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Political Grandstanding

Posted on April 28, 2015 at 6:45 PM

The other day, Delegate Mike Folk, representing District 63 for West Virginia, made a smallish splash in the world, when he "filed a brief" with the Berkeley County Circuit Court denouncing the constitutionality of Common Core State Standards, or as it is more commonly known, Common Core.  Being a lawyer, I guess I should know what it means to "file a brief", but I'm not really sure what Mr. Folk has done in this instance.  I've heard of filing briefs for and against a position, but those are briefs filed by the litigants in an active case.  I've heard of filing an amicus brief, for or against a position, but those again are filed in connection with ongoing litigation.  I've never heard of someone simply filing a brief before; perhaps something was lost in the translation.  In the legal biz we might call such an unattended document a "fugitive pleading" and move to strike it from the record, but that is a topic for another day.

So, confused, as I am sometimes, I decided to do a little research.  I found that Mr. Folk objects to Common Core because it is 1) a waste of educational resources, 2) takes money from our school system, 3) represents an impermissible, and unconsitutional power grab by the Federal Department of Education, and 4) allows the Federal Government to illegally collect data about children.  I was marginally impressed.  I'm not a great big fan of Common Core because I think that standardized testing is an overused crutch in this country.  Overworked, underpaid teachers with a huge standardized test looming will abandon their life changing lesson plans, and simply 'teach to the test.'  I note that Finland, possibly the world's most successful school system in terms of outcome, does not engage in a great deal of testing.  While eschewing testing, the Finns do believe in 1)  intrinsic motivation, 2)  academic rigor, and 3) absolute reverence for teachers and their accomplishments.  

As I said, I was marginally impressed with Mr. Folk's stated reasons for challenging Common Core, but then I thought a little bit more, and did a bit more research.  I found that Common Core actually would pump money into our school system in terms of Federal dollars, and it is not a waste of educational resources in that it requires a student to learn a great deal about many required subjects, and to develop critical thinking skills.  As far as Common Core being violative of the Constitution, specifically the 10th Amendment to the Constitution, you know the one that says that all powers not specifically delegated to the Federal Government remain with the states, eh...I guess you could make the argument without laughing, but you could also claim that Common Core does not establish a curriculum, which is forbidden, but rather only suggests fairly rigorous national standards of achievement.  Finally, I was completely disinterested in Mr. Folk's tin foil hat suggestion that Common Core would trample parental rights, and allow "children to be harassed in our schools, all so the Federal Government can track and log information about our children from the cradle to the grave."  Give me a break, unless you intend to take your children and go live completely off the grid, the Federal Government is going to know something about them by the time they are old enough to collect social security, at which point, they will be pretty happy that Uncle Sugar remembered them.

All that having been said, like I said, I am not a great big fan of Common Core.  I am a fan of better teacher pay, more rigorous standards in the classroom, and a cultural shift in America where being the smartest kid in the room is a goal to be attained.  If you're still with me, you've probably discerned that while Mr. Folk and I are marginally on the same page as regards Common Core, I have a sort of "snarky" attitude towards Mr. Folk and his smallish splash.  His 'brief' which he suggests sprang from his own intellect, and desire to help the children, is actually part of a nationwide effort by like minded groups to push back against Common Core.  I suspect the brief is a cut and paste job lifted from a group such as CT Against Common Core (Connecticut Against Common Core).  There has been no independent thought about this matter by Mr. Folk, he has simply glommed on to a convenient  whipping boy; he has not suddenly turned himself into a constitutional scholar, rather he is just mouthing phrases that he scarcely understands.  To do this, Mr. Folk has used one of the most useful tools available to everyday Americans seeking redress for wrongs:  the judicial system.  The problem with this, and what grinds my bolts, is that Mr. Folk, and CALA (citizens against lawsuit abuse), who supported him in the last election cycle, are opposed to filing "frivolous lawsuits", and clogging up our judical system with unnecessary lawsuits.  What is this present brief, but unnecessary?  Common Core will either suceed or fail based upon more intellectually honest arguments than those made by Mr. Folk in his cookie cutter brief.  Rather than scouring the internet for laws already written for you by ALEC, or briefs already filed in other states, why not figure out a way to pay our teachers more, Mr. Folk? 

Categories: Odd musings

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