The Truth Behind ‘the Truth’ About Common Core

The Truth Behind ‘the Truth’ About Common Core
April 2, 2013

I’m calling for a hogwash alert on the recent National Review Online article about Common Core. It’s written without any links or references for its Common Core-promoting claims, and it’s written by two authors whose employers are largely funded by the main funder of all things Common Core: The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Can anyone take seriously those who praise Common Core while being paid to do so?

The article makes “truth” claims such as that Common Core is “more rigorous,” (where’s the proof?) and the standards allow policymaking to happen locally. How can that be? The standards were written behind closed doors in D.C.  The standards are copyrighted and are unamendable by locals.  There is a 15 percent cap on adding to them, written into federal waivers for No Child Left Behind.  And there is no amendment process; thus, no local control.

Money, Money, Everywhere
If it seems like practically everyone supports Common Core, Gates’ money is why. Bill Gates has said he’s spent $5 BILLION pushing (his version of) education reform.  He’s bribed the national Parent Teacher Association to advocate for Common Core to parents. He’s paid the Council of Chief State School Officers to develop Common Core, and he owns opinion maker Education Week magazine.  In 2004, Gates signed a 26-page agreement with UNESCO to develop a master curriculum for global teacher training. 

Ooodles of Democrats and Republicans sell or benefit from Common Core implementation.  That is the top reason for the gold rush anxiety to promote the national standards.  A secondary reason is lemminghood (misplaced and unproven trust).

Republican Jeb Bush is behind the Foundation for Excellence in Education, a nongovernmental group which pushes Common Core and is, of course, funded by Gates.  Republican Rupert Murdoch owns not only Fox News, but also Wireless Generation, a company creating Common Core testing technology.   Democrat Bob Corcoran, president of GE Foundation (author of cap-and-trade and carbon footprint taxes to profit GE on green tech) and 49 percent owner of NBC also bribed the PTA to promote Common Core, and gave an additional $18 million to the states to push Common Core. Corcoran was seen recently hobnobbing with Utah’s Republican Lt. Governor Greg Bell, business leaders in the Chamber of Commerce, and has testified in the education committee that the opponents of Common Core in Utah “are liars”. 

Meanwhile, Republican Todd Huston of Indiana got his largest campaign donation from David Coleman, the Common Core architect. Then, after Huston was elected as an Indiana state representative and placed on Indiana’s education committee, Coleman hired Huston for the College Board.  They are both profiting from aligning Advanced Placement courses and the SAT to Common Core.  And of course, Huston’s listed on Jeb Bush’s controversial Foundation for Excellence in Education. Even my own Republican Governor Herbert of Utah serves on the executive committee of the National Governors Association, the Common Core founding group.  He doesn’t make money this way, but he does make lots of corporations happy.

Liberals Oppose It, Too
California Democrat and author Rosa Koire and union favorite Diane Ravitch oppose Common Core as an untested academic and political experiment that increases the high-stakes of standardized testing.  They see that Common Core is promoting unrepresentative formations of public-private partnerships, and promotes teacher-micromanagement.   Chicago history teacher Paul Horton says Common Core turns teacher-artisans into teacher-widgets; he also sees it as a Pearson anti-trust issue. Writing teacher Laura Gibbs calls the writing standards an “insipid brew of gobbledygook.”  Anonymously, many teachers have published other concerns in a survey produced by Utahns Against Common Core.

Still, political funders of the standards and corporations selling its implementation try to get away with marginalizing the opposition.  But it can’t be done honestly.  Because it’s not a fight between left and right.

This battle is between the collusion of corporate greed and political muscle versus the individual voter.

David vs. Goliath
It’s a battle between the individual student, teacher, or parent  versus huge public/private partnerships.  That’s the David and Goliath here.

The Common Core movement is not about what’s best for children.  It’s about greed and political control.  A simple test:  if Common Core was about helping students achieve a legitimate classical education, wouldn’t the Common Core experiment have been based on empirical study and solid educator backing?

Where’s the basis for what proponents call  “rigorous,” ”internationally competitive,”  and “research-based?”  Why won’t the proponents point to proof of “increased rigor” the way the opponents point to proof of increased dumbing down?  We know they are fibbing because we know there is no empirical evidence for imposing this experiment on students in America.  The emperor of Common Core  is wearing no clothes.

Many educators are crying out –even  testifying to legislatures– that Common Core is an academic disaster.  I’m thinking of professors Christopher Tienken, Sandra StotskyThomas Newkirk, Ze’ev Wurman, James Milgram, William Mathis, Susan Ohanian, Charlotte Iserbyt, Alan Manning, and others.

Leftist Indoctrination
The National Review authors insist Common Core is not a stealth “leftist indoctrination” plot by the Obama administration.  But that’s what it looks like when you study the reformers and what they create.

First, let’s look at Common Core textbooks.  Virtually every textbook company in America is aligning now with Common Core.  (So even the states who rejected Common Core, and even private schools and home schools are in trouble. How will they find new textbooks that reflect Massachusetts-high standards?)

Pearson’s latest textbooks show extreme environmentalism and a global citizen-creating agenda that marginalizes national constitutions and individual rights in favor of global collectivism. The biggest education sales company of all the Common Core textbook and technology sales monsters on the planet is Pearson, which is led by  mad ”deliverology” globalist  Sir Michael Barber

Goal: Nationalization
National Review is correct that the goal to nationalize U.S. education has been happening   since long before Obama came to power.

