Almost every article and column written about the nascent GOP presidential campaign mentions Tea Party opposition to immigration reform and the Common Core—and most candidates’ efforts to align themselves with the Republican base on these two issues. (A Google News search turns up more than 11,000 hits for “Common Core” and “immigration” and “Republican.”)
When it comes to immigration reform, it’s easy to understand what the hard-right candidates oppose: any form of amnesty for people who entered the country illegally.
But what does it mean when Ted Cruz, or Rand Paul, or Bobby Jindal says he “opposes” the Common Core? Reporters* might ask them:
- Do you mean that you oppose the Common Core standards themselves? All of them? Even the ones related to addition and subtraction? Phonics? Studying the nation’s founding documents? Or just some of them? Which ones, in particular, do you oppose? Have you actually read the standards?
- Or do you mean that you oppose the role that the federal government played in coercing states to adopt the Common Core? Fair enough, but don’t you share that exact same position with every Republican in Congress and every other Republican running for president, including Jeb Bush?
- Do you mean that you think states should drop out of the Common Core? States like Iowa? Isn’t that a bit presumptive, considering that you’re not from Iowa and the state’s Republican governor wants Common Core to stay?
- If you do think that states should reject the Common Core, which standards should replace them? Do they need to be entirely different, or just a little bit different? And could you cite a specific example of a standard that needs to be “different?”
- Or do you mean that you oppose the way Common Core has been implemented? If so, everywhere, or just in some states? Or just in some schools? You are running for president; do you think the president of the United States has a role in fixing Common Core implementation?
- Do you mean you oppose any standards in education that cross state lines? Several years ago, the governors came to an agreement about a common way to measure high school graduation rates. Do you oppose that, too?
- Or do you mean that you oppose any standards, even those set at the state level? Since states have the constitutional responsibility to provide a sound education, don’t you think they should be clear about what they expect students to know and be able to do in the basic subjects?
- Or do you mean that you oppose standards that aim to get young people ready for college or a good-paying career? Do you think that’s too high a standard? What standard would you prefer?
- Tell us again: Why do you oppose the Common Core?
* These are good questions to ask Republican senators, too, who will almost surely rail against the Common Core when the Elementary and Secondary Education act comes to the Senate floor later this year.