The Norman Transcript


July 6, 2014

Common Core: an Oklahoma paradox

NORMAN — In 1831 Charles Darwin, a rather lazy, unmotivated medical student, hitched a ride on the ship HMS Beagle for a three-year naval trip. To some people, Charles was flunking out of school and he resurrected himself in the eyes of his peers by compiling, meticulously describing and analyzing the features  of all the animals and plants that lived on a tiny desolate, uninhabited, isolated island called the Galapagos and he then went on to publish a world class scientific treatise.

This brings me to today’s question of K-12 Common Core. Recently repealed by the state, it is obvious from public remarks, TV ads and newspaper comments, that very few of the political and educational locomotives driving this repeal have any idea what is in, or wherefrom these standards came or what they will do. As far as the parents and the activists pontificating for the need for local control and keeping the government out of their schools with statements like, “We do not need change, we have steady employment in Oklahoma,” it is patently obvious that they have not looked at the exodus of talent from Oklahoma to states where the jobs that actually pay a living wage for competent professionals exist, or much worse they are satisfied with being 43rd out of 50 for decades and with no evident mechanism for lifting the students out of this deep educational hole. Oklahoma is becoming an island.

At less than $8K per student per year of funding, most of the Oklahoma students are already behind the eight ball when they begin grade school. It is not their fault. What is worse, it generally does not get any better for them as the rise through the ranks and get ready for college.

The Oklahoma Standard has become synonymous with the state since the preeminent response to the Murrah Building bombing in 1995. The “standard” is a well-rewarded name for performance above and beyond the norm. What is really incongruous is that this vaunted standard has now become a paradox. The paradox is that in this state, judging by the prevailing perceptions, what Oklahoma needs and particularly that our children (need) can only be determined by local elected bodies and politicians. It seems that there is a systematic xenophobic undercurrent of thought in which certain Oklahoma leaders believe that they alone at the local level can determine the directions, mechanisms and outcomes needed for a good education. 

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