Back in 1966, when things were starting to go bad in Vietnam, Vermont Sen. George Aiken famously suggested the U.S. should “declare victory” and get out. Did Indiana Gov. Mike Pence just pull an Aiken on the Common Core State Standards?
For a conservative politician with alleged presidential ambitions – i.e., for Mike Pence – the Common Core had the makings of a quagmire. The business community was for it. But to the Republican base, it was anathema, tainted by support from the White House.
Pence’s answer was to declare victory and move on, to reject the Core on principle but embrace standards that, by some accounts, are awfully similar. The State Board of Education approved the new standards Monday..
Indiana adopted the Common Core in 2010, and schools were transitioning to using them. But state legislators caught the anti-Core fever. First they “paused” the standards, and then they repealed them.
Pence got in front of the parade, calling for “uncommonly high” standards “written by Hoosiers, for Hoosiers.” And in the Indy Star, he insisted that’s what he got from a panel of teachers, professors and business people who worked from the Common Core and Indiana’s old standards to create a new set.
“Here in Indiana,” he wrote, “we will use our own standards, we will use our own assessment, and our schools and teachers will choose their own textbooks and curricula. We have proven once again that Hoosiers are best served by Indiana solutions.”
Diehard Common Core opponents fumed that the new state standards are just the Core rebranded. “I’m here to tell you I’ve lost faith,” Hoosiers Against Common Core founder and leader Heather Crossin told the state board, according to Chalkbeat Indiana.
But will crossing the base come back to haunt Pence? Not likely. For all the #corespiracy talk in the Twitterverse, the contingent that cares deeply is probably not that big. Some on the left oppose Common Core; but they weren’t going to support Pence anyway.
The Education Roundtable and Board of Education voted overwhelmingly for the new standards, providing Pence with political cover. Democratic Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz is firmly on board. There’s the matter of the cost for creating tests and training teachers in the standards. But we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.
Supporters say the new standards are better than the old Indiana standards and better than Common Core, and maybe they are. But as with Vietnam, war weariness had set in.
Behind the rhetoric, you sense supporters are actually saying: Let’s put this fight behind us and get on with teaching Indiana’s students.