Swayze: Common Core – Let’s Rise Above the Mark

Ruiz wrote an article on March 19, 2013 entitled, “Say No to the common Core!“. He wrote:

Imagine Indiana legislators saying, “Okay. This is where these national educators think we need to be moving forward. Let’s examine where we are currently as a state and choose to rebuild our standards moving beyond the mark that these educators suggest.” What would that mean for Hoosiers? Well it would mean holding our students to a higher standard for one. My personal opinion is that when you expect greatness you’re more likely to achieve it. Nobody thrives when the bar is low.

I happen to agree with Ruiz. I have three-going-on-four children of my own, and I have seen how setting high expectations for them have made a difference. I don’t tell myself or my kids, “Oh, but you’re four, you shouldn’t be able to do that yet.” What good does that do anyone? I expose them to math, reading, history, and science in a way they can understand.

I don’t think that giving up control of the educational standards is going to do anything productive. It makes perfectly logical sense to me that if we, as Hoosiers, said, “Hey, we can do better” and actually strove for it, that we’d surpass any benchmark that the Common Core was meant to reach. One Indiana school district in West Lafayette, Indiana, is already doing just this. Tippecanoe county residents are behind efforts to research why, as a nation, we seem to have sunk so low educationally. A documentary was created based on a book written National Center on Education and the Economy entitled,  Tough Choices or Tough Times. The book, and the corresponding documentary that West Lafayette is producing, asks two questions:

What if the U.S. had a top education system?

What if we could remove politics from our children’s education?

I have always wondered why we don’t emulate other countries. It makes sense, right? If our education was a business, we’d be bankrupt. Why don’t we ask ourselves, “What are we doing differently?” and then, collectively, look to change it? Why don’t we, as Ruiz suggested, “compete” with other states? Why do we, as parents and citizens, allow mediocrity?

I think some of it has to do with selfishness, honestly. We think that it’s someone else’s kid. Someone else’s problem. And yes, in one sense it is true. But in another, we are letting government decide our educational standards and the government is failing us. The movement referenced above is embodied in the film, now called Rise Above the Mark, which seeks to remove the government intervention as found in initiatives like the Common Core, and to put the power back in the hands of the educators.

Now, anyone who hears me talk about education will hear me talk about my experience in France at one point or another. I spent a year at a private French Lycee (high school) in the Premier L track; this was during my sophomore year of high school, at 16. I took the BAC (and passed) with a 16/20. The work was more akin to college-level work than high school. The students who were at the lycee were there because they wanted to be. Anyone who didn’t have the grades or desire for academic work were funneled into a sort of technical high school so that they could obtain training and education more appropriate to their goals. The peers in my “L” (for literature) track were there to be educators, among other fields. The work involved rigorous, weekly essay tests and a lot of questioning similar to a college-level seminar. Each class had a final project that had to be presented that involved unique research based on a topic. And you know what was ironic? The building was old. I mean, it was an old seminary for monks from the 1800s. There was no stadium or even a sports area. The school’s gym was found in a local fitness club. But the teachers were respected. They were paid well and had the equivalent of at least a Master’s degree. There was no goofing off like there is here. In France, kids took their education seriously – as did parents.

What I took from this experience is a new perspective on education. The first is that we do not value our teachers. We do not pay them enough, educate them enough, or respect them enough. That superintendents should make well into the six figures while teachers have to work 60 hours a week just to avoid layoff is illogical. The teachers are the rock stars, or should be. Education should be a field with prestige. The phrase, “Those who can’t, teach” should never be uttered. The second thing I learned is that putting money into buildings, stadiums, and new books doesn’t always make for a better education. It didn’t in France. The third thing I noticed is the lack of electives and extra-curricular activities. If students wanted to learn something on the side, they paid a private tutor. Those things didn’t take away from school time. (Now, I’m not saying that we should remove extra-curricular subjects necessarily. I’m just noting what was done in the French school I attended.)

I agree with Joe that we can do better. We ought to be ashamed that the United States has fallen so low, and that we have allowed it to happen because we didn’t want to change things ourselves. Indiana – let’s Rise Above the Mark.

Contributor Lynn Swayze is a left-leaning libertarian and feminist. When she's not engaging in political discussion, she works as a freelance direct response copywriter, project manager, and marketing strategist for information marketers. Follow her on Twitter @LynnSwayze.