So, what’s the option to the Common Core standards? Is there another way? Of course there is. Rather than using standards to measure education, we should use principles. Principles are fundamental truths or propositions that serve as the foundation for systematic understanding. Unlike standards, principles describe the high end of quality and provide a measure of excellence to emulate. Principles engage the desire to do one’s best rather than to satisfy the least requirement.
Principles are to education as light is to plants. People aspire to principles, which makes principles essential to education. To educate is to lead into excellence, where the measure of excellence is always just out of reach. And it is important for it to remain just out of reach in order to inspire life-long growth and learning. Aiming at educational standards just cannot do this.
American education is in the condition its in because various groups have been imposing educational standards for many decades. It’s not just Common Core. Common Core is more of the same – on steroids. More of the wrong thing just won’t work! The truth is that our standards are succeeding as more and more students perform at the standards level, achieving the minimum requirements. People call for more teaching to the standards in order to reverse the trend, but teaching to the standards – any standards – will always aim at the low end of acceptability. Only by returning to principles as the best measure of education can this trend be reversed, which brings us to another problem.
The imposition of standards as a basis of measurement for educational success turns education into indoctrination. This is especially true of standards that are imposed from the top down. Standards that come from the top must be imposed upon students, and such imposition is the very definition of indoctrination. Regardless of the content of the standards, indoctrination is always opposed to true education. Education is not job training. Education is character development and growth in personal excellence and maturity. Education is not manufacturing.
Moving from standards to principles to measure educational success will not guarantee that every student will achieve at the same level. But it will insure that every student will not be encouraged to aim at the lowest common denominator and achieve the lowest acceptable standards. Reversing the trend involves doing something different, not more of the same. We need to let truth-based principles inspire and encourage students, rather than trying to legislate education through standards-based indoctrination.
Phillip A. Ross