The “next one” — or perhaps just “another one” — in Alabama and other parts of the United States is opposition to Common Core, the state-directed effort to put public school education across the country on the same page.
The reasons are simple enough. Why waste the time of a third-grader transferring from, say, Iowa to Alabama by covering academic ground she’s already been over?
Common Core isn’t a mandate, federal or otherwise. States weren’t forced to join. They do so because they see the value of it on several fronts, including the notion of interstate student transfers and global competition. Why fight more than 50 state standards when the rest of the developed world’s education systems are outpacing us?
Common Core is, generally speaking, a set of loose guidelines that leave it to states and local districts to fill in the fine details.
What’s wrong with that? After all, the laws of science and mathematics apply equally in Alabama as they do in Maine or California. A sentence diagrammed in Oregon is no different from one in Oklahoma. That’s how the Alabama Board of Education saw it in 2010 when it voted 7-2 to join the Common Core compact.
Board opposition was confined to its most ultra-conservative members — Stephanie Bell and Betty Peters. Voting yes was then-Gov. Bob Riley.
Now, to hear Alabama’s detractors tell it, Common Core will undermine the state’s public schools with liberal indoctrination. If Gov. Riley was a secret radical, he sure did a good job hiding it.
Of course, he isn’t a radical. He was a common-sense governor who worked hard to lift his state up. Joining Common Core was and is one more step up that ladder.
Ah, but that was 2010 logic, which in Alabama has been replaced by a sort of hair-on-fire mania that finds Barack Obama conspiracies and blue-helmeted U.N. troops lurking in the shadows.
The latest tactic by Common Core foes is to pick apart the program’s suggested reading lists. Please note the word “suggested,” as in not mandated in Alabama classrooms or elsewhere.
One such book, Peters told al.com, “does not belong in an Alabama classroom.”
She added of one passage in Dreaming in Cuban, “That language, that scene, it’s just gratuitous.”
What’s gratuitous is spreading Common Core scare stories as if it were “the last mortal threat to liberty.”