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Bruno: Is There A "Conservative Case" for the CCSS?

2899995132_cefbbb468cThe road for the Common Core initiative has been especially rough recently, with both conservative and progressive opposition growing louder and political and logistical setbacks becoming more noticeable.

This is understandably worrying to CCSS supporters, including Chester Finn who argues that "conservatives ought to applaud" the Common Core initiative.

I'm not by any measure a conservative - so my perception may be skewed - but it's hard for me to see much in Finn's argument that conservatives per se should find compelling.

Central to his argument is the point that the CCSS are better than most existing state standards, and so most states would be better off adopting them.

What, exactly, is conservative about that line of thinking? Isn't the conservative position that variation between the states is a virtue (either in itself or because it allows for greater flexibility and innovation)?

Similarly, while Finn tries to reassure conservatives that CCSS adoption is "totally voluntary", he also admits in the very same breath that federal pressure "complicated" the decision-making process for states.

That admission of federal pressure, however, seems to me to concede the point to Finn's conservative critics. Isn't federal coercion of the states something conservatives are supposed to be deeply suspicious of?

And even if federal incentives consisted entirely of "carrots" - like money - isn't the conservative position that that isn't the proper role of the federal government?

My sense - and, again, I'm an outsider looking in - is that Finn doesn't realize that many conservatives take "conservatism" more seriously than he does.

My guess is that for Finn (and many of the other prominent conservatives he cites as CCSS supporters) conservative "principles" are more like useful guidelines that can be disregarded when the merits of abandoning them are sufficiently clear.

The conservatives he's trying to convince, however, take a stricter line. For them, the federal government is "overreaching" by incentivizing CCSS adoption and that's a deal-breaker.

Don't get me wrong: Finn offers lots of reasons to adopt the Common Core standards that somebody like me might find persuasive. The problem is that I'm a liberal so it's hard to see how those very same arguments could simultaneously persuade dyed-in-the-wool conservatives. - PB (@MrPABruno) (image source)


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