Common Core vs. Common Knowledge

For those who are in – or, in my case, marginally associated with – the business of public education, it is easy to assume that others share your enthusiasm equally. We are constantly told that education is one of the nation’s top issues, we spend vast amounts of money on it, and we argue about it incessantly.

The delicious irony is that time and again we discover that the general public is paying virtually no attention to any of it. They are highly uneducated about education.

Poll after poll over the years have indicated that Americans don’t know how much we spend on education, don’t know what a charter school is, don’t know what teachers make, and now, don’t know what the Common Core State Standards are.

The Public Policy Institute of California surveyed public school parents on a variety of education topics and here’s what they learned about Common Core:

A year after the Common Core State Standards were implemented, 66 percent of public school parents have heard of them (43% a little, 23% a lot), while a third (32%) say they have heard nothing at all. White public school parents are nearly three times as likely as Latinos to say they have heard a lot (38% vs. 13%).

A third of public school parents (34%) say their child’s school or district has provided them with information about the Common Core standards and that this information has been adequate. But 20 percent say they have received inadequate information, and the largest share of parents (42%) say they received no information about the standards.

That’s not much of an improvement over the results of a similar nationwide survey in February 2014.

None of this tells us anything about whether Common Core is good or bad. What it says is that the policy battle doesn’t include positions taken by “parents” or “the public.” It is a contest between competing groups of people who “know,” trying to win the support – or at least the neutrality – of people who “don’t know.” The debate over Common Core is a debate between education aristocrats.