The pundits of the New York Times are united in their love of the Common Core standards, and none seem to understand why anyone questions the standards. In order to explain a point of view, one must make the effort to hear the voices of critics without caricaturing them.

Unfortunately, David Brooks has no idea why anyone would not embrace the Common Core standards. All he knows is what Arne Duncan says about them.

He actually believes that CCSS was a response to some sort of economic crisis (surely not the one where financial institutions nearly collapsed our economy in 2008, a catastrophe that was not caused by the schools or their standards). He is under the impression that having a diversity of state standards causes low academic performance, despite the lack of evidence for that assertion.

He does not understand how the standards were written or funded or quickly adopted.

He writes:

“This was a state-led effort, supported by employers and financed by private foundations. This was not a federal effort, though the Obama administration did encourage states to embrace the new standards.”

The standards were in fact written behind closed doors by a group of 27 people, a group that included a large number of people from the testing industry but not a single classroom teacher, not a single person knowledgeable about early childhood education or children with special needs or English language learners. The writing, development, evaluation and everything else was financed by the Gates Foundation. The Obama administration did not just “encourage states,” but told states they would not be eligible to compete for $4.35 billion in Race to the Top funding unless they adopted “college-and-career-ready standards,” which everyone understood to mean Common Core. Why else would 45 states suddenly adopt these unknown standards? why else would Massachusetts drop its own proven standards for untried new standards?

Brooks, like Duncan, ridicules those who are skeptical about the CCSS. He scorns them as clowns of the right and the left.

Aaron Barlow, an English professor at the City University of New York, wrote the best critique of Brooks’ naïveté. Writing on the blog of “Academe,” Barlow describes Brooks’ column as “backseat driving in the clown car.”

Barlow writes that Brooks believes that

“….those who disagree with him…have the red noses and squeeze horns. He mounts a defense of Common Core State Standards (CCSS) based on the idea that those he shills for are the wise and considerate and caring–and that everyone else is either raw material or the lunatic fringe (both left and right).

“Education, to Brooks, “is to get students competitive with their international peers.” What the students need in their personal lives, or want, these don’t matter. What communities need, in terms of citizens and contributing members, doesn’t matter. And anyone who disagrees with Brooks and those he advocates for is a nut. A clown.

“As he does with his own person, Brooks does a good job of dressing CCSS in gowns of gravitas, covering the pretense and parody at its heart, hiding the large, floppy shoes and bulging, striped pants.

“If it weren’t the result of clowning, CCSS would have been developed in an entirely different way. As it is supposed to prepare students to be “college ready” and as potential employees, creation should have been in the hands of college professors and representatives from business–as well as public-school teachers and administrators, providing both understanding of needs and goals and of the practical aspects of education. Parents should be consulted, as well. As it is, CCSS was the creation of politicians and their lackeys, as even Brooks describes it:

“The National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers set out to draft clearer, consistent and more rigorous standards.

“Politicians and their top appointees: that’s who created CCSS. These aren’t people who understand either the needs of education, its goals, or the ways students learn as they grow. And… ha, ha, ha… “consistent and rigorous standards”? That’s like calling a clown’s yardstick adequate measurement. Only a clown can tout “standards” developed by people with no knowledge of the subject matter as “consistent and rigorous,” at least not with a straight face. The rest of us should simply laugh–and would, if this weren’t so deadly serious.”

He adds:

“The tragedy of all of this is that Brooks actually believes what he is writing. He has no idea that it is he who is the real clown. And not even a significant one. He’s simply another red nose crammed into the back seat.

“This is too bad. Education should not be a circus.”

Read it all. It is a terrific column.