“Hogwash Alert to National Review Online”
By Christel Swasey
I’m calling for a hogwash alert on today’s National Review article about Common Core.
The ironically titled The Truth About Common Core article cannot be taken seriously. 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.
Can anyone take seriously those who praise Common Core while being paid to do so?
The article makes “truth” claims that include the notion that Common Core is “more rigorous,” (where’s the proof?) and that the standards allow policymaking to happen locally. How can that be? The standards are written behind closed doors in D.C. The standards are copyrighted and are unamendable by locals. There is a 15% cap on adding to them, written into the ESEA Flexibility Waiver Request. And there is no amendment process; thus, no local control.
For anyone who has been living under an education reform rock, know this: Gates is the single biggest promoter and funder of Common Core, bar none.) So, Fordham’s and Manhattan Institute’s writers should not be expected to be objective about Common Core.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 PTA to advocate for Common Core to parents; he’s paid the CCSSO to develop Common Core, and he owns opinion maker Education Weekmagazine. There’s a near-endless list of Gates’ attempts (very successful, I might add) to foist his vision of education without voter input.
First, let’s look at the 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?)
The National Review writes that it is a “right-of-center” organization, as if that claim is a “trust-me” pass. This is meaningless in Common Core land because, as Emmett McGroarty of the American Principles Project, has said, “Opposition to Common Core cuts across the left-right spectrum. It gets back to who should control our children’s education — people in Indiana or people in Washington?”
But we should clarify that oodles 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 the common core implementation company Wireless Generation that’s creating common core testing technology. Republican Senator Todd Huston of Indiana got his largest campaign donation from David Coleman, common core ELA architect; then, after Huston was elected to the Indiana Senate and placed on its education committee, Coleman hired Huston to be on the College Board. They are profiting from the alignment of the SAT to Common Core. And of course, Huston is on Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education, too. Even my own Republican Governor Herbert of Utah serves on the elite executive committee of NGA, the Common Core founding group. He doesn’t make money this way, but he does make lots of corporations happy.
I could go on and on about the Common Core gold-and-glory rush. I haven’t even touched on all the Democrats who promote Common Core for gain. But I don’t want to be up all night.
So, on to the liberals and/or not-right wing radicals who oppose Common Core:
California Democrat/author Rosa Koire and respected educator like Diane Ravitchoppose 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. Teacher Kris Nielsen has written “Children of the Core” and teacher Paul Bogush calls teaching Common Core sleeping with the enemy. Math teacher Stephanie Sawyer predicts that with Common Core, there will be an increase in remedial math instruction and an increase in the clientele of tutoring centers. 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. 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 legitimate classical education, wouldn’t the Common Core experiment have been based on empirical study and solid educator backing?
Did the authors of the Hogwash article really not know that Common Core wasn’t based on anything like empirical data but simply fluffed up on empty promises and rhetoric, from the beginning.
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 Stotsky, Thomas Newkirk, Ze’ev Wurman, James Milgram, William Mathis, Susan Ohanian, Charlotte Iserbyt, Alan Manning, and others.
The National Review authors insist that 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. 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. Watch his speeches.
He doesn’t just lead Pearson, the company that is so huge it’s becoming an anti-trust issue. Sir Michael Barber also speaks glowingly of public private partnerships, of political “revolution,” “global citizenship” and a need for having global data collection and one set of educational standards for the entire planet. He’s a political machine. Under his global common core, diversity, freedom and local control of education need not apply.
Along with some of the gold-rushing colliders chasing Common Core-alignment product sales, there are political individuals calling educational shots, and these are without exception on the far, far left. And of these, the National Review is correct in saying that their goal to nationalize U.S. education had 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 that Linda 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; she promotes the secretive CSCOPE curriculum and more.
Study her further here to learn the groups she works for, what’s in the books she writes, how many times she quoted herself in her report for the U.S. equity commission, and what she said in last summer’s speech to UNESCO about the need to take swimming pools away from students.
So yes, there is an undeniable socialism push in Common Core textbooks and in the Department of Education.
The National Review’s authors claim Common Core won’t “eliminate American children’s core knowledge base in English, language arts and history.” By cutting classic literature by 70% for high school seniors, they are absolutely doing exactly that. The article says that Common Core doesn’t mandate the slashing of literature. Maybe not. But the tests sure will.
What teacher, constricted by the knowledge that her job is on the line, will risk lowering the high stakes 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. Common Core doesn’t mandate which books to cut; the National Review is correct on that point; but it does pressure English teachers to cut out large selections of great literature, somewhere. And not just a little bit. Tons.
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.
Classic stories create a love for books that cannot be acquired in any other way. Dickens, Shakespeare, Hugo, Orwell, Dostoevsky, Rand, Marquez, Cisneros, Faulkner, Fitzgerald– where would we be without the gifts of these great writers and their writings? Which ones will English teachers cut away first to make room for informational text?
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?
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 mathematical competitors in Asia.
For specific curricular reviews of Common Core standards, read Dr. Sandra Stotsky’s and Dr. Ze’ev Wurman’s math and literature reviews in the appendix of the white paper by Pioneer Institute. (See exhibit A and exhibit B, page 24.)
The National Review claims that 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. The standards are bound by a 15% rule; there’s no adding to them beyond 15%. That’s not a ceiling?
The article claims that “college and career readiness” doesn’t necessarily mean Common Core. Well, it does, actually. The phrase has been defined on the ed. gov website as meaning sameness of standards to a significant number of states. I would give you a link but this week, so oddly, the Department of Education has removed most of its previous pages. You can see it reposted here:
The article insists that Common Core is not a curriculum; 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 ELA 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.
The article claims that states who have adopted Common Core could opt out, “and they shouldn’t lose a dime if they do” –but Title I monies 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 ARRA 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 defacto 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 (GEPA) the federal government is restricted from even supervising education.
GEPA states: “No provision of any applicable program shall be construed to authorize any department, agency, officer, or employee of the United States to exercise any direction, supervision, or control over the curriculum, program of instruction, administration, or personnel of any educational institution, school, or school system, or over the selection of library resources, textbooks, or other printed or published instructional materials by any educational institution or school system…”
And for those still believing the federal government isn’t “exercising direction, supervision or control” of the school system, look at two things.
- The federal technical review of tests being mandated by the Department of Education.
- The federal mandate that testing consortia must synchronize “across consortia,” that status updates and phone conferences must be made available to the Dept. of Education regularly, and that data collected must be shared with the federal government “on an ongoing basis”
- The recent federal alteration of privacy laws that have taken away parental consent over student data collection.
Let’s rephrase it:
Americans used to be in favor of legitimate, nonexperimental standards for children that were unattached to corporate greed and that were constitutionally legal… Aren’t we still?