Thursday, March 2, 2017

While past topics on this blog may have felt removed from the every day, today we are going to address a problem that puts government into your hands. 

Most Americans are, or have been, involved in public education. In various states and times throughout U.S. history, the standards and curriculum for public education have come from different places. Currently 42 of the 50 states use a set of standards called Common Core. Common Core was created by a group of state legislatures and is encouraged nationally (through funding) by the Department of Education. In the 8 states which rejected Common Core, the school standards are developed closer to home, by state and local governments. Consider the following question:

Should we place educational decisions in the hands of the national government or with more local leaders?

Those in favor of federal education standards use these three main arguments:

First, enforcing education standards on a national level advances equity for students and holds them to the same high standards. For example, children in disadvantaged neighborhoods learn the same subjects, take the same tests, and receive the same level of education as children in wealthier areas. In fact, the idea of equal opportunity comes from the founding fathers and the Declaration of Independence itself!
Another reason why people argue in favor of federal school standards is that, if everybody is learning the same thing simultaneously, teachers can collaborate on the internet and at conferences. Sharing ideas that can be used right away everywhere strengthens the educational community. 

Lastly, because the federal government oversees interstate commerce, and education is related to interstate commerce, Washington can enlarge its power using the elastic clause.  As an example of how education is impacted by interstate commerce, lots of Americans move often, traveling around the country for work. If these migrant citizens have school-age kids, the government wants to ensure that there are no holes in those students' education. 

Although these arguments seem persuasive, others argue that locally developed standards provide a better education for our students.  Their arguments include the following: 

First, programs like Common Core are unconstitutional, they argue, because the constitution does not give the federal government control over what schools teach. Any power not given to the federal government in the Constitution is left automatically to the states in the 10th Amendment.  So the fact that Common Core (or any past standards) are nationally managed should not be allowed. 

Additionally, because federal bureaucrats are busy in Washington, they can't know everything about the lives of people in each individual state, city, or school district. Local leaders have more perspective than than the federal government about needs and interests of local communities. Districts can create special programs to emphasize jobs that are popular in the local economy.  Students can read local authors and study local geography.  Teachers can respond quickly to shifts they notice among their students.  While b
ureaucrats can make “educated guesses” (no pun intended), they can't have the accuracy of people who live near and interact daily with students. 

Who would you like to see handle U.S. school standards? If you haven't thought about this before, I hope this helped you to better understand one part of the ongoing debate about schools.  This is truly something that affects all of us!  

If you have any additional thoughts on this topic that you’d like to share with me, or topic ideas for the future, let me know down in the comments. I’d love to hear from you! Just remember to be considerate and have fun!