Common Core: A Scheme to Rewrite Education


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If something is not done soon, the vast majority of American K-12 school children will be taught using dubious, federally backed national education “standards” that have come under fire from across the political spectrum. America’s kids, as well as their parents, will also be monitored and tracked in unprecedented ways from early childhood into the workforce. Opposition is growing by leaps and bounds, but government officials are not yet backing down.
The controversial “standards” scheme, known informally as “Common Core,” is being foisted on state governments all across the country with a combination of taxpayer-funded bribes, outright deception, and federal bludgeoning. Despite America’s long traditions of local governance and separation of powers, the Obama administration and its establishment allies in both parties are determined to get the standards rolled out nationwide. So far, their progress has been remarkable.

Even with the backing of billionaire Bill Gates and the U.S. Department of Education, the entire “Common Core State Standards Initiative,” as it is referred to officially, was developed and rolled out with almost no serious media attention. The eerie silence, of course, helped proponents avoid scrutiny in the early phases, when it would have been much easier for critics to derail the scheme that will essentially nationalize education — along with the minds of America’s youth, and therefore, the nation’s future.

Education and policy experts who spoke with The New American blasted the standards themselves, the centralization and federalization of schooling, the long-term agenda behind the plan, and the nefarious tactics used to advance it. One critic, Tennessee Liberty Alliance co-founder Glenn Jacobs, even suggested in a column that Common Core proponents were seeking to produce what Russian communists referred to as “New Soviet Men.” Others are calling the program “ObamaCore.”

With the federal government handing out massive grants only to state governments that comply, some 45 states and Washington, D.C., have already signed up to implement the full plan. Among the few states that have not jumped completely on the bandwagon, only Texas appears to be standing firm, with Minnesota, Nebraska, Virginia, and Alaska all reportedly flirting with various elements of the scheme.

Even the states that refuse to join — not to mention homeschoolers and private schools — may find themselves ensnared in the program due to national testing, college admission requirements, and more. However, experts expect resistance to accelerate.

The Standards

To avoid a national outcry, advocates of the national standards started out by focusing just on mathematics and English, two subjects expected to be the least controversial among the voting and taxpaying public. Even in those fields, however, critics have already slammed the curricula as woefully inadequate and a step back in terms of properly educating children. Meanwhile, standards for science and social studies are already in the works.

Common Core proponents continually use vague language about “excellence” in education, “raising the bar,” and getting America’s children “ready for the workforce” as the reason the standards should be implemented. For critics, however, the standards, which are copyrighted by the Washington, D.C.-based National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and were only released in mid-2010, represent a major step backward. If something is not done to stop it, opponents say, a vast educational experiment will begin soon.

Among the most common criticisms leveled at the English and Language Arts Common Core standards is the emphasis on reading dry, technical writing — government documents and technical manuals, for example — as opposed to literary classics. At least 50 percent of reading assignments under the new standards will be “informational” texts. Consider, for instance, some of the “suggested” texts students are expected to read: “Recommended Levels of Insulation” by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency/U.S. Department of Energy, or Executive Order 13423: Strengthening Federal Environmental, Energy, and Transportation Management. While for some students, such as those on a vocational track who will not go to college, reading manuals may be appropriate, critics say a one-size-fits-all approach for the nation is worse than counterproductive.

Opponents, even among those involved with the standards, have been quick to lambaste the guidelines. “The major problem is the 50/50 division of reading instruction from K-12 — 10 standards for informational text and nine for literature — meaning that literary study is reduced and the opportunity for kids to develop critical thinking skills is reduced,” Dr. Sandra Stotsky, the 21st-century chair in teacher quality at the University of Arkansas’s Department of Education Reform, told The New American about the new standards.

Dr. Stotsky, who refused to sign off on the standards as a member of the largely for-show “Common Core Validation Committee,” said the English Language Arts (ELA) standards do not compare well with existing standards in places such as Massachusetts, for example. Numerous experts have pointed out that Massachusetts has actually been forced to water down its existing, relatively successful standards to conform with Common Core. In English, an estimated 60 percent of the classic literature, poetry, and drama previously required, such as Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn, has been stripped from the standards, according to reports.

Despite all of the talk about “internationally benchmarked” standards being met, Common Core falls short again. Common Core doesn’t “compare with the kind of reading required for the Irish school-leaving exam or for school exit literature exams in Alberta and British Columbia,” Dr. Stotsky continued, adding that the standards are neither rigorous nor research-based. “They were written hastily by people who didn’t care how poorly written they were so long as informational text was about 50 percent of the reading curriculum.”

Of course, criticism of the math standards has been abundant as well. Another member of the Common Core Validation Committee, Stanford professor Dr. James Milgram, refused to sign off on the mathematics component. “The Core Mathematics Standards are written to reflect very low expectations,” he said, calling them “as non-challenging as possible” with “extremely serious failings.” In a letter outlining his concerns, Dr. Milgram even pointed to “actual errors” in sixth- and seventh-grade discussions about ratios and rates — “they are neither mathematically correct nor especially clear.”

Again, as with the English standards, some state governments have had to lower their expectations to fall in line with Common Core. In Minnesota, officials refused to adopt the math standards because “ours were more rigorous and matched where kids were mastering those (skills) in their content areas,” according to state Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius. Because of Common Core in California, students will no longer be required to take Algebra I by eighth grade. Massachusetts will also soon have students taking Algebra I in ninth grade or later rather than eighth, as currently required.