But they are wrong in saying that Common Core isn’t a road map to indoctrinating students into far-left philosophy.  Power players like Linda Darling-Hammond and Congressman Chaka Fattah ram socialism and redistribution down America’s throat in education policy, while Pearson pushes it in the curriculum.

It’s safe to say Darling-Hammond has as much say as anyone in this country when it comes to education policy.  She focuses on “equity” and “social justice” –that is, redistribution of wealth using schools.  Reread that last sentence.

Darling-Hammond has worked for CCSSO (Common Core developer) since long before the standards were even written.  She served on the standards validation committee.  She now works for SBAC (the Common Core test writer); she also consults with AIR (Utah’s Common Core test producer) and advises Obama’s administration.

Dropping Literature
The NRO authors claim Common Core won’t “eliminate American children’s core knowledge base in English, language arts and history.”  By cutting classic literature to 30 percent for high school seniors, they are absolutely doing exactly that. The article says that Common Core doesn’t mandate slashing literature.  Maybe not.  But the tests sure will.

What teacher, constricted by the knowledge that her job is on the line, will risk lowering student scores by teaching beyond what is recommended in the model curriculum  of the national test writers?

And that’s the tragic part for me as an English teacher.

Classic literature is sacred.  Its removal from American schools is an affront to our humanity. Informational text belongs in other classes, not in English.  To read boring, non-literary articles even if they are not all required to be executive orders, insulation manuals, or environmental studies (as the major portion of the English language curriculum) is to kill the love of reading.

What will the slashing do to the students’ appreciation for the beauty of the language, to the acquisition of rich vocabulary, to the appreciation for the battle between good and evil?

We become compassionate humans by receiving and passing on classic stories.  Souls are enlarged by exposure to the characters, the imagery, the rich vocabulary, the poetic language and the endless forms of the battle between good and evil, that live in classic literature.

The sly and subtle change will have the same effect on our children as if Common Core had mandated the destruction of  a certain percentage of all classic literature.

How does it differ from book burning in its ultimate effects?

As for math, cutting out basic math skills, such as being able to convert fractions to decimals, is criminal.  Proponents call this learning “fewer but deeper” concepts.  I call it a sin. Common Core also delays the age at which students should be able to work with certain algorithms, putting students years behind our competitors in Asia.

Lies and Statistics
The authors claim the standards “simply delineate what children should know at each grade level and describe the skills that they must acquire to stay on course toward college or career readiness” and claim they are “not a ceiling but a floor.”  This is a lie. There’s no adding to the standards beyond 15 percent.  That’s not a ceiling?

The article claims “college and career readiness” doesn’t necessarily mean Common Core.  Well, it does, actually.

The article insists that Common Core is not a curriculum, and it’s up to school districts to choose curricula that comply with the standards.  Sure.  But as previously noted: 1) All the big textbook companies have aligned to Common Core.  Where are the options?   2) Common Core tests and the new accountability measures put on teachers who will lose their jobs if students don’t score well on Common Core tests will ensure that teachers will only teach Common Core standards.  3) Test writers are making model curriculum and it’s going to be for sale, for sure.

The article falsely claims that “curriculum experts began to devise” the standards.  Not so: the architect of Common Core English standards (and current College Board president) is not, nor ever has been, an educator.  In fact, that architect made the list of Top Ten Scariest People in Education Reform.   A top curriculum professor has pointed out that the developers of Common Core never consulted with top curricular universities at all.

Federal Intrusion
The article claims states who have adopted Common Core could opt out, “and they shouldn’t lose a dime if they do” –but Title I federal dollars have been threatened, and the No Child Left Behind waiver is temporary on conditions of following Common Core, and for those states who did get Race to the Top money (not my state, thank goodness) the money would have to be returned.  Additionally, every state got federal stimulus money to build a federally interoperable State Longitudinal Database System.  Do we want to give back millions and millions to ensure that we aren’t part of the de facto national database of children’s longitudinal school-collected, personally identifiable information?

The article states that the goal is to have children read challenging texts that will build their vocabulary and background knowledge.  So then why not read more –not less– actual literature?

The article also leaves out any analysis of the illegality of Common Core. The arrangement appears to be  illegal. Under the Constitution and under the General Educational Provisions Act, the federal government is restricted from even supervising education.

And for those still believing the federal government isn’t “exercising direction, supervision or control” of the school system, look at two things.

1.  The federal technical review of tests mandated by the U.S. Department of Education.

2.  The federal mandate that testing consortia must synchronize “across consortia,” that status updates and phone conferences must be made  available to the USDOE regularly, and that data collected must be shared with the federal government “on an ongoing basis”

3.  The recent federal alteration of privacy laws that have taken away parental consent over student data collection.

Common Core: Not Conservative
Finally:  the “most annoying manipulation tactic” award for the article is a tie between the last two sentences, which, combined, say, “Conservatives used to be in favor of holding students to high standards… aren’t they still?” Please.

Let’s rephrase it:

Americans used to be in favor of legitimate, non-experimental standards for children that were unattached to corporate greed and legal. Aren’t we still?

Christel Swasey, a Utah mother and former teacher and professor, runs the blog What Is Common Core. This article is reprinted with her permission.


Image by Andy.