A call to learning the hard way

  • Posted: Saturday, February 1, 2014 6:00 a.m.

Alarming message left on my home phone Monday:

"Common Core is forcing a left-wing, anti-Christian, anti-American, politically correct agenda on our schools, and it must be stopped. That's why there's a movement in South Carolina to end Common Core and take back our schools from Barack Obama's education department."

That's scary.

The twice-recorded voice (first on that mass-distribution call, second on my phone) urged calls to state Sen. Ray Cleary (he lives in Murrells Inlet, but his coastal district extends into Mount Pleasant), demanding that he support strong anti-Common Core legislation - not an alternative "watered-down bill."

That overwrought call overstated the case against Common Core. Yet there is a fair case for making common cause against it.

George Will, in a column that ran in this newspaper Jan. 16, accurately cited what the long-running creep of national education standards across the land hath wrought:

"Fifty years of increasing Washington input into K-12 education has coincided with disappointing cognitive outputs from schools."

Still, as learned colleague Diette Courrégé Casey reported on Friday's front page, the Charleston County School District is scheduled to implement Common Core starting with the next school year - and has scheduled public meetings to explain it.

The district will spend more than $5,000 to advertise those meetings - a fine idea (especially the part about buying ads in The Post and Courier).

Meanwhile, assorted lawmakers - and Gov. Nikki Haley - oppose Common Core as another federal intrusion on local and state prerogatives. So does Charleston County School Board Vice Chairman Tom Ducker.

Read it and weep

Good for them - and hoorah for what's left of the Tenth Amendment.

Good, too, for educators and others striving to improve public schools.

Then again, why should extensive (and expensive) research be needed to come up with not just Common Core but common sense?

Education experts periodically proclaim that we must make literacy an early, overriding priority.

No kidding.

And lots of educrat-ese sounds, in the immortal word of Grady Wilson (Whitman Mayo) on "Sanford and Son," like "gobbledygook."

For instance, Charleston County Superintendent Nancy McGinley and other district officials met with our editorial board Tuesday to pitch their BRIDGE proposal, which would base financial incentives for teachers on classroom performance. McGinley said the Student Learning Objectives (SLOs) in that program are "much more objective than goals-based evaluation."

OK, so it might a little sense to say objectives are more objective than goals.

Just not much.

McGinley neither backs nor bucks Common Core. She's merely following the state's orders to move it forward.

But as Will witheringly wrote: "Opposition to the Common Core is surging because Washington, hoping to mollify opponents, is saying, in effect: 'If you like your local control of education, you can keep it. Period.' To which a burgeoning movement is responding: 'No. Period.' "

Please, though, while rushing to man the ramparts against Common Core, don't scurry beyond the bend by buying that frantic phone call's "anti-Christian" charge.

Heathens in training

Contrary to familiar, sanctimonious laments, the long-ago, court-ordered ban on collective prayer in U.S. public schools is not to blame for our nation's alleged downfall from the path of righteousness.

Take it from this former school prayer.

Way back when at St. Andrews Elementary, we recited the Lord's Prayer every morning. Only some of us wickedly deviated from the holy script.

My standard variation:

"... my kingdom come, my will be done ..."

Lightning hasn't struck me for that blasphemy.

Yet.

But after elementary school praying failed to put the fear of God in me, at least a St. Andrews Junior High assistant principal and his phys-ed-coach sidekick did teach me - and pals of mine - to fear them.

By beating us with wooden paddles.

No, that's not part of the Common Core curriculum.

And look how swell we turned out.

Frank Wooten is assistant editor of The Post and Courier. His email is wooten@postandcourier.com.

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