In Oklahoma, Common Core advocates have lost a battle with the state legislature as the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled that the legislature was in its rights when it repealed CC standards in English and math. A parent who attended the hearings with her two daughters described Common Core as “cognitive abuse.” Robert McCampbell, an attorney representing pro-CC groups stated, “Supervision of instruction is vested in the Board of Education.” He had argued that the repeal of CC standards in the state was an unconstitutional extension of the legislature’s powers.

Once again, the debate over Common Core seems to divide between two approaches to arguing the issue: Who should decide educational standards versus what those standards should be. Process and substance yield very different criticisms: Education standards should be handled at the local and state level. Or, Common Core standards are too demanding. One can argue that by having standards set locally, they will more likely be of an appropriate level for students. Unfortunately, that runs up against the requirements of the modern workplace, where employers insist they need students graduating with better math and communication skills than is currently the case. As well, CC standards seem to have included other goals like diversity, complicating the issue even further.

How much should the country worry about achieving levels of math skills that exist in Japan or China or South Korea for example? Ask how many crucial innovations that have revolutionized the workplace have come from the US. Or more importantly (the answer is a lot) are those innovations still coming at a healthy rate? Norm Augustine, former Lockheed Martin chairman, is worried. In a Forbes article written a couple of years ago he points an accusing finger at secondary math teachers. After retiring from Lockheed Martin he was unable to qualify for a job teaching 8th grade kids math. Instead he taught a highly rated course at Princeton. He points out that since 2009, more than half the patents granted in the country go to foreign corporations. He also calls for improved math and science education for K – 12th grade. See the problem? The same big shot calling for improved education was rejected by education bureaucrats for a position where he would have performed wonderfully in all likelihood. Might the problem with Common Core be the very departments of education that CC advocates insist should design and implement any new standards? Unfortunately for that Oklahoma parent, her kids will have to learn more science and math than she did if innovation is to continue to be a backbone of the economy. Fortunately, local state officials and local groups may get more of a say in how that gets done.

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