Bob Davis: Nothing in common
Nov 21, 2010 | 2501 views |  4 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
We can imagine Robert Bentley’s fellow newbie governors offering him consoling pats on the shoulder this weekend during a National Governors Association orientation in Colorado.

Bentley suffered his first policy setback as the state’s governor-elect last week when against his wishes Alabama signed on to what’s known as Common Core State Standards.

The Tuscaloosa Republican publicly opposed the state joining a coalition of states that are establishing uniform standards, things like ensuring 4th graders meet the same basic reading skills or 8th graders understand the same math concepts.

“It is a state function and the standards to educate our children should be based on state and local standards that are set by Alabama local school boards and parents and not by the federal government or a consortium of states,” Gov.-elect Bentley said.

Bentley, who as governor will join the school board after he’s sworn in next year, was joined in opposition by two state board members, Republicans Betty Peters and Stephanie Bell. Bell and Peters are favorites of the Eagle Forum’s Phyllis Schlafly, who recently suggested Common Core’s real aim was to introduce “European-style socialism” into the United States.

During Thursday’s board meeting, some members of the public argued that passage might mean totalitarian government and mind-control were right around the corner.

Those arguments and similar ones lost the day as Gov. Bob Riley, a Republican, was part of the school board’s 7-2 vote approving Common Core. “If we do not do this, we will not be doing what I think is in the best interest of our children,” Riley said before the vote.

A little research shows Common Core is not a communist conspiracy. One of its main proponents is the Hunt Institute for Educational Leadership and Policy, which is chaired by James B. Hunt Jr., the former governor of North Carolina.

The money quote that sums up Hunt’s rather uncontroversial ambition is this: “Education is our future — it’s everything. We must not settle for anything short of excellence in our schools.”

Turns out the aims of Common Core are to improve education across the country, raising standards in some states and preparing all students for a prosperous future. In short, it’s about putting students on the same page. Yeah, we know, radical.

Or, as Bill Gates has put it, “The more states that adopt these college and career-based standards, the closer we will be to sharing innovation across state borders and becoming more competitive as a country.”

You betcha, Comrade Microsoft, the dissenters must be snickering.

All this fighting to let Alabama — and Alabama alone — set its own educational course is a mystery. A quick check Friday of the National Assessment of Educational Progress testing results for all 50 states and the District of Columbia confirms that awful stereotype of Alabama public education — the state is at or near the bottom of all rankings when it comes to tests of students’ knowledge.

We’ve been going alone, education-wise, for the better part of the almost two centuries Alabama has been a state. How’s that working out for us? Well, according to the latest NAEP scores, Alabama 8th graders’ reading aptitude ranked the state 44th. We are 50th in math. And on and on the depressing results go.

We’re back to the old puzzlement. What do conservative opponents of Common Core want to conserve when it comes to the Alabama way of public schooling? It surely can’t be weak test scores.

In a perverse sense, the governors-elect consoling Dr. Bentley this week might have an ulterior motive. They will soon preside over states competing against each other for lucrative economic development. Those governors-to-be know their states gain a leg up on those that choose to deny progress in the name of states’ rights.

Bob Davis is editor of The Anniston Star. Contact him at (256) 235-3540 or bdavis@annistonstar.com. You can follow him on Twitter at: twitter.com/EditorBobDavis.
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