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Teach this, not that

The school reform movement makes for some strange bedfellows but it also puts those bedfellows at odds, on occasion.

One of those is debate over the common core standards. The topic this week pitted voices most sympathetic to Indiana's radical school changes against the chief architects of the changes. Sen. Scott Schneider, R-Indianapolis, lost the first round in his battle to withdraw Indiana from the common-core movement. He claims he's opposed because the proposed national standards are lower than Indiana's standards, but Schneider's protests more likely represent the views of the conservative, free-market forces opposed to a national curriculum and national testing.

State Superintendent Tony Bennett is on the other side of the debate this time around. At the closed-door ALEC meetings last month in Phoenix, he said he spent hours defending the common core standards, which 46 states have now adopted. An Education Week report confirms his role.

Common-core opponents include groups like the Home School Legal Defense Association, which argues that a national curriculum would strip away local control and put pressure on homeschooled and private-school students to follow the same curriculum and take the same tests as public school students.

Robert Enlow, the Foundation for Educational Choice leader who partnered with Bennett to push school vouchers through the General Assembly last year, is another opponent of common core standards. While the private-school and forces want public tax dollars, they don't want to be subjected to the same standards and tests, of course.

Schneider, by the way, might have a problem with common core standards, but he's eager to push bad science on Indiana students. He's a co-sponsor of Sen. Dennis Kruse's creationism bill.

There's nothing amusing about the ongoing attack on public education, but at least you can laugh at the awkward positions in which its perpetrators are increasingly placing themselves.

Karen Francisco, editorial page editor for The Journal Gazette, has been an Indiana journalist since 1981. She writes frequently about education for The Journal Gazette opinion pages and here, where she looks at the business, politics and science of learning as it relates to northeast Indiana, the state and the nation. She can be reached at 260-461-8206 or by e-mail at