[Ed. – Pay wall]
As the former Secretary of Education for President Ronald Reagan, I have been following the national debate over Common Core standards. The debate is getting hotter, but not always clearer. It’s time to get clarity on some things that have been badly and sometimes mischievously muddled.
Let’s begin with the ideas and principles behind the Common Core. These educational principles have been debated and refined over decades. First, we can all agree that there is a need for common standards of assessment in K-12 education. And we can all agree that there are common and shared truths in English, literature and math. Think of “We hold these truths to be self evident” as emblematic.
Nearly all Americans agree that to prepare a child for civic responsibility and competition in the modern economy, he or she must be able to read and distill complex sentences, and must be equipped with basic mathematical skills.
When I was chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities in the 1980s, I asked 250 people across the political spectrum what 10 books every student should be familiar with by the time they finish high school. Almost every person agreed on five vital sources: the Bible, Shakespeare, America’s founding documents, the great American novel “Huckleberry Finn ” and classical works of mythology and poetry, like the Iliad and the Odyssey.