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Speaking Back to the Common Core
by Thomas Newkirk
The Common Core initiative is a triumph of branding. The standards are portrayed as so consensual, so uni- versally endorsed, so thoroughly researched and vetted, so self-evidently necessary to economic progress, so broadly representative of beliefs in the educational community—that they cease to be even debatable. They are held in common; they penetrate to the core of our educational aspirations, uniting even those who might usually disagree. We can be freed from noisy disagreement, and should get on with the work of reform.
This deft rollout may account for the absence of vigorous debate about the Common Core State Standards. If they represent a common core—a center—critics are by definition on the fringe or margins, whiners and com- plainers obstructing progress. And given the fact that states have already adopted them—before they were com- pletely formulated—what is the point in opposition? We should get on with the task of implementation, and, of course, alignment.
But as the great rhetorician Kenneth Burke continually reminds us, all arguments are from a debatable per- spective—there is no all-encompassing position, no argument from everywhere. The arguments that hide their controversial edges, their perspective, are the most suspect.“When in Rome act as the Greeks”(1931/1968, 119), he advises us. So in that spirit I would like to raise a series of concerns.
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