Over the years, we have seen a steady dumbing down of American culture, especially in the mass media. Whether newspapers, radio, or television, we have lost many of our well-educated, cultured, well-informed thinkers. Often they have been replaced by shock jocks, ranting talk show hosts, and an entire cable channel devoted to trashing liberals, liberal social programs, and labor unions.
I miss Walter Cronkite, Dan Rather, and dozens of other smart journalists who brought more than their opinions to their journalism. Bill Moyers is one of that breed. We need more.
Another thing I don't understand is why people on the far right like to paint their own country in the most negative tones while pretending to be patriots. I used to see a lot of this in right-wing think tanks, where people seized gleefully on every negative statistic to prove what a bad country this is; how horrible our public schools are; how dumb our teachers are; how we are doomed. Michelle Rhee's advertisements often make me think she really hates this country, that no one is smart enough or good enough for her. .
All of this is a long-winded way of disassociating myself from Glenn Beck's screed against Common Core and public education. It is called Conform: Exposing the Truth about Common Core and Public Education.
Here is a review by Hilary Tone of Media Matters that gives you an idea of how false and hysterical this book is. It is clear that Beck did not read Reign of Error. I won't be reviewing Conform. I am not interested in reading or writing about crazy right-wing attacks on our great American tradition of public education or on our nation.
In the same vein as the one now being mined by Glenn Beck is a video about a Florida legislator denouncing the Common Core because it will make all children gay. Seriously.
This is crazy stuff, and it makes it difficult if not impossible to have a reasonable discussion about the pros and cons of the Common Core. The Common Core is not wicked, evil, or dangerous, nor are those who wrote it.
Perhaps my critique of Common Core is too sophisticated for those who want simplistic answers. I don't condemn those who want to use Common Core. I don't they are wrong or un-American. If they like it, they should use it.
My advice to states that want to use it, who think it is better than what they do now, is this:
1. Convene your best classroom teachers and review CCSS. Fix whatever needs fixing. Recognize that not all students learn at the same pace. Leave time for play in K-3.
2. Do not use the federally funded tests. Do not spend billions on hardware and software for testing. Let teachers write their own tests. Use standardized tests sparingly, like a state-level NAEP, to establish trends, not to label or rank children and teachers.
3. Do not use results of CC to produce ratings to "measure" teacher quality. Study after study, report after report warns that this is a very bad idea that will harm the quality of education by focusing too much on standardized tests, narrowing the curriculum, and forcing teachers to teach to the tests.
4. Do not let your judgment be clouded by people who make hysterical claims about the standards or those who wrote them.
Diane Ravitch is a professor, historian, and author. Her latest book is Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America's Public Schools.