Incredulity, not docility

An inquiring mind, one that challenges authority, and has a mentoring relationship with teachers


A soft compliant mind.

The Common Core debate is important not simply because of the standards’ immediate effects on pupils, but because it offers us an opportunity to ask the biggest questions about our education system: What should be the guiding ethos of public education in a democratic society? What are we preparing students for, other than participation in economic life? And how should schooling be structured to reflect democratic values?

The short answers: Incredulity, not docility, is the trait to inculcate, along with a citizenry disposed to questioning received wisdom and orthodoxy and a less hierarchical teacher-student relationship. In each instance, the Common Core is an impediment.

Participation is a necessary component of freedom


Memorization of facts will make us dutiful.

From a democracy standpoint, there’s much to question here. First, the virtual omission of civic education, an area already treated as an afterthought in many public schools. The civic education we do have tends to be sanitized, fact-heavy regurgitation that casts democratic participation more as a duty than as a vehicle for emancipation.

Competition to prepare for the global economy



Finally, the Common Core seeks to foster competition among students and countries. Beat the Chinese, it subtly implores. There’s no place for collaboration under global capitalism. In short, the Common Core omits and constricts: It shunts to the side vitally important areas of inquiry in favor of more high-stakes testing.


Partisans of the Common Core like to crow that the standards will prepare students to “compete and lead in the global economy.” An emancipatory, democratic education, in contrast, pushes students to examine those very relations of work. It prioritizes the interrogation of received knowledge rather than simple acquisition. Capitalism, the structure which most shapes our existence, comes out into the open as a subject worthy of critical study. The mantra for this form of education could be cribbed from the old man himself: “a ruthless criticism of all that exists.”


Students can only develop into self-determining citizens — active agents, authors of history — if they can assess the merits of the present system of social, political, and economic relations. Is it just? Whose interests are served and who suffers? Are its institutions and mores in line with their values? Is tinkering or broad-based change necessary? This would be the new civic education, in which the order of presidential succession would take a backseat to discussions about the morality of capitalism.

Educating For The Status Quo by Shawn Gude


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