The Iowa Legislature enacted (during this election year) the Iowa Department of Education’s “Iowa Core Curriculum.” It initially affects Jr. High and High School curriculums with Elementary curriculums coming on board in two-four years. (Doesn’t this seem backward?)
Proponents claim the Core Curriculum is necessary to comply with “No Child Left Behind” (NCLB) but Iowa is only one of a few states to go the route of a curriculum instead of “standards.” To confuse the issue, educrats in state government insist the curriculum includes standards. A cursory overview of other states’ plans to comply with NCLB, however, shows that specific state-mandated curriculum items are not only unnecessary but counter to current trends to support local control and increasingly empower teachers.
Deborah Thornton recently wrote an opinion piece for the Iowa City Press Citizen – “Core curriculum? It’s more like Gore curriculum.” She correctly points out that the Iowa Core Curriculum’s pushing of specific books and movies such as “An Inconvenient Truth” (follow the link and see page 60 of this PDF) is a disconcerting development that deserves a watchful eye.
In addition to blatant bias on controversial issues, the Core Curriculum emphasizes “taking a position” and “debating” about issues without putting any focus on the fundamentals of the subject. It reduces the need for students to “memorize vocabulary or formulas.” What gives your “feelings,” “position,” or arguments on a subject any credibility if you are not well-versed in the basic facts and concepts, let alone the vocabulary with which to effectively make your point?
The Core Curriculum is mandating mediocrity by moving toward the teaching of kids to “feel” their way through life instead of informing themselves and understanding the current set of facts before coming to their own position. Does this sound like the best way to reach the stated goal of “increasing rigor and relevance?” This is not good preparation for post-secondary education or life in the workplace – which is why you’re not seeing colleges or universities publicly praising the Core Curriculum (am I missing any?).
Even more disconcerting is that the Dept. of Education has effectively created the perfect vehicle to drive any number of social agendas right into Iowa’s school classrooms by simply attaching or incorporating these agendas directly into the mandatory Iowa Core Curriculum. What’s next? A Planned Parenthood-penned comprehensive sex ed curriculum? GLBT sensitivity training? More ethno-centric history curricula or maybe one that denigrates American patriotism? Politically biased assignments?
It’s still a question whether discerning teachers will be able to bypass these agenda-driven exercises in the core curriculum or be forced by their administrators or the Department to teach the curriculum verbatim. Department officials have contradicted themselves on the issue making it unclear. And many teachers who may be unscrupulous, have no opinion, or who don’t want to rock the boat may take these forthcoming agendas embedded in the Core Curriculum and pass them right on to our state’s impressionable students because it is the path of least resistance. Pray for our teachers. That they are diligent and compassionate to their students by teaching truth and that they rise above the mediocrity coming from state mandates. I’m hopeful they will test the prevailing winds of educational methodology and fight for what’s right for their students.
To Sum Up:
1. The Core Curriculum was not required to comply with NCLB. State education “standards” (already adopted by all but a few sates) were all that were required.
2. Iowa used to be the best in education. We had nothing but local control when we were. Local control itself is not the problem.
3. The decline in Iowa’s education system correlates very closely with the increasing amount of encroachment by the state Department of Education.
4. Iowa’s school administrators need to motivate and encourage their teachers while supporting increased classroom discipline. Too often they have chosen the path of least resistance and abdicated their responsibility to “experts” at the state level or the Legislature.
Iowa’s private schools need to wake up and push back against a state government hellbent on controlling their classrooms. Homeschoolers need to jump on the School Choice bandwagon to help create a culture in Iowa (and beyond) of parental rights and choice in education. And public schools need to demand a return to local control with administrators willing to do what’s right – even when the state isn’t on board.
Much of this is a reaction to the fact that schools are hamstrung by disengaged parents, undisciplined children, and a culture that expects schools to be everything for their students. We have a choice: abdicate our responsibilities as parents to an inefficient, agenda-driven government school system or create an environment of educational choice that requires parents to re-engage in the raising and educating of their children. I pray more Americans choose the latter.
Eric has more than sixteen years’ experience in state government and nonprofit organizations including the roles of Development Director at Iowa Christian Academy and Des Moines radio station Q99.5 KZZQ/Pulse 99.5. Eric has also worked in Governor Terry Branstad’s office during his fourth term and in the Division of Criminal Investigation. Eric ran for Iowa State House in 2004.Eric serves as a Curriculum Committee Member at the Greater Des Moines Leadership Institute, is President of Iowa Advocates for Choice in Education, and is Chair of the Iowa Educational Opportunities PAC. He is a thinker, hunter, hiker, backpacker, movie watcher, traveler, soccer-lover/player, and music fanatic with a predilection for theatre and art; especially photography. His two children keep him and his wife very busy and very grateful.
Eric also can be found on Twitter.
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