Saturday, February 15, 2014

Common Core

This article was stimulated by one by Michael Petrilli of the Fordham Institute, titled "Lies, Damned Lies, and the Common Core."

I was a little surprised that during time leading up to the November 2013 election, no one asked the candidates for Hilliard Board of Education what any of us thought about the Common Core. It didn't come up during the "Meet the Candidates" night conducted by the League of Women Voters. The reporters from This Week Hilliard didn't ask about it, nor did the online questionnaire published by The Columbus Dispatch.

And I was glad.

Not a lot of people understand the Common Core: what it is, how it is designed to be used, or what it contains. That means most of the questions someone like me gets about Common Core originate from ignorance and prejudice, often fueled by what they hear from folks like Glenn Beck and Fox News.

The radio in my car has three stations on "speed dial" - WOSU-FM (89.7), WTVN-AM (610), and WODC-FM (93.3).  If I'm out during the morning or afternoon drive time, I'm usually listening to 610 because I enjoy the local programming, and in particular have long been a fan of John Corby and Joe Bradley, who do the afternoon drive-time show.

I also enjoy lots of the WOSU programming: BBC World Service, All Sides with Ann Fisher, All Things Considered, Fresh Air, and of course, Car Talk. And when I just need to clear my mind, or want to revel in a beautiful day - I crank up the oldies on 93.3. That's my chicken soup.

Every few days, I'll decide to listen to what Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh have to say. It doesn't usually last long.

I remember when I first became aware of Glenn Beck. It was right after 9/11.  Before then, 610 had a locally-produced morning show with Bob Conner, a long-respected radio personality here in Central Ohio. Then on 9/12 or one of the days immediately following, Clear Channel said something like "we're bringing Glenn Beck to all our stations nationwide during this time of crisis."  I don't know that BC ever returned to the air on a regular basis, and it's been Glenn Beck every weekday morning since then.

Beck has been able to amass a huge audience in the years following of course. It's more than just an audience though. He now has disciples - folks who absorb what he has to say as truth, and are inspired to act on his agenda, which I'm not quite clear about. I'm not sure many of his followers are clear about it either.

On some points, I'm right with him:  less government, free markets, love for God and our fellow man. Sounds pretty conservative, and one would assume this makes me a staunch Republican, maybe even Tea Party.


Nor am I a "Big D" Democrat, even though I think an appropriate amount of government regulation is a good thing. If we're going to function as a society, we need some ground rules that we'll all abide by, and in particular our markets needs some boundaries that dampen out wild swings and prevent unhealthy monopolies from developing. Some parts of the Democratic Platform I agree wholeheartedly with - especially those dealing with social justice. Other things are way outside my morals and sensibilities, and I can't accept being labeled a Democrat if those values get attributed to me as well.

So I'm an independent, or as Ohio law defines me, "Unaffiliated." As I put on my Facebook profile, my political views are - well, you have to ask me about a specific topic.

Back to Common Core.

Glenn Beck seems to have taken the position that the Common Core is part of a left-wing conspiracy to indoctrinate our children with liberal values, much to the detriment of our republic. In fact, I think that's pretty much the words he uses. He believes its purpose is part of the long-view strategy of the Democrats and others to win the liberal struggle by bringing up a generation of kids who share their views.

That view is promulgated by the hard-core right, and the elimination of Common Core has become a key plank in the platform of many Republican and Tea Party candidates.

Here's my take.

If you want to have a discussion with me about the evils of the Common Core, the first thing I'm going to ask you is whether you've actually read significant elements of the Common Core standards, and compared it to the curriculum standards currently in place in your school district. If so, what differences do you see that concern you?  I'd happily engage in such a conversation, and would likely learn something in the process.

Or are you just reacting emotionally to the showmanship of folks like Glenn Beck?  I think Beck is a marketing genius. He's identified a genre of issues that matter to many Americans, and has been able to stir up a fair amount of fear and emotion around those issues, drawing people to listen to him - which is how he gets paid.

Yet, the greatest threat to our nation isn't all this political debate and stupid squabbling. Nor is it al-Qaeda and others who threaten us with physical harm.

It's the ignorance and apathy of the voter. I thank you for electing me to another term on your school board, but by the way, only 13% of the registered voters showed up in November. Only 7% of the 56,488 registered voters in our school district voted for me (just 8% for Andy and Lisa). So do my views align with the majority of the people in our community?  Who knows?

What fraction of the voters do you think have put any effort into the daunting task of understanding the Common Core? Or the Affordable Care Act, potentially one of the most impactful pieces of legislation written in the past fifty years?  Heck, most of Congress doesn't understand the ACA. I expect that not a single member of Congress has read the whole thing. Nor has the President.

Neither have I.  I just want to know what it means to me: Can I get cheaper coverage? (No)   Is this program going to cost me a bundle in taxes so others get benefit? (Probably).  Is the country better or worse off because of it?  Note that this is my third question. Me first, country second.  Such is the way things are going in America.

We can get specific information to answer the first question, and I did so. I finally made a successful pass through and got quotes for coverage. I compared it to my current arrangement, and found that I'm better off where I am. Nice data-driven, objective decision.

The other two questions are trickier. Even if I read and fully understand the thousand or more pages of the Act, I still wouldn't necessarily be able to predict all the economic and political consequences, mainly because I don't understand the motivations of all the lobbyists who actually write much of the legislation these days. So like every other American, I'll form my opinions based on what I read in the press and hear on the radio and TV.

I'll listen to Glenn Beck on occasion and try to pick what makes sense out of the snake oil pitch. I'll listen to NPR as well, and even a little John Stewart.

By the way, did you hear that the Administration is thinking about using The Onion as a channel for reaching young folks about the ACA?  Isn't that interesting - that the most trusted news sources for the Millennials are those who overtly parody the news?

I'll turn to my Feedly feed, and read some mainstream news sources as well as blog articles which seem to be applicable, like the one by Petrilli which I reference at the beginning of this story. I'll attempt to synthesize all that and form an opinion.

Or maybe I'll just watch the Winter Olympics. When will it be warm enough to get the Harley out? It already is in Sochi...

Saturday, February 8, 2014

February 10, 2014 Meeting of the School Board

Please note that this meeting is being held at 6pm at the McVey Innovative Learning Center Annex.  The agenda is comprised of routine items, and I expect that the meeting will be brief. Note that Board meeting materials are now available on the district website.

I would like to bring to your attention that the Popular Annual Financial Report (PAFR) is now online and available for your reading pleasure. I've complemented Treasurer Brian Wilson and his team for producing a document which I think does a great job of explaining the major components of our economic structure. I encourage you to take a look at it, and invite your neighbors to do so as well.  There are hardcopies available from Mr. Wilson's office.