In my nearly twenty years in state politics, few issues have stoked the ire of conservatives more than the Common Core curriculum standards. I have no doubt that even relationships between friends will be severed over this issue. Maybe I’m missing something in all this debate, but I think something fundamental is missing from the conversation.
The fervor over this undoubtedly important issue is such that some people on both sides of the issue seem to have begun to hear and see only what they want. In fact, some will assume they know what my position is before they even finish reading this sentence.
Those who know even the slightest thing about me know that I am so conservative I don’t let others do the thinking for me. By that I mean, as a Senator in the state legislature, I was known as a reader.
Lobbyists learned to drop off materials for me to read, and then schedule an appointment for later. In time, they learned that either they would just wind up sitting there while I read what they brought or I’d send them on their way until they had provided the information I wanted.
Liberals are the ones who want to provide ready-made opinions for everybody, hoping they will feel pressured to accept them and move on. Not me. I like to see things with my own two eyes and draw my own conclusions.
But what I see in this case, and what I see as generally true in conservative political circles, is that we too often don’t see what is “common” to all the things that bother us. Common Core is an issue. But it is not the whole issue in education. And, in my opinion, it is not even the real issue.
The real issue is that which was so famously stated by the late Dr. Francis Schaeffer in his 1981 book, A Christian Manifesto:
“The basic problem of the Christian in this country in the last eighty years or so, in regard to society and in regard to government, is that they have seen things in bits and pieces instead of totals.
They have very gradually become disturbed over permissiveness, pornography, the public schools, the breakdown of the family, and finally abortion. But they have not seen this as a totality – each thing being a part, a symptom, of a much larger problem. They have failed to see that all of this has come about due to a shift in worldview – that is, through a fundamental change in the overall way people think and view the world and life as a whole.” (emphasis added)
That is the issue. The worldview that previously guided this nation was grounded in a Biblical view of reality and morality. It has been replaced. And different worldviews necessarily produce different results. The real issue is a clash of worldviews in education, but conservatives seem to focus on the different “bits and pieces” of education like Common Core, vouchers, charter schools, what science should be taught, what sex education should be provided, etc.
As Schaeffer said, we have “very gradually become disturbed,” when we should have been disturbed a long time ago when John Dewey began to push his godless view of education that now dominates the college teaching programs that produce our educators.
Conservatives can fight Common Core and perhaps “win.” But what will be won if the systemic problem of how we view education and the worldview we inculcate in our educators year after year is left unaddressed? Winning without seeing the “total” picture will be like bopping down the pins with a plastic bat at the arcade. Bop one down and two more pop up, and they start popping up faster.
Common Core is no doubt an important issue that needs to be studied and debated. But perhaps the best thing that could come out of it is a debate about what worldview should guide education over the next 100 years and what overall strategies are needed to root out the worldview now in charge. That would really be a debate worth having.