“Today we talk as if it’s all about college and career readiness,” education scholar Michael J. Petrilli told The Post. “But going back to the 1780s, the argument in favor of having public education at all has been first and foremost to develop democratic citizens.”
In “How to Educate an American: The Conservative Vision for Tomorrow’s Schools” (Templeton Press), Petrilli collects essays from 20 prominent conservative thinkers who survey the current state of America’s schools. The result is a passionate case for a return to Jefferson’s values after decades spent chasing higher graduation rates, glittering college-enrollment numbers and top standardized-test scores.
Those obsessions peaked with the Common Core curriculum, which the Obama administration pushed onto the states — sparking furious backlash from many parents and teachers, who found that technocratic education reforms led to a vacuous mania for the mechanics of math and reading.
“We just don’t teach our young kids anything,” Petrilli said. “Teaching ‘reading comprehension’ with no content is as boring as it sounds, and as ineffective as it sounds.”
Common Core was the culmination of a long-term trend that enshrined math and reading instruction as the top priority of early elementary education, leaving history and civics as an afterthought to be squeezed in once test prep was complete — if at all.