This week’s Courier Herald Column:
I was scanning Facebook last week when I came upon a nice graphic that featured pictures of George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson. It included the banner “Banned by Common Core” and the logo of one of Georgia’s largest Tea Party Organizations. The person who posted – a leader of one of suburban Atlanta’s Tea Party chapters, added that if you wanted your children to learn about the Founders, “don’t count on Common Core – they’re left out of the curriculum.”
There are a few problems with that. Common Core standards only include those for Math and English. There are no Common Core Standards for Social Studies which would include American History. Thus, it’s quite impossible for Common Core to have excluded – much less banned – the study of our Founding Fathers from our history classrooms.
Then, of course, there’s the frequent yet fundamental error of confusing the Common Core standards with a curriculum. The curriculum that determines how the students will be taught to meet the goals expressed in any standards is approved locally. It’s one of the most misunderstood facets of Common Core. Given that the first error that Common Core doesn’t deal with Social Studies at all, this makes the compounding of error irrelevant in this example.
Georgia’s performance standards for 9th-12th grade American History include the following:
The student will analyze the natural rights philosophy and the nature of government expressed in the Declaration of Independence.
A) Compare and contrast the Declaration of Independence and the Social Contract Theory.
B) Evaluate the Declaration of Independence as a persuasive argument.
The student will demonstrate knowledge of the United States Constitution.
a) Explain the main ideas in debate over ratification; include those in The Federalist.
b) Analyze the purpose of government stated in the Preamble of the US Constituion.
c) Explain the fundamental principles upon which the US Constitution is based; include the rule of law, popular sovereignty, separation of powers, checks and balances, and federalism.
These are the standards currently being taught in Georgia’s classrooms. It’s difficult if not impossible to create a curriculum around those that does not include the Founding Fathers, specifically when referring to “the main ideas in debate over ratification” and The Federalist Papers.
Because nothing that is on the internet should ever go unchallenged (a fact I’ve learned from everyone who likes to post on my Facebook page), I decided to note on this person’s Facebook page the two items above. The responses caused more concern than the distribution of the original false premise.
Another Tea Party leader posted under my comment that “It may not be part of Common Core, but it’s about to be part of A.P. (Advanced Placement History). All posts opposing Common Core are in the best interests of America.” Another gentleman posted “Regardless of who or what is responsible, the FACT is that far too many kids are entirely ignorant about history…Every child age 12 or over should be fully versed in American History as well as the founding documents…”
Therein lies one of the most fundamental problems with conservatism today. To many of us, what we believe to be righteous is now more important than what is right.
But like with many other complex problems, we have leaders and followers who have broken down their frustrations of complex problems into “it’s just that simple” bumper sticker solutions. The problem is that most of these solutions aren’t solutions at all, but merely outlets to vent frustration and disperse anger at the status quo.
Ronald Reagan used to love to say that “the trouble with our liberal friends isn’t that they’re ignorant, but that they know so much that isn’t so.” We now have approached a tipping point with conservatism where we reject anything that displeases us as the thinking of a “low information voter”, with complete disregard for facts when they do not align with what we have internalized to be correct.
While I do not personally know the men posting in the above exchange their reputations are those of serious, concerned citizens. They are doing what they believe to be best in order to change the direction of a country they feel is rapidly headed in the wrong direction.
In order to win over the voters needed to secure legislative majorities and eventually the White House, we will need to base our arguments on sound logic, reason, and fact. Allowing facts to get in the way of our otherwise strong arguments is a recipe for continued failure.
Republicans like to claim we are the party of ideas. It would be helpful if our ambassadors of these ideas knew that in order to sell government from the right, we must be able to defend our facts as right.