The Ventriloquist

An online publication at and outside the boundary of evangelical Christianity.



September 2013

Common Core

by Grant Miller, on Education, September 2013

Do you want to know why conservatives are so opposed to Common Core State Standards in education?

It is because many conservatives oppose postmodernism.

By definition, conservatives value what they see as unbending, immutable “truths” as underscored by the “self-evident truths” in the Constitution & the “inerrant, infallible” truths of the Christian scriptures. (It is not, mind you, that progressives discount the Constitution or that many progressives do not also value the wisdom contained in Christian scripture. It is, instead, how conservatives tend to wield these sources that set them apart from their progressive counterparts.)

Set against this backdrop, education research is currently focused on two areas: critical action research & practical action research.

“Critical action research,” according to Geoffrey E. Mills, “challenges the taken-for-granted assumptions of daily classroom life and presents truths that are relative, conditional, situational, and based on previous experience.” “Practical action research,” on the other hand, “places more emphasis on the ‘how-to’ approach…and has a less ‘philosophical’ bent.”

The Common Core State Standards focus heavily on accurate, skillful, well-rounded problem-solving abilities that encourage students to explain their answers through reasoning, citation of procedures or the text, and collaborative conversations that enhance the overall body of knowledge drawn upon by students in the learning environment.

The Common Core website states:

The standards are designed to be robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers. With American students fully prepared for the future, our communities will be best positioned to compete successfully in the global economy.

In effect, we are training our students to think critically about the world around them and ask deep questions about the validity and accuracy of claims presented to them.

The alarm-raising code word to foment conservative opposition is, most likely, ”critical thinking.”

Our current understanding of the meaning of “critical thinking” is closely tied to postmodern concepts that humans have the power to question “truth,” come to new understandings of reality, and interpret perspectives in situational ways. Of course, this flies in the face of the belief, popularized by mainstream Protestant influence, that truth is extant & non-malleable.

The great secret then, is that conservative power is eroding due to the fact that postmodernity and pragmatic relativism are de jure in today’s American culture. To combat this trend, conservatives are doubling down on their absolute view of the world with the full belief that a binary belief system of “always right” vs. “always wrong” will win out in the “culture wars” and that the tenants of conservative ideology will remain powerful because of their reliance on absolute morality and absolute, unwavering truth.

In conclusion, conservatives oppose Common Core because it seeks to foster robust “critical thinking” within the minds of the next generations of Americans. When critical thinking is commonplace (which, I submit, is not currently so), conservative authority will be diminished greatly, and the power of conservative evangelicalism will falter as a consequence.
The conversation is shifting and conservatives sense it. Prepare for a full-scale attack on “ObamaCore” and a continued rejection of Common Core by many conservative states. Prepare for the debate to shift towards the secularization of our society and either a lament by the Right or a revival of Moral Majority proportions.

Either way, the philosophical implications of this cultural shift run much deeper than the media is willing to admit and unless progressives work to clearly define our 21st century movement, we stand to lose immensely.