I think one impulse behind the Common Core is that education is a very complex science that only experts can understand. Pushing the Common Core, then, isn’t so much trying to shift power from local elected officials to state and federal elected officials; it’s trying to shift power from elected officials to “experts.” If educational issues hinge largely on value judgments, then it makes sense to bring the democratic process to bear on them. But if education is like quantum physics, then we just need to consult really smart physicists to find out the correct answers to our problems, and elected officials should just sign on and butt out.
Needless to say, I don’t think education is quantum physics. The ultimate questions in education are value questions about goals and priorities, which should be decided democratically. To the extent that there is expertise about how to reach the goals we choose, it rests largely with experienced classroom teachers, not with unelected bureaucrats and private groups. But the Common Core disagrees: it wants you to trust a small group of self-appointed experts to tell every community in America (and its teachers) what the right approach to education is.
(If you want to quickly dispel any illusions you might have about the superior expertise of our state education bureaucracy, you might take a look at some of the materials at the state Department of Education’s website (for example, here). This emperor has no clothes.)
Of course, an entire industry has been built on the idea that education can be trusted only to experts. But if education requires such specialized knowledge that communities full of ordinary people can’t be trusted to run it, isn’t the same even more true about parenting? Parenting is almost certainly more consequential than schooling. How has the human race survived without closer state intervention in everyday parenting? Shouldn’t the state require parents to demonstrate compliance with hundreds of pages of Parenting Standards? How will we ever compete in the global marketplace otherwise? The questions are obviously sarcastic, but I genuinely don’t know what the distinction is.