Our Common Core Forum highlighted the national standards’ basic flaw: They undermine the federalism that is one of our nation’s greatest strengths.
Drawing on his business experience, Heritage Foundation President Jim DeMint said that static standards freeze processes in place; a better course is to craft a culture of quality and continuous improvement. For example, decades ago U.S. automakers tried to hew to rigid standards. They reached a certain level, then got stuck there.
Meanwhile, Japanese carmakers adopted the teachings of an American expert, and began to continuously improve quality. They soon dominated the market, while American companies struggled.
“That is what has happened in education,” DeMint said: American schools have stagnated, and so have students’ test scores.
Real success does not come from the top, but from the ground up. “Command and control doesn’t work,” the former U.S. Senator said. “There’s no hope of producing quality at a reasonable cost in a centralized system.”
This is shown by the failures of programs directed by Washington, he added. “There’s no federal program that is producing quality.” And that goes for Common Core.
Don’t believe the notion that Washington will let states and school districts run Common Core, he added.
Accepting D.C. money means that bureaucrats in Washington will run North Carolina schools, for the federal government uses money to entice states into Common Core. Federal funds are “fool’s gold,” he said. Accept the money from D.C. bureaucrats and “they’re gonna squeeze ya, squeeze ya, squeeze ya.”
That’s why it’s important for states to keep control of education, Williamson Evers of the Hoover Institution said. One secret of American exceptionalism is that individual states can experiment with different approaches, and compete for businesses and residents. This competitive federalism is the real driver of improvements in many areas, and education is one of them.
With Common Core, he said, “You’re losing the ability of competitive federalism,” he said. Innovation and school choice are driven by this competition, and “you will lose them if you have a monopoly in education” — and Common Core is that monopoly.
Indeed, Common Core not only undermines the creative power of federalism, it defies federal law. The major federal education laws since the Great Society explicitly forbid the federal government from intruding into curriculum choices. But Common Core will meddle in curriculum, because it not only sets the standards, but prescribes the tests students will take. The curriculum in schools across North Carolina is being shaped by these facts.