Doug Clifton: Some Common Core opponents are proof the standards are needed

When a man in Revolutionary War garb shows up at your public hearing, you can pretty much count on a downhill slide in the quality of debate.

That was surely the case in Davie, Florida the other night when the aforementioned costumed man was abetted by shouts of “Marxism” and “communism” from the audience.

Said one shouter: “As far as I’m concerned, Common Core is the same as communism.”

The hearing was to have been a discussion of the Common Core educational standards that are aimed at increasing the level of education across America.

For reasons clear only to the tri-cornered hat brigade, the standards have been denounced as a freedom-stealing communist plot engineered by that Marxist devil Barack Obama. They call it “ObamaEd” or “Communist Core.”

The Davie hearing was not atypical. Similar outbursts occurred in upstate New York, Louisiana, Arkansas – almost everywhere.

The Common Core has many critics. Some believe the standards are not rigorous enough. Others argue that the proposed changes are too complicated to roll out all at once. Others have philosophical objections to standards that come from on high.

All of those are reasonable points worthy of discussion — if only the fife and drum corps would take the silliness for a walk around the block and allow a serious discussion to proceed.

What drove the search for new standards was the sad truth that American schools are turning out graduates whose reading and analytical skills are wanting. Stunning numbers of students enter college needing remedial reading instruction. More than half can’t handle college level reading assignments or the demands of most white-collar careers. The same is true of mathematical skills.

The proposed standards, which were developed with the help of educators, parents, policymakers and academics in 48 states, two territories and the District of Columbia, present students with escalating reading and math challenges as they move through the grades.

In theory, the standards will better equip students with the ability to critically evaluate what they are reading, to better assess the validity of an argument and to cogently express their thoughts.

In the words of the Common Core administrators, “These English language arts and mathematics standards represent a set of expectations for student knowledge and skills that high school graduates need to master to succeed in college and careers….[they] reflect the vital feedback from the general public, teachers, parents, business leaders, states, and content area experts and are informed by the standards of other high-performing nations.”

In other words, the standards didn’t spring full blown from the heel of Karl Marx or even from the devious mind of Barack Obama. No, they were the work of a bunch of people vitally interested in improving the level of education in a country that is fast losing academic ground to students around the globe.

Are the standards a model of perfection? Who would even dare suggest that. Are they a communist plot? Only for those whose reading comprehension and analytical skills are broken and can’t be fixed.

Doug Clifton

Author: Doug Clifton

Doug Clifton is formerly the editor of Cleveland Plain Dealer. He began his newspaper career in 1970 at The Miami Herald’s Action Line. Over the next 17 years he held a variety of reporting and editing assignments at The Herald, including city editor and deputy managing editor. He subsequently served as news editor of Knight Ridder’s Washington bureau and as managing editor of The Charlotte Observer, another Knight Ridder newspaper. Clifton returned to The Miami Herald in 1991 as executive editor. Under his leadership, The Herald won three Pulitzer Prizes, one for meritorious public service in 1992 for coverage of Hurricane Andrew, a second for commentary and a third for investigative reporting. During that time The Herald also was a Pulitzer finalist in feature writing, commentary, investigative reporting and twice in photography. Clifton, originally from Brooklyn, New York, graduated from Dowling College in Long Island, with a political science degree and served three years in the U.S. Army, including a year as an artillery officer in Vietnam in the late 1960s. He and his wife, Peg Clifton, have two adult children and has four grandchildren. He lives in Fort Lauderdale.

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