Proponents of the Common Core tend to view its critics as an ignorant mob. Support for it is, in certain circles, a sign of one’s seriousness about education reform.
Yet the reform strategy it represents hasn’t been thought through well, and it seems unlikely to work. The debate that surrounds it is an extended exercise in missing the point.
The initiative’s critics advance an angry populism that is frequently misinformed. One can certainly imagine Duncan’s frustration at having to rebut Glenn Beck’s claim that the standards are leading to mandatory iris scans for schoolkids. Even less fantastic attacks on the standards are often overwrought. Take the complaint that they downgrade the study of literature in favor of “informational texts.” Actually, they call for a split between fiction and nonfiction across the curriculum. The split starts at 50-50 in elementary school and rises to 70 percent informational, 30 percent fictional by the end of high school. English class, in other words, can be entirely devoted to literature.