Telling children what they need to know, how they should react to the knowledge, and what they should think about the knowledge is the formula that has been used for decades in schools across America. It is also the formula embraced by every propaganda driven government that has ever existed. Yet, there are some politicians, parents, and even teachers upset over the new common core standards that promote children being self-thinkers rather than the puppets people have traditionally been taught to be. However, opponents of common core standards seem to be more concerned about the possibility of big government meddling in their affairs than they are about what and how children are being taught. They are okay with the old sub-standard status quo as long as the government stays out of the picture, but ironically many of these same individuals are pro charter schools and vouchers, which are directly tied to government at both the state and federal levels. What is the deal? Mark Twain said people get upset with things they know nothing about, and that appears to be the case for opposition to common core standards.
It is hard to believe there are people in a country built on freedom of speech and independent thinking who would choose a teacher centered system where a child is told what he or she needs to know, believe, and think over education standards that advocate teachers as facilitators of learning who encourage children to explore and think for themselves rather than be told how to think. It is clear parents who fear the new standards do not understand them; therefore, they try desperately to hold on to what they do understand, which is the way they were taught when they were in school. For them, a teacher feeding students information to be regurgitated back to the teacher verbatim with little if any thinking required is their norm for education. That is the way they were taught, so they reason, it should be good enough for their children as well. They fail to understand that in a society where knowledge is doubling every twelve months, their children will not be able to get by as passive learners depending on rote memory as past generations have done.
Political opposition is not much different. Could it be that the politicians opposing common core standards simply do not understand the standards, or could it be they oppose the standards for fear future generations will actually be able to think critically about issues and make educated decisions as to what is best for themselves and their families. Throughout history the political machine has sought to crush independent thought and reasoning that clashed with its ideas and agendas; could that be the case with political opposition to the common core standards? It is difficult to fool a man or tell him how to think or believe if he has been taught to be a critical thinker with the tools to formulate his own opinions and beliefs.
When it comes to the common core standards, one of the biggest parental concerns stems from misinformation (another word for propaganda) about government involvement in implementation of the standards. Across Mississippi, there is a well fed phobia that through common core standards, the government will steal the identity of children and brainwash them into obedient robots programmed to serve the government. Of course, many of the people who are promoting this nonsense are the same folks who are arming themselves and hungrily waiting for the collapse of civilization as we know it. For them, common core standards are just another indication that the end is coming soon. While the conspiracy/end of the world theorists prepare for the apocalypse, some local and state politicians further muddy the waters with claims that big government is bankrolling the standards in an attempt to wrestle control of education from the local and state governments. To be honest, concern over the federal government bankrolling the common core standards is not even a valid issue, especially in Mississippi. So what if common core is connected to federal dollar incentives! Mississippi has taken federal money for education as well as for numerous other state programs for years. Many of our state agencies including education would not survive without supplemental federal funding. However, there are politicians who would have people believe Mississippi education can function fine without federal dollars. Can it really? Year after year, Mississippi state legislators have voted not to adequately fund MAEP, Mississippi Adequate Education Program; they say Mississippi does not have the revenue to fully fund education. Does that sound like a state that can function adequately without some federal assistance? Not likely, but if so, have they found a pot of gold in Jackson, or have they been lying to us all these years about not being able to fully fund education?
Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence that the Creator grants all men “certain unalienable Rights that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” In today’s world there can be no expectation of “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” without an education. Therefore, even though the Constitution of the United States of America grants no authority over education to the federal government, it can be clearly argued that when at such time the local government demonstrates it cannot adequately fund education for its citizens, citizens do not relinquish their expectation of “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,” but rather they have the right and an obligation to the future of their children to transfer that expectation to the federal government to assist their local government with education funding. Such an expectation is not foreign or contradictory to the rights of a citizen of the United States of America, but rather it is every citizen’s “unalienable” right and the right of their children to a life of liberty and the pursuit of happiness, which cannot be obtained in this country or in any other country without an education. Therefore, why shouldn’t people living in a poor state such as Mississippi that has proven over and over again that it cannot financially fully support education for its citizens have an expectation of assistance from the federal government to whom they pay the greater part of their annual taxes? As citizens of the United States, Mississippians have the right to expect the best education possible for their children regardless of who is paying or supplementing the bill.
The federal government is involved in every facet of our lives from the food we eat, to the safety regulations for our vehicles and the air in which we fly. Without federal regulations in these areas and many other areas, the safety risks to the lives of unsuspecting citizens would be multiplied exponentially, yet there are radicals screaming that any government is too much government. When will common sense prevail? Although there are times when people may wish for less government, they must be careful to use some common sense when touting its deregulation or even demise. In spite of what some people are currently yelling from the rooftops, government is not all bad. This is the greatest nation on earth, and there is a reason for its greatness. The resiliency of the American people and a government that strives to take care of its people make this the greatest nation in the history of the world. In spite of America’s problems, the vast majority of the world’s population would gladly trade places with Americans.
However, there are people both locally and nationally who perceive any government as totalitarian. They fear anything that is even remotely connected to government such as the common core standards. They carry a deep seated paranoia that the government is out to brainwash their children through common core even though it is doubtful a government with a brainwashing agenda would support standards that advocate teaching children how to be free critical thinkers. That would go against every totalitarian idea. Totalitarian governments do not want their citizens to be critical thinkers; they prefer to keep their citizens daydreaming about the past rather than looking to the future.
The politicians opposing common core standards should be ashamed of themselves. They are not opposing the standards based on hard evidence that the standards are not the right thing to do or will damage children. They are opportunists riding on the coattails of big government phobia, doomsday preppers, and ignorance that are currently strangling this nation, and they are doing it for personal and political gain not for the good of the state of Mississippi or the nation as they would have people believe. To garner votes they depend on finger pointing, fear mongering, and chest beating rather than producing an actual plan of action with substance. Parents opposing the standards should be ashamed for listening to political doublespeak from politicians who prey on the fears of the misinformed. These politicians look at people as being gullible, and they oppose changes such as common core standards since they want to keep people gullible. As for the teachers, former teachers, and teacher unions who oppose common core standards, they should also be ashamed. They should know better than to get into bed with politicians who have at best only marginally supported them over the years. Finally, as a state ranked number 51 out of 51 in education performance, the people of Mississippi should be ashamed for even being enmeshed in a fight to implement common core standards for the good of the state’s children. Mississippi has experienced fully the impact of the alternative choice, and it has taken the state straight to the bottom, so why not embrace common core standards and give Mississippi children a fair chance to rise to the top where they belong?
©Jack Linton, May 2, 2014