Missouri educators, along with those in 45 other states, have officially adopted the Common Core, a set of educational standards for the study of English and mathematics. It was developed by organizations like the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers with input from “teachers, parents, school administrators and experts from across the country together with state leaders.” The purpose? To develop a tool for educators:
High standards that are consistent across states provide teachers, parents, and students with a set of clear expectations that are aligned to the expectations in college and careers. The standards promote equity by ensuring all students, no matter where they live, are well prepared with the skills and knowledge necessary to collaborate and compete with their peers in the United States and abroad.. Unlike previous state standards, which were unique to every state in the country, the Common Core State Standards enable collaboration between states on a range of tools and policies, …
So keep in mind that these standards reflect input from individuals from all fifty states. They are no more than benchmarks to help educators develop curriculum in areas in which many states are currently failing to teach effectively, and implementation is left to the states.
But, whoa! That’s apparently a little too much for the intrepid (not to say paranoid) members of the Missouri GOP. Republican Senator John Lamping, along with some other members of his political sodality, want to, in the words of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “put the brakes” on the adoption of the Common Core and have introduced legislation to do just that. They’re worried about lack of legislative oversight, claim to be worried about loss of “parental control,” and, wouldn’t you know, are beating their little tin drums about the expense of the required computer-based assessment – a curious concern from lawmakers who otherwise think that the state can afford to cut taxes for corporations and high earners.
And just what does the legislative oversight that these GOPers value so highly look like? Consider legislation introduced by GOP pack member, Rep. Rick Brattin, which would “require that the state’s elementary and secondary school students, and even people taking college courses in public universities, learn about creationism in addition to real biology.” Noted in Mother Jones by Dana Liebelson:
HB 291, the “Missouri Standard Science Act,” redefines a few things you thought you already knew about science. For example, a “hypothesis” is redefined as something that reflects a “minority of scientific opinion and is “philosophically unpopular.” A scientific theory is “an inferred explanation…whose components are data, logic and faith-based philosophy.” And “destiny” is not something that $5 fortune tellers believe in; Instead, it’s “the events and processes that define the future of the universe, galaxies, stars, our solar system, earth, plant life, animal life, and the human race.”
The bill requires that Missouri elementary and secondary schools-and even introductory science classes in public universities-give equal textbook space to both evolution and intelligent design (any other “theories of origin” are allowed to be taught as well, so pick your favorite creation myth-I’m partial to the Russian raven spirit.) “I can’t imagine any mainstream textbook publisher would comply with this,” Meikle says. “The material doesn’t exist.”
While HB 291 may be the worst of this stupidity, it isn’t the entirety; another bill, HB179, constitutes a somewhat subtler attack on good science education, but with the same goal: to get intelligent design into the schools. Creationism and intelligent design may be okay for churches which depend on faith to inspire belief and for home-schoolers who aren’t held to very rigorous standards, but it isn’t science. As Daniel Luzer observes, intelligent design is no more than “a form of creationism dreamed up by the politically reactionary Discovery Institute in order to get around prohibitions against the teaching of religious doctrine in public schools.”
If this sort of lame-brained “oversight” is what we can expect from our legislators, I say give us a big helping of the Common Core, the sooner the better.