Thompson: The Common Core & The US Railway System
Robert Rotham's "Transcontinental Education" in the Washington Monthly's special issue on the new wave of reforms, reached back to the 1860s for a metaphorical explanation of the potential of new Standards to accomplish what the equally good, old Standards failed to do. He claimed that setting a standard guage for railroad tracks "led to an explosion of railroad building." Rothman thus presented a history of the American West that left out steel, coal, political corruption, the Indian Wars and, yes, the workers who built the railroads. Rothman devoted far fewer words to educational issues than he did the railroads, so it is hard to know what he meant with his brief reference to schools, "By setting common expectations, states have made it possible for students everywhere to graduate from high school similarly prepared for post-secondary education and work." In other words, set a guage for measuring educational attainment and, magically, student achievement will take off. Gosh, I thought that improved teaching and learning might also be necessary. By the way, the federal government that set the common guage also subsidized the building of the railroads without regulating them. The result was the Indian Wars and an environmental catastrophe. Common Core could also backfire, but Rothman was silent about ways to prevent the unintended damage that his technological fix could unleash.- JT (@drjohnthompson) image via.