Modern conservatism comes in two distinct architectural styles. The first seeks to build from scratch, using accurate ideological levels and plumb lines, so every wall is straight and every corner squared. The goal of politics is to apply abstract principles in their purest form. But there is another type of conservatism, often practiced at the state level, which attempts to build out of flawed, existing materials, resulting in some odd angles and incongruous additions. These conservative reformers assemble unexpected alliances, accept reasonable compromises and welcome incremental progress.
This contrast is increasingly evident in the debate over the Common Core State Standards. To ideological conservatives, it is the “Obamacore”; an “unprecedented federal intervention into education”; a “threat to the American tradition of individual liberty and limited government.” According to a recent resolution passed by the Republican National Committee, the Common Core is “a nationwide straightjacket on academic freedom and achievement.”
This is mostly a projection of baseless political fears. The Common Core standards are actually an attempt by governors — including many conservative, Republican governors — to set some coherent standards on what children should know about math and English by various grade levels. It emphasizes analytic reasoning and the interpretation of “informational texts,” including historical documents such as the Constitution and the Gettysburg Address.