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Common Core

Published February 24, 2012 12:10 am

Standards help Utah kids compete
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

"Collective fear stimulates herd instinct, and tends to produce ferocity toward those who are not regarded as members of the herd." — Bertrand Russell

It was bound to happen. After the State Board of Education voted last year to adopt the Common Core academic standards, some conservative Utahns and groups such as the really conservative Eagle Forum became suspicious. After all, the standards did not originally spring from Utah, specifically from Utahns like themselves.

They want Utah schoolchildren isolated from any outside influence. It's the provincial fear of "otherness" that most often stems from ignorance. Apparently not understanding that adopting the Common Core standards dictates nothing related to political views or social agendas, the Legislature has made changes in several bills related to Common Core. Discussion during a late-night meeting of Republicans brought forth a recommendation that federal directives having to do with the Common Core would have to be approved by the Legislature.

The recommendation is evidence of the ignorance of xenophobic legislators: The Common Core is not a federal initiative, but an agreement among states, including Utah, to adopt a standardized set of academic concepts that children should master at each grade level.

Other assumptions simply are not true.

Rep. Ken Ivory, R-West Jordan, said the legislative mandate to review any federal Common Core directives would keep Utah safe from "federal tentacles." If Ivory had done his homework on the subject, he would have known that states, not the federal government, formulated the standards in an effort to make sure that schools across the country are aiming for the same goals and to make comparisons more meaningful.

The standards do not set curriculum; educators in each state decide how to achieve the common targets.

Others criticized Common Core for introducing a liberal agenda through math story problems. In reality, no test questions have been written.

Eagle Forum leader Gayle Ruzicka played to this irrational fear, saying that with a "national curriculum you run the risk of a federal takeover and end up with national standards." Utah schools already use classroom materials that originate out of state. They always have.

Utah is not threatened. Rather, Common Core will help children compete in the real world, not the imaginary one conjured by a common core of paranoid legislators.