Sunday, February 9, 2014

What's wrong with a national curriculum?

Common Core supporters are adamant that “It’s not a national curriculum!” It’s true that the Common Core doesn’t prescribe one set of texts or one set of lesson plans. But the Core will clearly channel school districts into a narrow set of curricular choices. Once there is a detailed and extensive national set of standards and a set of corresponding standardized tests, how many real textbook options will there be? Our own district has shifted over to Houghton-Mifflin language arts textbooks that are specifically designed to satisfy the Common Core standards, and, from what I hear, many teachers hate them.

What Common Core supporters aren’t so good at explaining is why a national curriculum would be such a bad thing. In fact, almost all of the arguments offered to support the Common Core standards would support a national curriculum as well (as the host of the panel discussion I participated in astutely pointed out). It seems plain that Common Core supporters reject the idea of a national curriculum just because they are afraid it is unpopular, not because it goes against any of their principles. If they tried to articulate just why a national curriculum was a bad idea, they might find that their rationale is hard to square with their support for the Common Core.

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