be a common assessment states use to measure if students are learning
- That all students should be prepared to become good citizens
- That all students should be prepared to leave school and compete in the job market
Achieving these goals, Bennett wrote, is the “fundamental idea” behind the core standards which emphasizes “what’s essential” in fields like literature and math, contributing to what he calls a “worthwhile education.”
Fundamentally, he says, this is a “conservative idea.”
Unfortunately, Bennett wrote, the debate over the Common Core Standards has been “contaminated by politics.” He said the Obama Administration made a mistake by encouraging states to adopt the standards through its Race to the Top program because it smacked of federal overreach.
But this “unwelcome and unhelpful” federal intrusion does not erase the fact that the Common Core Standards were envisioned and created by the states voluntarily, Bennett said. Nor does it change what Bennett calls a “basic truth” – the Standards are “good, conservative policy.”
Bennett concludes by writing: “The principles behind the Common Core affirm a great intellectual tradition and inheritance. We should not allow them to be hijacked by the federal government or misguided bureaucrats and politicos.”
We can only hope that Idaho’s conservative leaders heed this well-respected conservative leader and thinker. We can only hope that that they stay the course and let Idaho’s educators continue using the Idaho Core Standards to better set our young people up for success in school, work and life. As Bill Bennett says, we cannot afford to have the Idaho Core Standards hijacked by misguided politics.
(Rod Gramer is President of Idaho Business for Education and chairs a coalition of 31 Idaho organizations working to support the Idaho Core Standards)