John Stossel on Common Core

The University Main Building

Religion, morality, and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged. — Northwest Ordinance of 1787 inscribed on Angell Hall at the University of Michigan

In a column that appeared in the Elmira Star-Gazette today, January 4, 2014, John Stossel discusses common core standards which he dislikes.  It isn’t the standards themselves that Stossel decries as much as the idea of having national standards for education.  Instead, Stossel would let a thousand wildflowers bloom.

While pretending to discuss common core, Stossel mounts an attack on public education — “government schools.” Does calling public schools government schools make public education seem unwholesome? Stossel evidently hopes it does. Stossel writes:

  • It’s the government’s plan to bring the same standard to every government run school.
  • Central planning rarely works.
  • Having one plan makes it harder to experiment and figure out what works.
  • Having one inflexible model for education is so old fashioned.
  • Common core de-emphasizes correct answers by awarding kids points for reasoning, even when they don’t quite get there.
  • Vouchers, Education Savings Accounts and tax credits create competition and choice.

These statements reflect Stossel’s opinion that everything government touches goes bad, but he makes scant attempt to justify this opinion.  Finland, said to have superior schools, has a national plan for creating and maintaining a superior educational system that leaves no child behind.  The Finns have national standards. National standards are not necessarily inflexible, the idea that students should learn to reason isn’t bad, and the idea that private schools meet the needs of all Americans when public schools don’t and can’t is unsupported. Stossels article reflects his libertarian political prejudices more than a commitment to education.

Supposing our system of public education were replaced with private schools, would we then have conservative and liberal schools, platinum schools for the well-to-do and economical schools for others, schools that teach the Bible and schools that teach Al Quran all at public expense?  Would private schools run for profit really be likely to offer a superior education?  Would not private schools need standards?

The Star-Gazette and other news outlets are full of the idea that private enterprise is necessarily superior to any public program, but this idea best serves the private interests that promote it. We should look carefully before discarding centuries old public education and local elected school boards long considered vital to democratic government.

© William Hungerford – January 2014

About whungerford

* Contributor at where we discuss the politics, economics, and events of the New New York 23rd Congressional District (Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Chemung, (Eastern) Ontario, Schuyler, Seneca, Steuben,Tioga, Tompkins, and Yates Counties) Please visit and comment on whatever strikes your fancy.
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3 Responses to John Stossel on Common Core

  1. Deb Meeker says:

    Stossel seems to be prolific writer, not that there’s anything wrong with that…I suppose we could consider his earlier years, in judging his critique of Common Core.
    “He grew up on Chicago’s affluent North Shore and graduated from New Trier High School.[12] Stossel characterizes his older brother, Tom, as “the superstar of the family”, commenting, “While I partied and played poker, he studied hard, got top grades, and went to Harvard Medical School.” Stossel characterizes himself as having been “an indifferent student” while in college, commenting, “I daydreamed through half my classes at Princeton, and applied to grad school only because I was ambitious, and grad school seemed like the right path for a 21-year-old who wanted to get ahead.” Although he had been accepted to the University of Chicago’s School of Hospital Management, Stossel was “sick of school” and thought taking a job would inspire him to embrace graduate studies with renewed vigor.[9]


  2. Robert says:

    One problem with his view that I find easy to point out, is the proclivity to throw out the old, without replacing it with something good, or even better.

    Why throw it out, instead of offering alternatives at the same time? At least that way, the minimum safety net still remains.


  3. whungerford says:

    Stossel, a libertarian, believes that the world is self-regulating — left alone everything will work out for the best. Thus he probably sees no need for a social safety net. Voltaire ridiculed this view in “Candide.”


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