When Chuck Todd interviewed South Carolina Senate candidate Lee Bright about Common Core, it quickly became clear the MSNBC host had no understanding of citizens’ criticisms of the program. His arguments clearly reflect the pro-Core talking points which are emerging in the face of increased scrutiny of the national education standards. The focus of the interview was not just Common Core, but also Monday’s “Don’t Send your Child to School” protest.
Todd’s most predictable point was insinuating that Lee Bright’s speaking at a protest rally while his own children were in class at their public schools was hypocritical. He also argued that a protest involving pulling children out of class for one day was detrimental to the children’s own education. Bright had never advocated that parents pull their children out of school, though he has been one of South Carolina’s most vocal CCS opponents.
Regarding the standards, themselves, Todd insisted that the program was an initiative which sprung from the states, and that the federal government had almost nothing to do with the program. That’s not true, though, as the initial push for the standards came from the National Governors Association, meaning that it was a centralized, national organization with relatively few people and no state-by-state legislative input. The Federal Government has played a crucial role in pushing CCS forward by bribing states to implement it with the chance of Race to the Top funding.
Todd also indicated that Common Core raises standards, though it has actually significantly lower them in the majority of states. Dr. Duke Pesta argues that Common Core creates “competent drones” instead of free thinkers. Students are voicing their concerns about the program’s lowered standards, potential politicization, and unconstitutionality.
Todd asked Bright if he thought there should be no federal baseline at all, at a time when the U.S. seems to be falling behind educationally, “especially in science.” When Bright said that a federal baseline would not help, Todd responded by asking “So you would be ok if one of the fifty states essentially said ‘Math is optional’?” The argument was, as Bright said, absurd, but it’s also ironic given the criticism that CCS math standards place little emphasis on finding the correct answer to problems. That is certainly not the way to make America competitive in math on the international level.
Instead of centralizing education in the way that many other state responsibilities have been unsuccessfully centralized, Lee Bright advocates adding competition to the education system. Todd argued that private schools are competition because people can choose to go to them instead of public schools, but Bright countered that it’s not true competition because those schools don’t receive government funding. Essentially parents have to pay for public schools regardless of where their children go to school, but they can choose to also pay for private schools with no government assistance. Many people cannot afford that.
States which have implemented this type of voucher system have actually raised their test scores. Thirteen states, plus Douglas County Colorado and the District of Columbia have implemented voucher systems, and those states and districts have gotten higher standardized test scores at a lower cost than other areas of the country. Even other countries, like Sweden, have successfully implemented voucher systems.
Chuck Todd seemed to intend his interview of Lee Bright to show that Bright was a hypocrite for sending his child to school while speaking at an anti-Common Core rally on a day some parents were choosing to keep their children out of school in protest of the program. To the contrary, it revealed the dishonesty of CCS supporters’ arguments in favor of the program. On Monday, Bright showed voters in South Carolina that he is willing to take on issues that families care about and has a voting record that matches his rhetoric.
It was obvious that Chuck Todd did not understand the issues centered around Common Core other than the talking points from his producer, but at least Todd has heard of the program. Bright’s opponent, Sen. Lindsey Graham never even heard of the Common Core program until he was asked about it in September.