For no current-affairs commentator do I have greater respect than Peggy Noonan, whose sagacity, common sense, plain-spokenness, and “big picture” view of things are as welcome—and rare—as the clarity and persuasiveness of her prose.
When it comes to the Common Core State Standards, however, she’s only about 60 percent right.
She’s right that the architects and promoters of these standards had—and have—the best of intentions, both with respect to millions of kids who now receive a mediocre-to-dismal education and to the long-term vitality and competitiveness of the nation itself.
She’s right that the “proponents’ overall objective—to get schools teaching more necessary and important things, and to encourage intellectual coherence in what is taught—is not bad, but good.”
She’s right that, as with every ambitious effort to reform every large, complex system in the history of the world, those proponents—I’m one of them—underestimated the implementation challenges.
She’s right that they—we—haven’t always been as thoughtful and respectful as we should regarding the concerns and convictions of parents and others on the ground. (She uses the word “patronizing” and that’s also right, at least in part.)
But she’s not right to offer absolutely no alternative—unless, of course, she’s content with American K–12 education the way it is, which I know she isn’t.
And she’s not right to fail to note that the Common Core would have been—at least at this point in time—a sort of ambitious pilot program involving a smallish number of states that were serious about the implementation challenges, until...