Why Common Core is the Wrong Solution for Public Education

“There is a proper way to educate and there is a proper way to govern, and they are both known. Today we do these things in a different way, which presents a serious and perhaps fatal problem for our country. But repair is possible.”

This is how Larry P. Arnn, the twelfth President of Hillsdale College, put it in his remarks titled “A Rebirth of Liberty and Learning.

President Arnn notes, “The word ‘education’ comes from a Latin word meaning ‘to lead forth.’ And if you think about it, ‘forth’ is a value-laden term. Which way is forth? The Bible tells us to ‘raise up a child in the way he should go.’ But which way should he go?”

President Arnn says, “”[I]f you ask a young person today which way is the right way to go, more often than not he or she will answer: ‘It depends on which way you want to go.’ Young people today give that answer because they’ve been taught to give that answer. But it’s the wrong answer, and the activity of getting from there to the right answer—the activity of coming to know which way is the right way—is education. Thus ‘to lead forth.’”

The core of education according to President Arnn is to lead forth by answering these questions: What is the right way for a man to live? What is just by nature and what is unjust? These are value-laden questions, any education system that does not focus on them is not educating it is indoctrinating.

“A true [value-laden] core, as I’ve described, has a unifying principle, such as the idea that there is a right way to live that one can come to know. Compare that to the use of the same word in describing the latest bright idea of the education establishment—the so-called Common Core—which is an attempt by bureaucrats and politicians to impose national standards on American schools. When one looks into Common Core, it becomes clear that it has no unifying [value-laden] principle in the sense I have described. And it has destructive effects,” states President Arnn.

The Northwest Ordinance, adopted in 1787 and passed again in 1789, states: “Religion, morality, and knowledge, being necessary for good government
and the happiness of mankind, the means of education shall forever be encouraged.”

Common Core is not “value-laden” but rather is designed to “shape values and ethical systems” states the Teacher’s Guide for Advanced Placement English Literature.

President Arnn concludes, “[M]odern education treats students chiefly as factors of production, as people to be trained for productive jobs [human capital]. And although we all wish productive jobs for our children, as parents we know that they are not chiefly job seekers or factors of production. After all, how many of us, if we were given the choice of our children earning a lot of money and being bad, or struggling economically and being good, would choose the former?”

It is better to be good and know why good is better. That is what education is all about.


Founded in 1844, Hillsdale College is an independent, coeducational, residential, liberal arts college with a student body of about 1,400. Its four-year curriculum leads to the bachelor of arts or bachelor of science degree, and it is accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools.

Hillsdale’s educational mission rests upon two principles: academic excellence and institutional independence. The College does not accept federal or state taxpayer subsidies for any of its operations.