Should conservatives embrace the Common Core? As we’ve seen [check out ILYBYGTH coverage here, here, or here, for instance], conservative intellectuals have disagreed about the new standards. New York gubernatorial hopeful and staunch conservative Rob Astorino offered a stinging attack on the new standards last week. His analysis of the good and the bad might give us some insight into the ways conservatives view these new standards. Indeed, Astorino’s comments might offer insight into conservative attitudes about education as a whole.
Astorino is leading the conservative charge against sitting New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. Astorino, a County executive from affluent Westchester County, just north of New York City, has pledged to take the Great State of New York in a more conservative direction. As part of that campaign, Astorino issued a blistering attack on the Common Core Standards.
Flanked not only by the US flag, the New York flag, and a copy of the US Constitution, but also by a few cheerful children’s drawings, Astorino blasted the CCSS as an “untested experiment” that would lead America in dangerous directions. Indeed, Astorino repeated the word “experiment” or “experimental” a total of four times in the four-minute announcement. He also repeated the phrase “Andrew Cuomo’s Common Core exam” four times. Clearly, Mr. Astorino hopes to label the CCSS as both experimental and part of Governor Cuomo’s program.
Most compelling, Astorino announced last week that his own children will be opting out of the exams. The Opt-Out movement has attracted support from all across the political and ideological spectrum.
For Astorino, opting out is the right choice for conservatives. Why? He offered a laundry list of problems with the standards and with the associated exams.
First, with common standards and exams, Astorino warned, local schools will become “centralized organs of the Federal government.”
Second, these exams and standards will raise property taxes “through the roof.”
Third, these exams are not tested, but are simply the misbegotten brainchildren of people such as Bill Gates. According to Astorino, the exams came from the same political greenhorns who cobbled together the disastrous “Obamacare.” Worst of all, Astorino asserts, these standards and exams represent just the latest effort by distant educational elites to exert their unwanted and poorly conceived influence over all the nation’s schools. As he put it, “We’re risking our children’s futures for a few scraps from Washington.”
As I argue in my upcoming book about conservatism and American education, the notion that a scheming group of educational usurpers has taken—or is taking—control of our nation’s schools has a long and potent history. Astorino appeals to this tradition by taking a firm stand on what he calls this “expensive, experimental, Federal curriculum.”
So what’s a conservative to do? According to presumptive GOP gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino, conservative parents should run for the hills.