Maybe it’s that state Rep. Brett Geymann doesn’t get around much. Or perhaps he’s just incredibly thin-skinned. Regardless, if the attitude he displays regarding arguments against opposition to the Common Core State Standards Initiative stands in for the prevalent thinking of those agreeing with him on that issue, this discredits altogether opposition to Common Core.
Earlier this week, Geymann tried a parliamentary maneuver that would have sent a bill of his that would negate the use of CCSSI standards in Louisiana schools directly to the House floor. Common Core is a compendium of learning objectives put together by state officials and educators the outcomes of which are designed to be measurable by a common instrument. Critics maintain that specification of standards must lead to standardized content out of control of states, that the standards are too hard or too lenient, and that these are driven by conspiratorial forces.
The House rebuffed his attempt, which Geymann explained was motivated by a recent lobbying effort by a pro-Common Core group that placed pink stuffed unicorn toys on legislators’ desks with the tagged inscription “Unicorns are not real. And neither are most of the things you’ve heard about Common Core.” This greatly perturbed Geymann, who emoted through a press release that “This is the most distasteful thing I have seen in my entire career as a public servant.” He also clarified by alleging that the interest group stunt that was “mocking” opponents thusly made parents think the usual process of going through the relevant committee before floor consideration was rigged against them, and hence the extraordinary step that until then never had been taken under the current Constitution of trying to bypass a committee.
The eliciting from him of this statement that assigns principled opposition to a pet view of his as a matter far beyond the pale of reasonableness makes one wonder whether such are his sensitivities that as a small child on the school playground when a bully said something mean to him if he didn’t immediately burst into tears. Or, more relevantly, whether that bully wasn’t Geymann himself, so lacking in confidence that any challenge to him has to be met with overwhelming force, as in this instance reflecting his lack of confidence in the rectitude of his preference with his trying to delegitimize any contention that Common Core opposition largely relies on fictional suppositions.
He appears to ascribe the same mode of thinking to fellow opponents of Common Core generally. By stating that these unseen parents (and apparently he himself) did not think they could get a fair hearing for their side of the issue, this implies that the pro-Common Core argument was so lacking that only by obstructing free debate that otherwise would reveal its unreasonableness could it win. In other words, only the anti-Common Core argument was the obvious “truth” and any contestation of that marks one as acting malevolently against what all should admit as “truth.”
This odious attitude bears a disturbing resemblance to that echoed by state Rep. Walt Leger’s opinion screed against HB 707 offered by state Rep. Mike Johnson that would permit a religious conscience exception when individuals or closely-held smaller corporations are asked to engage in commerce that would endorse views on marriage contrary to their beliefs. Leger’s insistence that people’s behavioral choices must receive ratification by those who object to them on First Amendment religious grounds demonstrates a unsavory intolerance all too common among those who support same sex marriage in their declarations that any objection to the orthodoxy they seek to impose has no redeeming value and must be purged from people’s thinking due to its inherent evilness. That closed-mindedness should have been far more upsetting to Geymann than the veracity of his assertions against Common Core being called into question.
Like it or not, as public policy CCSSI will stand or fall on its well-debated merits and demerits, and that a number of people and policy-makers find it worthwhile does not mean they have sinister agendas devoid of critical thinking. It’s much more likely that they adopt their favorable view on the basis that the arguments in favor of it they see as more rational and well-founded than those against it. But too many, it now would seem, against Common Core consider rejecting their opposition as heresy and even when given the opportunity for open discussion, as the Legislature’s relevant education committees appear very willing to do, if they meet with defeat they feel compelled to believe the process is unfair because, duh, the “truth” always wins unless nefarious forces wishing to do us harm obscure it.
That’s exactly the wrong attitude to have and Geymann should not be acting in ways to perpetuate it nor speaking in ways to articulate it. It distracts from honest debate about the issue and, if anything, makes the anti-Common Core crowd look less like they want to engage in that and more like they are closed-minded. This if continued isn’t going to win them adherents or policy battles.