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Davis: Digging out with Common Core
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The United States has the sorriest public education system in the developed world.  Don’t believe it? Check our test scores compared to other advanced nations.  We rank at the very bottom. And, ironically, it shouldn’t take a genius to suppose that the current hue and cry objecting to Common Core would likely involve alums of that system. 

But seriously, we should be grateful for something as sensible as Common Core that just might begin to dig us out of the hole we’ve managed to get ourselves into. Instead, this bunch of conspiracy theorists, or whatever paranoia they use to justify their position, just opt to dig deeper. 

Concerns over “states’ rights” and “federal takeover of public education” just make no sense.  (Moreover, given the sorry state of the system maybe we should hope.)

In the first place, Common Core is completely voluntary. The program, apparently based on sound research, is simply a set of reading, writing and math standards.

They were adopted in this state in 2010 under Gov. Sonny Perdue and, thank heaven, are supported by Gov. Nathan Deal as well, who says that objections are based primarily on misinformation. Georgia joins 44 other states which use the standards. The program also appears to have support from the majority of teachers. 

The ultra-right-wing faction of doom-sayers will be saying next that we don’t even need a public education system.

Objections in some measure do seem to be based on misinformation. For instance, some conservative Republicans have charged that the program requires data collection on students that they consider an invasion of privacy that can be misused by the federal government. There is a data-collection system for schools but it is strictly for administrators and faculty and is part of Georgia’s education department.  It has no relation to the Common Core standards.

And as an unfortunate aside to this controversy the recent conclusion reached by researchers examining teaching degrees is, to put it bluntly, they’re hardly worth the paper on which they’re printed. In defense of teachers, the majority would probably agree with that assessment. More than one in that profession has been heard to say just that.

Teaching should be considered among the noblest professions. A couple of generations ago, it was. But that was a time when the vast majority of teachers were women. Women then were still trapped by a system that denied them access to most other professions. So education tended to get the cream of the crop. Still, the majority of educators today no doubt are selfless, dedicated and, yes, smart. Nevertheless, we can’t deny the public education system today suffers from institutional dysfunction. 

Perhaps the next ladder we need in order to climb out of the education hole is to require that teachers have degrees in a discipline such as science, literature, math, etc. Some teachers have suggested that the sorts of skills that are now taught in college education classes could be quite satisfactorily acquired in a six-week seminar.  And while we are on the subject, it might not hurt to consider raising teacher pay to be competitive with other professions. You might be amazed what that might accomplish in a generation.

At any rate, all sensible people should understand that whether they have a child in public school or not, they still have a vested interest in the competency of the system. Unemployment and a high crime rate are just two of the burdens that might be said to directly relate to the weaknesses in public education.  It’s long past time to get serious about fixing the problem.


Libby Davis worked for the Rockdale Citizen for 20 years as publisher before retiring in 1997. She is also an award winning columnist and editorial writer and occasional contributor to Georgia Trend magazine.