While English and math are the first subjects to be nationalized through Common Core, the aim is to eventually extend it to other areas as well — social studies, science, history, and more. High-school history teacher Thomas R. Eddlem summarized some of the issues he sees with the scheme in a note to The New American:

The real problem is that states have adopted history standards that are entirely process standards, with no subject content standards. For example, there’s nothing in Common Core about being able to explain why America seceded from Britain, or how the Constitution fulfills the ideal outlined in the Declaration of Independence of protecting God-given rights. It’s all process, such as: “Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including analyzing how an author uses and refines the meaning of a key term over the course of a text.” As well, nearly all of the curriculum map — the unit goals, essential questions, resources used and assessment methods — is yet to be written. States that have adopted the vaguely worded standards have done so without the slightest clue as to how they will be implemented. Once the “public-private partnership” that created the standards fills in the details, that’s where the bias of the authors will show their real teeth.


In terms of science, the Common Core shortcomings and controversies have received even more attention from critics. Known as the “Next Generation Science Standards,” the scheme will force American students to learn a steady stream of controversial propaganda on everything from the theory of evolution to largely debunked theories advanced by UN global-warming alarmists about supposed human impacts on “climate change,” opponents say.

“Human activities, such as the release of greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels, are major factors in the current rise in Earth’s mean surface temperature (global warming),” the elementary-school standards claim, despite the fact that even climate alarmists admit there has been no “global warming” in over 15 years and that CO2 released from fossil fuels represents a tiny fraction of the greenhouse gases present naturally in the atmosphere. Evolution is also heavily emphasized as “fundamental” in the controversial standards, even though more than half of Americans reject the theory in scientific polls and, to date, there is no fossil record showing one type of animal morphing into another, despite millions of fossils collected.

Aside from the blatant propaganda and the obvious political agenda in the standards, however, critics say the real problem is in the centralization. Even if the standards were radically revised to be better than any in existence, or had been devised by people with whom one may agree with politically, they can always be changed. In fact, the organizations behind Common Core admit that explicitly: “The Standards are intended to be a living work: as new and better evidence emerges, the Standards will be revised accordingly,” says the official website for the standards.

The Real Agenda

Totalitarian leaders from Hitler to Stalin and everywhere in between have always sought to centralize and control education. The reason is simple: Whoever molds the minds of the youth can eventually dominate the population, even if it takes a generation or two. That is why tyrants in recent centuries have demanded compulsory, government-led education. Hitler made clear that he wanted to use “education” as a tool to mold German children in accordance with the National Socialist regime’s despotic and murderous ideology. So did Stalin, and numerous other infamous tyrants and mass-murderers. As Karl Marx noted in his Communist Manifesto, government-controlled schooling is essential to achieving the goals of socialism.

It appears to analysts that Common Core is the final step in the decades-old process of nationalizing education — a longtime goal of virtually every totalitarian regime in recent history. With the minds of the youth and the future of America at stake, it is time to turn the tide and get government out of the way. With the groundswell of opposition continuing to expand, it is certainly possible. A good place to start would be getting the federal government out of schools entirely and immediately by shutting down the Department of Education.

In his masterpiece On Liberty, renowned British philosopher and parliamentarian John Stuart Mill succinctly explained the inherent problems with government schools. “A general State education is a mere contrivance for moulding people to be exactly like one another; and as the mould in which it casts them is that which pleases the predominant power in the government … it establishes a despotism over the mind, leading by natural tendency to one over the body,” he wrote.

In the United States, though, people are starting to wake up. On the Left and on the Right, criticism of Common Core standards, methods, and the entire agenda continues to grow louder and louder. From the libertarian-leaning Cato Institute to the establishment’s liberal-oriented Brookings Institution, the scheme is coming under assault. Increasing numbers of teachers, experts, and more are speaking out, too.

Criticism of the standards and the expected results has grown so loud that even some establishment media have finally been forced to report on the controversies. On April 6, for instance, the Washington Post published a public-school teacher’s resignation letter that lambasted the program. In his now-public resignation letter to school officials, social studies teacher Gerald Conti of New York said recent developments could no longer be tolerated.

“‘Data driven’ education seeks only conformity, standardization, testing and a zombie-like adherence to the shallow and generic Common Core, along with a lockstep of oversimplified so-called Essential Learnings,” Conti wrote in his letter, which has “gone viral” on the Internet. “Creativity, academic freedom, teacher autonomy, experimentation and innovation are being stifled in a misguided effort to fix what is not broken in our system of public education.”

Even more alarming, perhaps, is what opponents of the plan say is an agenda to essentially brainwash students. Countless examples have been provided by experts such as  Dr. Stotsky and others on how texts and “analysis” are used to guide students’ thinking toward a pre-determined outcome. Much of the agenda involves what is euphemistically referred to as preparing students to live in a “global community.”

It appears to analysts that Common Core is the final step in the decades-old process of nationalizing education — a longtime goal of virtually every totalitarian regime in recent history. With the minds of the youth and the future of America at stake, it is time to turn the tide and get government out of the way. With the groundswell of opposition continuing to expand, it is certainly possible. A good place to start would be getting the federal government out of schools entirely and immediately by shutting down the Department of Education.

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