On Common Core, Bobby Jindal Leads

The following is adapted from APP Chairman Sean Fieler’s introduction of Gov. Bobby Jindal at the American Principles Project gala on Feb. 5 in Washington D.C.

To the parents from all over the country, from Maryland, New York, Ohio, Louisiana and Indiana that have joined us here today:  you are the reason that we are winning.  And, not just winning, but winning on principle.

And not just any principle, but the principle of human dignity.

For we understand what America’s founders so clearly understood: that we are endowed with rights and dignity not from the state but from our Creator.  If only and only if, we get this foundational principle right will we have a state that serves the people and not the other way around.

From education that respects parents’ role in the instruction of their children, to immigration policy that treats Latino immigrants the way we would want the American immigrants in our own families to have been treated, to honest money that empowers the American people and not just the American government – this one principle underlies all of our APP efforts.

When it comes to education policy, our insistence on the human person as the end of a just society rather than just a means of achieving an elite vision of progress is engendering an outpouring of support from the American people.  Our vision resonates with an American people eager to elevate, not debase, our political debate.

For a healthy desire to shape the next generation, when unduly concentrated in the hands of policy makers, can become something very undesirable.  The central planning of education transforms the impulse to educate one’s own children into a desire to remake, to perfect, society; to impose on the young what we could never impose on our fellow adults.

So, teaching civics is good.  But teaching civics with the intent of creating docile subjects is bad.  Teaching American history is good.  But teaching that American history is fundamentally about oppression is bad. Teaching about the family as the elemental institution of society is good.  But using the school system to redefine the family for other people’s children is bad.

The proponents of the Common Core are captive to a vision of a prosperous America that can compete globally, a good thing. But, to the extent that this vision is fundamentally about training the workforce to serve corporate interests, it is not so great.  In fact, that’s demeaning.  It is demeaning to reduce students to a cog in a giant economic machine.

For  education is more than that.  Education is also about truth, or if you’re a skeptic, at least the search for the truth.  And education is certainly also about discernment of a calling.

Together, these elements of education free people to think for themselves and to support themselves, and discern their ultimate purpose.

Some countries, think France, have no reservations about a national education policy that sorts and tracks people based on testing and assigns them careers.  It’s so logical.  It’s so Cartesian.  And, it’s so French and so not American.

But, the proponents of the Common Core seem blind to the idea this French-style planning of America’s work force could be bad.   They don’t see how the distributed decision-making of parents and children could be smarter than a panel of experts.

For, parents will actually never tell you that the reason they are educating their child is that they want America to compete with Korea.  Or, that they want to boost GDP.

Instead, parents will always frame education in the sense of what is best for their child – this is simply a point on which parents will not compromise.

Which brings me to the dirty little secret about the Common Core: it is full of compromises that no parent will ever make.  So full, that for many states in many subjects it does not raise standards.

Such a bad compromise can be rationalized when you think you are serving a higher purpose.  But, when the person is the higher purpose, you can’t make such compromises.

Which brings us back to the parent, who sees in their child a person, not a public policy.  And from the parents’ perspective, educating the child is not done in the service of a great purpose; instead educating that child is the great purpose.

For this reason, education policy is at its best when it empowers parents and communities.  They will decide what is best.  That’s why we oppose the federalization of education in particular.

And the American people agree with this intuitively.

Just look at the political history of the Common Core.  The proponents had the corporations, they had the states, they had the federal government, they had Bill Gates’ money; but we had the American people.

But we didn’t just have the American people; we had the moms.   And, well, moms are a powerful force.

So, we partnered.  We empowered.  This is what APP’s education director Emmett McGroarty does best, empowering others.  That’s what APP does best.  We empower parents to do this and to make decisions.

I am so proud to introduce Gov. Bobby Jindal. For in the words of Emmett McGroarty, Gov. Jindal is the single best sitting governor on the issue of Common Core we have.

He met with concerned moms; he didn’t belittle or ignore them. He endorsed legislation to pull Louisiana out of the Common Core. When it didn’t pass, he issued an executive order pulling his state out of the Common Core. When he was sued, he in turn sued the federal government, arguing that the Federal government had coerced the state of Louisiana  into the Common Core.  By any measure, Gov. Jindal has distinguished himself as a true leader on the Common Core battle.  In short, in Governor Jindal we have the rare politician that gets the big picture. And he gets nuance. And he gets people.

Sean Fieler is the Chairman of the Board of the American Principles Project.