AEF COMMENTARY: The Beauty of Public Discourse
Public discourse is rooted in the ancient art of rhetoric, which strives to reveal truth and persuade an individual or audience. Rhetoric has been an important foundation of free speech throughout history, from Aristotle’s The Art of Rhetoric, which outlined a basic system of rhetoric, to the spread of the ideals of the Enlightenment, and later as a weapon of revolutionaries fighting for liberty. Public discourse in America today is essential to our freedom, and today in the state of Arkansas we see valuable public discourse taking place in discussions about the future of education.
Arkansas is at a crossroads in education. As the federal government oversteps its constitutional boundaries with regard to education, data collection, and workforce steering, parents are being stripped of their rights, teachers have been stripped of their voice, and children are being stripped of their choice of college or workforce. Additionally, as a result of Act 60, communities are being stripped of their schools, and indeed their very breath, through consolidation. Furthermore, the charter movement threatens the public education system, removing representation of parents, teachers, and citizens within local school boards.Current issues in Arkansas education include the controversial common core math and English language arts (ELA) standards, issues surrounding standardized testing, dwindling local control, new history and social studies standards that are lacking essential historical content, and the new Next Generation Science Standards that are project-based but abysmally content-poor.
Arkansas is being closely watched by education reform opponents across the nation, both grassroots organizers as well as education reform think tanks. We are doing something unique in the nation: we have a 16-member task force, known as the “Common Core Council,” made up of teachers, parents, and principals and superintendents. This council has listened to approximately 40 hours of testimony from experts from around the country during hearings at the state Capitol, and they have traveled all over the state for listening tours to provide the citizens of Arkansas an opportunity to be heard. No other state in the nation has gone to such lengths to study the issue. AEF believes that this process is the best course of action to study the many issues surrounding common core standards and the accompanying education reform concerns. This is public discourse at its best.
AEF wishes to thank Governor Asa Hutchinson for his commitment to open public discourse on education matters through the creation of an appointed council, Lieutenant Tim Griffin for his leadership of the council through the process of hearings and a statewide listening tour, and the parents, teachers, and administrators on the council who have put in many long hours of hearings, travel, and pursuit of truth regarding the best educational standards for the children of Arkansas.