I haven’t featured a whole lot from the draftee into the gubernatorial race, Charles Lollar, but I thought his brief commentary on Common Core was worth delving into. Here’s what he wrote:
What I always find interesting is if we conservatives oppose a certain program, liberal interest groups and politicians attempt to distract and dissuade the public on the real issue at hand. Take for instance the Common Core agenda for education that Maryland recently adopted. On the surface it appears to focus heavily on the positive educational outcomes in the areas of math and reading for our children. But in reality, as much as we all want to have strongly positive educational outcomes for all of our children, we know that this system will not work. When we oppose this potentially failing agenda for our children, we are instantly labeled as either racist, not caring for children, or any other form of hatred they can think of.
We don’t rely on platitudes of promises and false educational standards that the current O’Malley/Brown administration adhere to. No, we conservatives rely on history and experience of the failed promises of a “one-size-fits-all” government. We’ve tried this before, both as a state and a nation, but we know that it never works. We tried No Child Left Behind and we are trying Race to the Top, but have you visited the schools in Baltimore City or Prince George’s County lately? How are these programs working out for those precious children and their hard working parents?
No, we shouldn’t continue down this road of failure because we should learn from our experiences. What we should try to do is reward teachers whose students comprehend the subject matter. We should give more local control to teachers and parents, while taking it away from the educational bureaucracy. We should allow parents to choose the schools they want to send their children to and not punish them for doing so. We should allow a stronger voucher program offering them the chance to compete with public institutions. We conservatives want what’s best for all of our children and have learned from experience what we shouldn’t do. Having blanket standards in a “one-size-fits-all” approach is NOT what we should do.
I can name that tune in four notes: money follows the child.
Think about this: for all that Charles pointed out about the failure of federal programs which provide a small fraction of the money invested in education – most funding in Maryland comes from the state, with counties spending a varying fraction followed by the federal government – they sure seem to have an outsized role in calling the tune. Unfortunately, local districts are so hooked on money from higher government sources that they can’t resist its siren song, regardless of the strings which are attached.
If Baltimore City, Prince George’s County, or hundreds of other failing public schools truly had to compete on a level playing field with parochial schools or homeschooling, they would be forced to adapt or perish. Why do you think parents in the District of Columbia annually jump at the chance for Opportunity Scholarships to send their children to parochial schools?
Nearly a year ago, I made many of the same points Lollar did in one chapter of my book. But I went farther, noting that the idea of for-profit schools made sense because they could reward teachers appropriately:
(I)t’s my contention that if we can get money to follow the child we would also solve another issue which bedevils the educational world. Teachers who are really good at their craft would have more demand placed for their services; theoretically it could be possible for them to create their own cottage industry blending the best aspects of homeschooling and school-based education by becoming independent contractors. In fact, using this concept I could easily see a private or charter school attracting the best teachers in a particular area, or even teachers becoming entrepreneurs by leasing their own space in a larger school building where the teacher could educate in a way they see fit while reaping full rewards for their excellence.
Imagine a news story along the lines of a star athlete signing a new deal, but instead it’s your state teacher of the year making headlines by signing a long-term big-money contract with some charter school. Even a public school could do something like this, but it would likely take a complete streamlining of administration and decertification of the union that bends over backwards to have teachers treated equally regardless of ability or results. I realize this free market idea that doesn’t rely on a large union is a stunning concept, which is why the National Education Association and other teachers unions fight against these sorts of proposals tooth and nail.
The problem with Common Core isn’t just the wretched educational failure it’s sure to become, but the idea that all of us can be taught in the same way, to regurgitate the same platitudes about whatever the politically correct mantra of the time will be. Teaching to the test doesn’t teach critical thinking, which was one thing I lacked until I reach maturity. I could easily pass all my academic classes in elementary and secondary school (and even much of college) but I really didn’t learn a lot until I enrolled in the University of Hard Knocks and saw how life worked. One needs a moral compass to guide his or her way, but public schools fail to provide such direction.
In fact, I would argue that the lack of such restraints is commonplace among the students who slide through these failing schools – the generally single parent is too tired or overwhelmed to care, the teachers are in it for the paycheck after dealing with class after class of kids meaning more to socialize or to be disruptive than learn, and administration simply needs the excuse of poor parenting to maintain their cushy sinecures and salaries – otherwise, if they try to discipline or suspend too many of a particular group, all hell breaks loose in the press. Once the bloom comes off the rose, it’s hard to keep a good teacher motivated to stay in these schools – they’d rather escape to the relative safety of a suburban school district.
There’s no question that wholesale reforms to our public (and to some extent, private) educational system are needed. But it’s going to take more than one governor to accomplish the needed change. Charles has a reasonably good grip on the problem, but the solution will be elusive and it will likely take another generation before we know if we’re on the correct path.