It wasn’t supposed to happen like this. The cream of America’s policy and education establishment came together with unprecedented swiftness to unify around the Common Core educational standards. It was expected that the American people — and elected officials — would follow suit.
Instead, Common Core has created yet another polarizing national battle, playing out on fronts spread across the country. In Louisiana, the latest squabble is typical of the chaos and division surrounding the program. There, Gov. Bobby Jindal went back on his early support for Common Core — but the state Board of Regents he appointed won’t follow his lead.
Common Core’s cadre of unelected faithful aren’t about to change their minds. But they’ve failed to make the case to the rest of us that their grand plans amount to more than a costly new form of top-down uniformity.
It’s a problem made crystal clear by the latest polling. A new Pew study reveals that even self-identified “business conservatives” oppose Common Core by more than 2-1.
According to Pew’s typology, business conservatives are exactly the kind of voter to whom Common Core was most forcefully pitched. They “share steadfast conservatives’ preference for limited government, but differ in their support for Wall Street and business, as well as immigration reform. And business conservatives are far more moderate on social issues than are steadfast conservatives.”
These were supposed to be Common Core’s own core, of slam-dunk political supporters. In a full-page New York Times ad that ran in February 2013, the sales pitch began in earnest: 73 “business leaders,” largely CEOs of major corporations and organizations, threw their unqualified support behind Common Core.
But even then, Common Core’s vanguard treated the standards with a strange mixture of kumbaya and arrogance. Common Core was simultaneously a bold new initiative deserving of American’s consideration and an inevitable process already being implemented by all but a handful of states.
That attitude never changed. America’s pro-business elites failed to realize that business conservatives still have a conservative attitude toward social engineering concocted and carried out by self-appointed policymakers.
Even more important, however, the elites made a more basic mistake: They took it for granted that Common Core’s advantages to American business were self-evident.
To be sure, pro-business Republicans oftentimes accept a greater government role in society if it means more profit. Common Core’s advocates were thinking rationally when they presumed that their target market would accept a bigger federal footprint in education if they believed it was good enough for business.
But the business elite didn’t convince them of that.
Overarching the whole Common Core controversy is a simple question: What kind of business is best for America? Is it big, corporate business — the kind that’s often overstaffed with Human Resources departments, cozy with Washington regulators, and distant from the power and promise of entrepreneurship?
Or, does America’s competitive future rest more with the self-employed, the small-business owners and the visionaries whose successful startups steer clear of cronyism and corruption? If so, it’s no surprise Common Core is a product that just won’t sell.
From the Orange County Register