The Tampa Bay Times’ PolitiFact site recently gave Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal a “full flop” for his ever-changing positions on Common Core — which was much deserved.
Fact-checking efforts like these, and media attention when they reveal big changes, are all well and good — especially given media’s tendency to pass things along that aren’t entirely true. According to Breitbart, PolitiFact leans “pro” on Common Core. I’d rather have them than not.
It can feel good when folks like Politifact call out elected officials, appointees, and candidates try and slide by with a big change in position:
Jindal was once an ardent supporter of Common Core (and one of the first adopters of the initiative) but has since become one of its staunchest critics, mounting lawsuits and legislation against the initiative. Despite his endorsement of a compromise in his state, Jindal remains an opponent to the core. We rate Jindal’s position on Common Core a Full Flop.
What they often leave out, however, is a clear awareness that the elected officials and campaign staffers who are behind the changes know quite well that they’re changing positions and that there will be some amount of media attention.
Those involved have made the calculation that on the whole it’s worth it – that not so many people will notice the changed position, or care, and that the majority of targeted voters will be happy about the changed position.
As long as they can come up with some semi-reasonable explanation for the change, it’s an over all win.
But coverage of position changes in education doesn’t always seem to communicate this reality with sufficient emphasis, from what I see.
Part of it may be that education reporters and editors tend to be wonks, focusing on policy rather than politics. Another explanation may be that journalists tend to think that their work has more of a real-world effect than it really does. We’re deluded like that, it’s true.
Right now, only Jeb Bush and John Kasich (often left out of Common Core stories) are sticking with their pro-Common Core positions. Christie says he’s now against the standards, but still supports the tests. If and when Bush an Kasich change their positions on Common Core, they’ll take a lot of heat in the media — but they’ll be making a strong move politically speaking.
It takes a series of major flip-flops or a major gaffe of some kind to make it into most voters’ consciousness. (No, Jeb Bush’s 1995 position on corporal punishment doesn’t count.) Changing position on an abstract education issue probably isn’t going to make a dent.
Keeping up support for Common Core might not matter, either.
A recent Republican poll reported by EdWeek’s Politic K-12 blog showed little impact on voters.
Related posts: Bush Gets Demerits From PolitiFact For Dropout Claims; No, Georgia Doesn’t Really Lead The Nation In School Shootings; Obama Broke 2 Of 31 Education Promises, Says PolitiFact; Diane Ravitch “mostly false” saying test scores went up until federal No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top initiatives; NEA Denies Flip-Flop On Teacher Evaluation.