GOP Debate Recap: A Major Missed Opportunity for Candidates on Common Core

March 11, 2016

by Emmett McGroarty


Photo credit: Disney | ABC Television Group via Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Photo credit: Disney | ABC Television Group via Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)

As to the discussion of education in last night’s debate, John Kasich demonstrated why he is in last place. For their parts, Ted Cruz and Donald Trump could have hit home runs but instead merely hit doubles.

Common Core and the federal role in education have been major topics in the GOP nomination battle. They tie into another driving force in this election cycle—the visceral citizen push back against a political establishment that responds to special interests rather than to the people. Together, these issues have helped propel Trump and Cruz to the top and have relegated the likes of Scott Walker, Chris Christie, and Jeb Bush to the bottom of the barrel.

Kasich recited his usual, misleading-to-the-point-of-delusional litany that the Common Core standards were developed by the states (untrue) and pretended that the Common Core are “good standards,” despite the substantial and irrefutable evidence of their shoddiness. He also implied, as he has repeatedly, his disingenuous claim that in Ohio “local school boards develop the curriculum.”  The problem there is that curriculum must align with the standards. Because Ohio has Common Core standards statewide, it has a Common Core-aligned curriculum and all the defects inherent in it.

As to Trump and Cruz, they both spoke forcefully about the proper role of the federal government—get it out of education:

TRUMP: Education through Washington, D.C. I don’t want that. I want local education. I want the parents, and I want all of the teachers, and I want everybody to get together around a school and to make education great.

And from Cruz’s comments on the issue:

CRUZ:  . . . I intend to work to abolish the federal Department of Education and send education back to the states and back to the local governments.

In his follow-up to Trump’s answer, Jake Tapper argued:

TAPPER: OK. But just to clarify, the Common Core standards were developed by the states, states and localities voluntarily adopt them, and they come up with their own curricula to meet those standards. So when you say “education by Washington, D.C.,” what do you mean?

TRUMP: You’re right, Jake. But it has been taken over by the federal government. It was originally supposed to be that way. And certainly sounds better that way. But it has all been taken over now by the bureaucrats in Washington, and they are not interested in what’s happening in Miami or in Florida, in many cases.

Now in some cases they would be. But in many cases they are more interested in their paycheck and the big bureaucracy than they are taking care of the children.

Trump described the disconnection between the federal bureaucracy and citizens. But he failed to correct Tapper’s string of falsehoods. Common Core was not developed by the states. It was developed, and is owned, by private interests that operate outside the state constitutional processes and that, before they had even started to draft the Common Core, asked the federal government to drive it into the states with a carrot-and-stick approach.

Likewise, Cruz failed to knock it out of the park on the following exchange:

TAPPER: So, Senator Cruz, let me bring you in. You object to Common Core. Governor Kasich says it’s local school boards developing local curriculum to meet higher standards. What’s wrong with that?

CRUZ: Common Core is a disaster. And if I am elected president, in the first days as president, I will direct the Department of Education that Common Core ends that day.

Yes, it’s a disaster.  But explain why.  Identify whom it damages and why.  Empathize with the parents.

Tapper’s questions follows the talking points of the pro-Common Core cabal: Pretend that the federal government “hi-jacked” the Common Core and that parental outrage arises solely from the disrespect that it showed their state and local governments. In other words, tell the feds to back off and everything will be okay. That ignores two critical facts:  Common Core is causing severe harm to children, and the driving role of special interests.

The mainstream media and other elitists refuse to acknowledge what’s at the heart of citizen outrage. Curricula aligned to Common Core locks children into a slowed-down academic progression that puts them years behind their peers in high-performing countries, fails to prepare them for STEM studies, and fails to prepare them for university studies.

Yes, parents are aware that the strategy of the Common Core owners was to use the federal government to push the standards into the states. They recognize how that strategy effected an end-run around the constitutional system of checks and balances.  They recognize that had the constitutional structure been respected, they would have had an opportunity to prevent their state from adopting Common Core. But their passion lies, as it should, in the protection and well being of their children.

As with other elitists, the media will not admit Common Core’s qualitative problems. To do so, would be an irreparable indictment of the elitist world-view. It would be an admission that special interests use the federal bureaucracy to control state and local government and that they do so irrespective of the consequent harm to children. It would refute the Progressive view that we need centralized government to manage our lives and form our children.

Trump and Cruz have campaigned as outsiders to the political establishment and as being impervious to the influence of special interests. To elaborate on the Common Core issue would be a home run in the primaries and a grand slam in the general election.

Emmett McGroarty is the executive director of APP Education.


Emmett McGroarty is the director of APP Education.

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