The Corner

Obamacore: The White House Takes the Schools

President Obama’s bid to control what your children learn in school is surely one of the most important and disturbing of his many transformative plans. Not only is Obama’s attempt to devise what is in effect a national K–12 school curriculum arguably unconstitutional and illegal, the fact that most Americans have no idea that the new “Common Core” (a.k.a. Obamacore) even exists may be the most troubling thing about it.

Today’s Washington Post features an article on the controversy being kicked up by the new English curriculum that 46 states and the District of Columbia are just now waking up to. Not coincidentally, this new education war is hitting less than a month after Obama’s re-election, just in time to prevent the public from taking the most effective step it could have to block the changes. You have to get nearly to the end of today’s Post article even to get a hint of the fact that Obama is the real force behind the new curriculum. Following that link takes you to an article that more frankly lays out Obama’s role in commandeering the substance of what’s taught in the nation’s schools. The print version of this September 21, 2012 article featured a more revealing headline than the web version: “Education overhaul largely bypasses Congress.”

To say the least, the legality of Obama’s curriculum power-grab is dubious, as George Will explains.

The trouble with the new English curriculum is that it largely crowds out classic literature in favor of non-fiction. As teachers and students rebel against boring selections and the gutting of their most popular units, defenders of the Common Core claim that schools have missed qualifications in the new requirements (helpfully laid out in an obscure footnote).

Technically, the new non-fiction requirements can be satisfied in classes other than English. In practice, however, with science teachers unwilling to assign essays, English classes are forced to junk Huckleberry Finn in favor of readings such as “Executive Order 13423: Strengthening Federal Environmental, Energy, and Transportation Management.” The potential for political abuse in a curriculum heavy with government documents and news articles should be obvious. Given the politics of most teachers, the new non-fiction requirements create a huge opening for leftist indoctrination. And that’s only the beginning of the potential political abuses of the Common Core.

That 45 states and the District of Columbia have signed on to what is in effect becoming a new national curriculum, most of them without even seeing the new standards, is a Constitutional, legal, political, and educational outrage. Obama is most at fault, yet the states (many run by Republicans) also deserve blame for selling their constitutional birthright for a mess of pottage. I have much more to say about the Common Core here.

All is not lost. Indiana and Utah already have popular rebellions in progress against the Common Core. If you want help fighting Common Core in your area, contact the American Principles Project.

Stanley Kurtz is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

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