For years, conservatives claimed that us baby boomers were coddled by over-indulgent parents, led astray by Dr. Benjamin Spock. All that coddling produced a generation of draft dodgers, and the degenerate counter-culture, lubricated by too much sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. 

But who’s coddling now? 

The center of political gravity on kid-coddling reversed itself in Ohio’s public schools this year as conservative suburbanites decided that their kids would opt-out of those state achievement tests.

Standardized tests have been used in Ohio for decades to produce annual report cards for school districts and buildings. Glowing report cards for many prosperous (and mostly white) suburban districts gave bragging rights and pumped up property values. Relatively low grades that more racially diverse big city districts got became a cudgel to berate teachers and their unions, and promote choice, diverting millions in public education funds to too many mismanaged and for-profit charter schools. 

President George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind law required that 95 percent of kids in each state and district participate in testing or risk losing federal funds.

For years, conservative politicians, columnists and think tanks promoted the idea of firing teachers or denying them raises when their kids did not make adequate progress as measured by those tests.

Dubya’s brother Jeb, the former governor of Florida and current GOP presidential candidate, was on board when a bi-partisan group of governors and business groups promoted the Common Core national education standards. Common Core embraced the uncontroversial notion that 4 x 4 = 16 in all 50 states, and that, as a nation, we had to raise the bar for our schools to compete in a global economy.

But when President Obama was elected, so began the Opt-Out movement in Ohio, launching websites like Ohioans Against the Common Core to encourage our kids to take a pass on testing days. In Loveland, the opt-out rate was reported to be 16 percent. In some suburban counties in New York the opt-out rate was above 50 percent.

The conservative Ohio House of Representative took note of this trend, sliding a rider into the Biennial Budget bill de-funding all statewide testing at the risk of $750 million in federal education support. 

Credit Ohio Gov. John Kasich for showing some backbone in the face of Tea Party rage by sticking to his support for Common Core. But Richard Ross, the state superintendent of public instruction, assured districts that they wouldn’t lose their funding if they came up short of the 95 percent participation rate. He also announced that the time devoted to tests would be reduced.

But in a March statement, Ross also reminded us why we test our kids. “Testing shows evidence of academic progress … provides much needed information to classroom teachers and others so they can monitor and improve student learning… we need testing—and test results—to tell how best to help our students succeed.”

Not all parents decided to protect their kids from the tyranny of testing. In Cincinnati Public Schools, less than 1 percent of parents opted out. 

Those Cincinnati parents—including lots of single parents who likely struggle to put food on the table and buy school supplies—were not unlike mine, back in the 1950s and ‘60s. Maybe they let me watch too much TV, or listen to that demon rock ‘n’ roll, but they made sure I got to school on test day, no matter how much I whined.