- (Photo: Reuters/Sean Gardner)
Common Core as an issue among potential Republican presidential contenders has become complicated as hopefuls seek to tap the energy of the anti-Common Core movement even though many of them still support the theory behind Common Core.
Common Core critics say the theory behind the policy, which is developing relevant skills for the workplace, sells short the long standing principal of a liberal education and the analytical and thinking skills it encourages.
Can Common Core opponents be satiated by changing the name, but not the theory? At least two potential Republican presidential contenders seem to believe so.
Gov. Mike Pence (R-Ind.), who has been mentioned as a possible 2016 presidential candidate, was recently credited with repealing the Common Core State Standards Initiative in his state. But as columnist Michelle Malkin pointed out Wednesday, he only changed the name, not the substance of the educational reforms.
Terrence Moore, a Hillsdale College history professor who has written a book criticizing the Common Core, looked at the Indiana English standards and said they copy the same philosophy of the Common Core. Moore believes education should be about truth, knowledge, beauty and virtue, not about educating people for jobs.
"Jobs do not make the human mind, the human mind makes jobs," he remarked in a January speech covered by The Christian Post. "Children are human beings. They're not machines. They can be taught. They should not be programmed like machines."
James Milgram, professor emeritus of math at Stanford, left the Common Core Validation Committee because he did not approve of the math standards (he was the only math professor on the committee). After looking at the new Indiana math standards, he said they contain even more of the types of errors made by the previous Common Core standards.
"The standards for these courses are completely disorganized and, mathematically speaking, can only be described as bizarre," he said, Malkin reported.
Pence's strategy was explained well by fellow Republican Gov. Gary Herbert (Utah), who said in a March press conference, "I've talked to Gov. Pence about what they're doing [in Indiana]. In essence, they're creating what's called the 'Indiana Core.' It's not the Common Core. It's the Indiana Core, but their standards are almost mirroring exactly what's commonly referred to as the Common Core standards. So they're just doing it in a different way, which is what we've already been doing in Utah."
Some Common Core supporters seem to believe that the opponents are only concerned about federal control or the way in which the standards were implemented. While some of the critics point to these issues, their main issue is the theory behind the standards themselves. They do not believe the problem is simply poor labeling.
Another potential 2016 Republican presidential candidate, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, has also tried to gain the support of Common Core critics while remaining supportive of the essence of Common Core. In a December broadcast of his Fox News show "Huckabee," he argued that he is opposed to government control of education but supports the standards.
Huckabee is also a proponent of the rebranding strategy. According to Malkin, Huckabee advised a meeting of the Council of Chief State School Officers, a group that helped write the Common Core, to "rebrand [Common Core], refocus it, but don't retreat."
Huckabee and Pence's Common Core strategy appears to also be aligned with the Obama administration's new approach.
"I'm just a big proponent of high standards. Whether they're common or not is secondary," Education Secretary Arne Duncan recently testified before a House appropriations subcommittee.
When The Christian Post asked the Department of Education if Duncan's comments meant the administration was backing off its support for Common Core, a spokesperson referred to two speeches in which Duncan strongly backed the Common Core.
The main battles over Common Core have moved to state governments. So, will it even be an issue in the 2016 presidential primaries?
Shane Vander Hart, editor-in-chief of Caffeinated Thoughts and a writer for the Truth in American Education blog, watches the Common Core issue closely and writes often about politics in Iowa, the state that will hold the first test for the 2016 candidates.
The Common Core issue will be "huge in the primaries," he told The Christian Post Thursday, because a candidate's record is important to voters.
Additionally, Vander Hart pointed out that in the Iowa Republican race caucus voters are looking for what distinguishes the candidates from each other. If they all take the same position on abortion, for instance, abortion will not be a deciding factor in the race.
Common Core is an issue for which there are some clear differences among the potential candidates. Some support it, some oppose it, and, as Huckabee and Pence have shown, some are seeking a middle position.
So where are the other Republican governors and former governors who are possible presidential contenders?
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Ohio Gov. John Kasich strongly favor the standards.
Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker have talked about revisiting the standards or developing their own standards (like Pence did?), but otherwise have not shown given opponents much hope.
That leaves Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Jindal was originally for the standards, but last Fall came out against them. Perry was against the Common Core from the beginning. Texas was one of five states that did not adopt the standards.