If money talks, then Bill Gates’s money talks louder. This is one way to explain why the best and brightest in the educational-policy arena would rush to endorse a harmful program like Common Core Standards (CCS), which aspires to be a nationwide set of educational guidelines. Common Core is heavily promoted and subsidized by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and its proponents often cite Gates-funded academic organizations.
Common Core is the latest bandwagon in a series of nationalization drives based on the assumption that educational centralization and “sameness” are better than individual states’ developing approaches to meet the needs of their citizens. But sameness is not necessarily an improvement in the world of education, especially when some states are required to diminish their requirements in order to conform to the so-called “rigorous” standards of Common Core. And there is always a deeper agenda behind centralization. Common Core is Obamacare applied to our children’s education.
Some supporters defend Common Core’s documented connection to the Obama administration by arguing that the push for CCS began before Obama was elected. But similarly, President Bush doubled the national debt during his two terms in office; this does not mean that Obama cannot be held responsible for his own much greater overspending.
The Obama administration circumvents state authority and entices local school districts with federal dollars via the Race to the Top program, and in exchange mandates the adoption of homogenized standards. Common Core is not explicitly required, but it is by far the standard most commonly chosen. States that reject Common Core find alternatives to be lacking, or, worse, to be merely repackaged versions of the same approach. The Texas battle over CSCOPE is but one example.
Further, alleged “rebuttals” of the many valid concerns presented by Common Core critics appear to consist of simple denial. For example, many educators are concerned that Common Core replaces literary masterpieces with dry legalese, executive orders, and other drab reading. English teachers at every grade level must now ensure that 50 percent of reading materials are “informational texts.” This figure rises to 70 percent for high-school students. But Common Core supporters simply claim that no such problem exists, and that, at any rate, not requiring books such as Huckleberry Finn would reduce the academic performance gap between the economically disadvantaged and high-performing students. This is at odds with the American ethos of equality of opportunity instead of equality of outcome.
Common Core defenders also approach the issue of literary deficiencies in CCS by listing important texts that are still required — the Gettysburg Address, for example. What is never said, however, is that the mandated instructional approach to the Gettysburg Address is to read “without feeling,” i.e., in a monotone and lacking necessary inflection — which reduces innate patriotic inclinations in students.
The major bone of contention in the discourse surrounding Common Core appears to be a disagreement over the extent to which Common Core represents an actual “curriculum” that schools in adopting states must follow. But the new federally mandated national teacher evaluation, wherein teachers will be assessed based on conformity with CCS, combined with required testing synchronization, makes Common Core more than a benchmark.
The critics’ basic thrust is that Common Core is invasive and in many cases replaces state oversight and teacher direction with federal authority, violating the constitutional division of power. It is incontrovertible that Common Core directly affects classrooms and drastically reduces teacher discretion and district flexibility. Quibbling over the word “curriculum” is a waste of time.
What should concern right-of-center education-policy experts is that the locus of power in education is being moved to the federal level — and that once power has been centralized, chances of communities’ ever again regaining their rightful authority are dim to nonexistent.
— John Griffing is a frequent contributor to World Net Daily (WND.com).