Wednesday, February 26, 2020
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Mass. will not vote on Common Core

Among the many issues that divide us as a nation is the Common Core. When a group of activists in Massachusetts proposed a ballot initiative to revoke the new standards, I thought it was a bad idea. Now the Supreme Judicial Court in the state says it doesn’t measure up as a ballot question in the first place, The Sun reports out of Lowell, Massachusetts.

Common Core divides the nations

Here’s my article from September when the initiative was announced.

My main reason for not liking this as a ballot question was that too many people in the state (and the country) don’t know what the Common Core is. Many people incorrectly think the Common Core includes one or more of the following: sex, birth control, creationism, evolution, or the Christian documents of our Founding Fathers.

I thought, well, we vote for president with less information about the candidates than most people have in their heads about the Common Core, so what harm could come in simply asking the question? Still, I didn’t think it was a good idea to make people answer a question about the standards used in the state’s K-12 schools on an election ballot.

It just doesn’t rise to the level of public policy and resembles an attempt to gain micromanagement-like control over our schools by outsiders.

Look, either we trust the people who run the schools or we don’t. Many of the people who would even care about the question are misinformed about the standards themselves (survey).

Many of those who don’t care about the question—either because they have no kids in a public K-12 school or don’t feel informed enough about what the question is asking—are likely to feel effort would be better spent in other ways, such as ensuring equity in public education.

What the SJC ruled on July 1 is that the petition did not present a “unified statement of public policy.” That is, the state’s attorney general had improperly certified it as a ballot question.

Activists were trying, I thought, to use the force of law to tell the schools what standards of learning they can or can’t use. We can use the law to tell schools what they should or shouldn’t teach, but mandating the use (or non-use in this case) of specific standards is not the place for our laws; it is the place for debate.

Consider this: How would this law be enforced if such a law were passed? Would we have Common Core police or legislative investigators that would keep tabs on whether a public school was using the “Common Core”? Don’t you know that the Common Core has things like math and reading? Are we not supposed to teach kids about geometry, tone of voice, trigonometry? We can have these discussions, but the question never belonged on an election ballot.

What issues about education would you like to see put on a ballot in your state, if any?

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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