Common Core Standards Inspire Debate

Mar 7, 2013

Educational standards used in South Dakota since 2010 are causing alarm for a state representative and other opponents. Jim Bolin has attacked the Common Core State Standards Initiative in the legislature for a couple of years and says he plans to do so again next year. But educators say the standards prepare South Dakota students for college and for careers in a global economy.

This children’s song, “Earthlings Unite,” is offensive to one of the commenters responding to a blog about Common Core Standards. She refers to this song and another one about global warming as “Agenda 21 mind-control blathering.”

Those same fears creep into a South Dakota committee hearing in the form of testimony from Steve Sibson of Mitchell: “UNESCO is in charge of implementing Agenda 21, and that is being done through the curriculum.”

Sibson tells the state Senate Education Committee it should pass House Bill 1204. That bill requires any expansion of Common Core Standards to be vetted by the citizen-elected legislature rather than the nine-member state Board of Education appointed by the Governor with the consent of the Senate.

“What do you do with an appointed board? How do you get rid of those members as citizens? So it’s important that we make the policy in this body, if you want to respect the separation of powers upon which this country was founded,” Sibson says.

Sibson has testified against these standards before, he says, in part because they impose international standards on schools and students and interfere with religious freedom.

Representative Jim Bolin sponsored the bill to stop the standards from applying to subjects other than math and language arts, as they do now. In an interview after the hearing, he says other Common Core opponents fear that the standards impose views on issues such as evolution, climate change, and the role of religion in the founding of the country. But he says his primary objection is that schools follow a national standard rather than developing their own at the district level.

“The effort to sometimes what I’ve called homogenize schools and standards in the country, I believe potentially is a very dangerous thing. And I know we hear talk about global competition and all of these things,” Bolin says.

The representative says the standards, developed by national educators and supported by the National Governors Association, aren’t responsive to local sensibilities.

“And I don’t think that a process which has come from to one degree or another from outside our state, either from the federal government or from the National Governors Association, really should be used to impact schools here in South Dakota,” Bolin says.

Another proponent has come from Washington, D.C., to testify against Common Core Standards.

“Rather than state-led, they are nationalized standards that lead each and every time to mandates, mandates, and mediocrity,” says Chuck Laudner of the American Principles.

“These education models have never been tried before,” Laudner says. “No state, no district, no single classroom, not even a Petri dish has tried these models. The standards are not internationally benchmarked as they were promised and originally advertised.”