Since I wrote that I could not support the Common Core, several readers have written to say that I criticized the process of its creation and implementation, not its content. My response to more than one reader was that means and ends both matter. You can’t do the right thing in the wrong way. You can’t suspend democratic process for what you think is the good of the people. Good things imposed by force tend not to stick. (See my thoughts–written in March 2014–about “The Fatal Flaw of the Common Core Standards“, which demonstrates that they violated every protocol of standard-setting and ignored due process, transparency, the right of appeal, etc.)

This reader explains her objections to the process:

My thoughts on the CC:

Subtexts: Close Reading of the Common Core

As ridiculous as it sounds, my resistance to the common core standards is disconnected from its content. The document, itself, is of far less concern to me than its genesis and its prospects. This past-future duality is where the perils of the common core lie; therefore, it is critical to consider where they emerged from and where they are leading.

The common core materialized as a tool of the political elite and the private sector. The common core was neither sought nor developed by educators or those who care about students or the future of the common good. The common core is meant for political gain and economic profit. This matters because the origin of a movement affects its implementation. Despite elevated rhetoric surrounding the common core, its underlying assumptions about what counts as knowledge, literacy, and culture will exacerbate – not ameliorate – inequality.

Although necessarily speculative, the future of the common core is also suspect. It is certain, however, that national assessments will follow this attempt to realize a national curriculum. While assessment is an essential component of the teaching-learning process, standardized assessments have limited utility and vast, destructive defects. The common core, as the basis for creating a national, profitable system of assessments that purport to measure student learning and teacher effectiveness, is revolting.

And, perhaps, this initiative will provoke a revolution among those with expertise about education. The common core is simply a tool. On paper, it is neither good nor evil. However, like any tool, it requires critical analysis before it is used. With respect to its creation, educators must ask: Who made this tool and why? Who paid for its design, construction, and distribution? How was it made (under conditions of brutality and oppression, or in a collaborative, participatory environment)? Looking forward, we must reflect on the negative effects of standardized assessments, particularly on marginalized students, and ensure that the common core does not fulfill its potential to do further damage to future generations of students.

I love to write, but I don’t want to use a pen that was made by imprisoned children. And, despite its sharp point, I do not intend to puncture someone’s eyeball with my pen. Like my pen, the common core is a tool. And, like my pen, its origins and its prospects matter.

Julie Gorlewski
State University of New York at New Paltz