Antiquated View of Modern Education: Friedrich Schiller’s Idea of Common Core

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By Erica Vendituoli and Ricardo Bercerria

In 2010, a new standard for education was adopted among many states in the United States. The Common Core, an English language arts and mathematic standard curriculum, was created to provide stable learning goals that would prepare America’s students for their professional careers after public education. These standards have caused serious debate among those in education in regards to the role of standardization in education; some believe standardization allows administrators to monitor success across large groups of students whereas others believe that standardization wrongfully treats students as the same and does not emphasize creative thinking and the arts. A romantic writer, Friedrich Schiller, wrote his opinion on education policy in 1794 in Letters on the Aesthetic Education of Man which would have a strong opinion on the Common Core. Schiller’s arguments give us insight into how a policy like the Common Core would stifle student’s exposure to arts. Schiller would strongly oppose the common core and would propose for education that incorporates more arts because he believes arts creates freedom of thought and a prosperous society.

In his second letter, Schiller describes his thought process as to what should be important in society. Schiller says about the important type of art he desires, “This kind of art must abandon actuality, and soar with becoming boldness above our wants and needs… for art is the daughter of freedom.” Schiller values freedom in order to have a prosperous society. This is where Schiller’s philosophy would strongly oppose the Common Core. The Common Core represents the strictness and uniformity that Schiller is so against. Schiller believes that art must ‘soar with boldness’; this curriculum takes away power from teachers to create bold teaching plans that incorporate art and new ways of thinking. Teachers are very focused on math and English to achieve desired test scores that they do not focus on creative aspects of education like science and the arts. Schiller believes that the arts inspire greatness and are at the core of freedom.

In Schiller’s letter, he directly opposes the kind of structure that this standard is creating while acknowledging that his society has similar values. He states, “utility is the great idol of our age, to which all powers are in thrall and to which all talent must pay homage.” Schiller knows that society often values things it can measure such as test scores. Yet, he proves that thinking beyond just utility is the key to attaining true freedom. In the case of schools, students must learn beyond the results and content of standardized tests in order to truly obtain knowledge that will help society become a better place. The arts, history, science, and exploratory fields as well as education on morals, ethics, and philosophy are needed in schools to cultivate innovation. Though he was writing to his people of the 18th century, Schiller provides a meaningful message to those in education today; a well-rounded education that promotes bold thinking and values the unique aspects of each student is the only system that will endorses the freedom and innovation that represents the culture of the United States.