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An unexpected effect of the Common Core: facilitating Jared Kushner’s political awakening

Jared Kushner during an April 2017 meeting of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Jared Kushner during an April 2017 meeting of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff/Flickr

President Trump campaigned on the (impossible-to-keep) promise of doing away with the Common Core, but until recently his son-in-law and senior advisor Jared Kushner was totally on board with the learning standards.

Kushner told White House interns this week that he had been convinced by people he knew in New York City who backed the standards and wanted to see them adopted in all 50 states.

But as he traveled the country with his father-in-law, he discovered that not everyone agreed with him. “What it did for me was really make me explore my positions,” Kushner said in an off-the-record talk that was swiftly leaked to reporters.

From the talk’s full transcript, published by Wired magazine:

I grew up in New Jersey, I lived for the last 10 years in the Upper West Side of New York, and you assume that you know so much about so many things. I read books, I talked to the smartest people—all these different things. But every single thing that he was saying that the crowd was going nuts for were things that were very different from the things that people from the circles I’d been in before had espoused as kind of the optimal situations for what best policy should be.

So you go to a [unintelligible] in New York and you say, “You have to call your senator and your congressman and tell them they have to get with Common Core. It’s the greatest thing in the world.” So I think, “Hey, Common Core’s great.” But then he’d be up there in front of 12,000 people saying, “We’re gonna end Common Core! And we’re gonna take it to the people!” And the crowd would go nuts. And I’d say, “Wait a minute, I thought Common Core was great?” So what it did for me was really make me explore my positions and really confront a lot of people who I a) wouldn’t necessarily have been exposed to and b) wouldn’t necessarily have had the opportunity to engage with on a lot of topics that I hadn’t spent a lot of time thinking about.

It’s not clear from Kushner’s comments whether he ultimately came to agree with critics of the standards, who argue that they reflect excessive federal influence on local decisions about what students should be learning. (Each state decided whether to adopt the standards, but the Obama administration encouraged them.)

Pressure from those critics has caused many states to move away from the standards, at least in name — including New York, which recently renamed the standards while retaining most of their content.

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