Can you imagine 50 state National Guard units going to war after having been trained with 50 different manuals? Well, that's what those opposing the new Common Core standards will be doing to education because they want each state to have its own standards.
Thirty years ago, "A Nation At Risk" report warned America's position as a world leader was on the decline because of our faltering education: "If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war. … We have, in effect, been committing an act of … unilateral educational disarmament."
In 2009, the National Governors Association, or NGA, and the Council of Chief State School Officers, or CCSSO, came together to develop the Common Core standards for America's education system that would make us compete successfully in today's global market place. State leaders, not the federal government, initiated it.
Those who portray the initiative as a loss of local control and a takeover of education by the federal government are misinformed. It seems they are blinded to the facts by ideology. They would rather watch the decline of America's educational ability to retool at the expense of our children and America's future. They believe states should develop their own standards with no concern for how America can rally its resources to compete with other nations.
Opponents fail to acknowledge that state leaders initiated the standards and that opposing them further weakens our national effort to compete in today's global economy. As Bill Gates noted, "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."
America can ill afford to keep the disjointed national education system we now have. To do so is to relegate our children's future to mediocrity and accept that America will be a second-class nation. And to those that say our leaders are moving too fast and that more study is required, how do you tell that to a parent whose child is sitting in today's classroom being denied world-class standards?
The Common Core standards are not mandatory, and each state can accept or reject them. There is no federal mandate, as some would have us believe. The federal government established "Race to the Top" that would support states in raising their standards. It was limited, competitive, and only some states were awarded the grant that did so. Utah was not one of them.
What NGA and CCSSO have shown is state elected leaders taking the lead in creating a national vision for education. Governors know the stakes are high for America in order to compete, where knowledge creativity and imagination in students is vital to our economy. They mirror Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton's goals for America — America 2000 and Goals 2000 respectively — to coalesce the states around a common set of goals that were voluntary. However, those who opposed change, making the same claim of federal control, also thwarted their efforts.
Societies change one of two ways, by leadership or by a crisis. Thirty years ago, leaders warned us of the economic and social danger America faced in not renewing education. America needs critics, caring critics who also offer solutions. We can no longer afford the luxury of doing nothing. The future of our children is at stake.
Rather than doing nothing and " … committing an act of unilateral educational disarmament," we should all work together to have a common core of educational standards and make them work. That is critical for our nation's future, and it starts today.
A Utah native, John Florez has been on the staff of Sen. Orrin Hatch, served as former Utah Industrial Commissioner and filled White House appointments, including Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor and Commission on Hispanic Education. Email him at email@example.com.
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