There is no question that the education system in the United States is in desperate need of attention. What stymies government and school officials alike is the best way to fix the problem. The latest effort is the Common Core Standards, which 45 out of 50 states have adopted. Reasonable critics, however, fear that it is not the content of the standardized tests that need adjustment, but the practice of standardized tests in general. Of course, some simply think the plan is flawed because it is being implemented by the Department of Education and the Obama administration.
Arizona State Sen. Al Melvin, Republican, a veteran of the Navy and former University of Arizona professor, led his colleagues on the Senate Education Committee to vote 6-3 to repeal the Common Core standards the state adopted by the state in 2010, according to the Arizona Daily Star. Less than a month ago, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer stripped the name “Common Core” from the standards by executive order.
Melvin told the paper that while the standards were “a pretty admirable pursuit by the private sector and the governors,” they “got hijacked by Washington, by the federal government.” When asked by opposition if he’d read the standards, he merely said, “I’ve been exposed to them.” Pressed further, he called the mathematics standards “fuzzy” and called some of the books on the reading list “borderline pornographic.”*
Yet, the Star interview reveals what may be a deeper motivation for this move than concern about the quality of education that Arizona children receive. Calling himself a “Ronald Reagan” conservative, Melvin expressed a fundamental distrust of the Department of Education and “any standards that are coming out of that department.” What Melvin forgets is that Reagan himself changed his mind about the Department of Education to stave off a “rising tide of mediocrity.”
According to a report from POLITICO citing rising teacher skepticism for the plan, the rollout of these standards “is at a ‘critical juncture.'"
*The books he most likely objects to are two books for high school students: The Bluest Eye by Nobel prize-winning American author Toni Morrison and Dreaming in Cuban by Cristina Garcia. The latter book was pulled from Arizona’s Sierra Vista Unified School District. Both novels deal with “minority” protagonists and their lives in the United States. Garcia’s novel features a consensual sex scene between teenagers (although hardly pornographic), and Morrison’s novel deals with a woman who is raped by her father. Two other books for younger readers are controversial because of the perceived slight to “family values,” specifically in the way they portray homosexuality as something other than an aberration.