|The Common Core State Standards Initiative is nothing new. It is an attempt to retrench, to regain the lost "happy days" that never really existed, albeit by including computers in the curriculum. It is an example of cultural conservatism. The standards themselves are largely unarguable. Feel free to argue them if you have a specific point to make.|
In the 19th century before John Dewey and Karl Marx took over public education, teachers were beaten up by bullies - but of course teachers themselves beat children. We thought it was cute: "School days, school days, good old golden rule days. Reading and writing and 'rithmetic taught to the tune of a hickory stick." John Adams's younger son (John; not Quincy) was expelled from Harvard for taking part in a student riot.
In the classic movie, Blackboard Jungle, a student attempts to rape a teacher. Do you think they just made that up? In my high school (1963), a teacher caught a kid cutting school and the kid beat up the teacher. Sure, we were all shocked. But these were the days of Lassie and Leave it to Beaver and Father Knows Best.
Private education was no better. If you read any biographies of great thinkers, while some benefited from school, most suffered - and not because of John Dewey and Karl Marx. It is true that most people in most times and place mostly benefited from whatever education was commonly available. Mostly. That is what public education attempts.
It is not "government" education, though it is managed in a public mode. We vote for millages for education and they are separate funding, just for the schools. We elect the school board. You can run for election to the school board. (In fact, in America - Kentucky, I believe was first - even in the 1830s, women (unmarried) who were property owners voted in local school elections. They were politically and legally separate from the other public institutions.) The mayor and other officials generally have no say and would be barred from interfering. Public education stands on its own as a separate institution in America.
Historically, schools were empowered to act in loco parentis. This especially applied to colleges when the age of majority was 21. But it applied to all schools. If need be, it was a protection for the child against the parents. And the situation had its parallels in private education, also, especially where children were boarded away from home. And children were abused in those private schools, also, as we all know.
No lost golden age ever existed.
DMG: "If these standards have merit, then individuals and private organizations can give them good reviews and use them themselves." And when they do, libertarians denounce them as "crony capitalists." See Wolfer's Point 4 in Post 0 above.
In fact, such private standards have long existed, long been endorsed, and long been taught to. That is what the Advanced Placement tests are all about, but also the SATs, PSAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, and the ACTs. The SATs also come with non-AP "achievement tests" (now called "Subject Tests"). If a school's kids get As in class and then do poorly on these tests, the parents who care to join the PTA let the school know about it rather plainly. In fact, that rarely happens because schools teach what is tested and tests measure how well that was learned.
And radicals have long complained. Leftists know The Little Red Schoolhouse, but Objectivist also know the scathing condemnation of common education from Banesh Hoffman's The Tyranny of Testing.
Public schools are to education what fast food is to nutrition. And, yes, in response to market demands, McDonald's serves salads. And Common Core is an attempt to meet a public demand.
The problems in public education are deep and wide. Teachers invest precious hours in needless administration, especially of problem children (from problem parents). Whether a single private school or a huge public system, someone above the teacher decides what will be taught and when and sometimes even how.
One size cannot fit all - it might not even fit most. Generally speaking, in America today, in most states, you cannot take the law bar examination unless you hold a juris doctorate from an accredited school. That would disqualify half of the US Supreme Court today and 90% of those who ever served. We are a nation of autodidacts.
But education is a specialization no different from thoracic surgery or golf course landscaping. Not every parent can learn how, do it well, or make the time for those. Our post-industrial, information-age society has deep roots in the mass education of young people. The Common Core State Standards Intiative is nothing more or less than an attempt by those who lead the field intellectually and administratively to agree on what most children will probably need to have learned when they get wherever they will be 20 years from now. It ain't easy...