Race to the trough: Common core conundrum - Part 1: National control of ideas
By Debra Rae
In 1977, Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare Joseph Califano rightly linked national control of curriculum to national control of ideas. Indeed, our Founding Fathers purposely omitted education from the U.S. Constitution and thereby left it up to the states under local and parental control. But no more.
At the 1989 Kansas Governors Conference on Education, Dr. Shirley McCune explained, "We no longer see the teaching of facts and information as the primary outcome of education." Instead, she added, we look to a "total transformation of our society." In the words of President Obama: "fundamental change."
In 1992, Marc Tucker and Hillary Clinton explained how. Simply shift focus from reading, writing, and arithmetic to attitudes, values, and beliefs. The Tucker-Clinton model (tantamount to "national control of ideas") produces compliant global citizens, yes; but it likewise fashions workers (not scholars), followers (not leaders), group members (not rugged individuals), and subjective feelers (not objective thinkers).
National Control of Ideas via Group Think
For the chronically uninformed to accept without question Nanny State directives, today's students—otherwise known as human resources or capital—must be trained for specific placement in pre-determined, entry-level vocations that support the global economy. To ensure the intended outcome, broad, rigorous liberal arts education no longer will do.
Hence, today's non-optional, values-based, politically charged instruction bypasses the tedium of academic disciplines. Now, global citizens-in-the-making are freed to "follow their bliss" as they goose-step in sync with likeminded comrades, all trained to serve the greater, common good.
Today's bully pulpit of consensus offers limited choices under peer pressure. In the dialectic process, ends always justify means; and, through it, educrats discredit notions of fixed rights or wrongs. While questions and information leading to a predetermined outcome are allowed, debates and arguments as to truths or falsehoods are not.
Evolution of Outcome-based Education
Chief among the pioneers of education reform, American-educated psychologist Professor Benjamin Bloom exchanged conventional instruction with so-called "mastery" learning" based on a taxonomy of educational objectives. Bloom targeted observable, measurable, and repeatable behaviors established by stimulus-response tactics.
Attributed to Skinnerian behaviorism principles of operant conditioning , mastery learning follows theschool-to-work, cradle-to-grave pattern popularized by Tucker and Clinton. Now, Tucker, Obama, and Arne Duncan are mounting a complete federal takeover of public schools.
There's reason why "common" in common core speaks to what's "ordinary," "lacking distinction," and "belonging equally to all the people." Rather than raise achievement across the board, students are guided to perform at about the same level with equal rewards for all.
Education researcher and analyst, Julie Quist warns that the "equal outcomes" approach runs counter to America's "equal opportunity" philosophy. This was precisely Sir Julian Huxley's mindset as the founding director-general of UNESCO that, to this day, is recognized broadly as the school board for the world.
In Readings on Sustainable Values, Ross McCluney calls for a new, more liberal core set of values that the entire species can agree upon. Through various grants, initiatives, laws, and foreign collaboration, common core is driven by UNESCO and Agenda 21 to devise one-size-fits-all benchmarks for what children must learn at each grade level.
Global paradigm shift requires "common ground" in a "democratic" classroom, one rooted in the Chinese model of "participatory democracy." Added to the Chinese participatory and EU transformation models, the Soviet polytech education model contributes to scholarship-lite "education" for the masses.
Enter, Common Core, standards for which will control curricula of private, religious, Catholic, and homeschools. With no elected school boards, charter schools follow suit. Because significant numbers of their students come from private schools, religious influence is sidestepped, resulting in broad societal implications. Many secular educrats consider morality, modesty, human rights, and the family to represent mere constructs in need of being deconstructed.
"Free" Money for the Taking
To affect needed "change we can count on," there's "free" money for the taking! Obama's brainchild, Race to the Top, incentivizes states to reform K-12 curriculum by competing for grants. Desperate for funds, educators race to the feeding trough of $4.35 billion in stimulus moneys.
Significantly, Race to the Top is a top-down, centrally controlled, national education program. In a word, it's unlawful. Established policy—i.e., General Educational Provisions Act—prohibits federal overreach by exercising any direction, supervision, or control over the curriculum or selection of instructional materials. So does the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution. Apparently, the Obama administration loosely interprets the supreme law of our land.
Where's the State?
No Child Left Behind was a step in this direction, but unlike Common Core standards, it allowed the states to set their own standards. In actuality, "Common Core State Standards" is a misnomer. In no way are these standards state-written and controlled. Supported by President Obama and the federal Department of Education, they were hatched by a national cartel of politicians and businessmen.
In most states, the governor is fingered as the single, most important person in higher education. It should come as no surprise that, along with the Council of Chief School State Officers, the National Governors' Association partnered with teachers' unions (NEA and FTA) and contractor Achieve, Inc., to devise said standards.
"Suggestion box" input hardly qualifies Common Core as state-driven when, in fact, state legislators were afforded no vote to accept core standards. The majority of Americans know nothing about a program that directly affects their kids' intellectual development, privacy, and future opportunities. With "cart blanche" stimulus money in hand, President Obama bypassed parents and Congress for permission and funding and made a beeline to the governors.
Implemented Hastily, Sight Unseen
Financed by foundations, private groups launched Common Core in 2009. Although detailed standards are complicated and confusing, they were given "the Barack bump" without sufficient public dialogue, debate, and feedback from experienced educators. No empirical research, pilot- or experimental- program preceded its acceptance, nor is evidence provided that properly evaluates worth of what is to be taught. Nonetheless, plans are already underway to dumb down the ACT and SAT to go along with common core standards slated to be implemented in 2014, when assessments begin.
What's not to like about promise of "college and career ready" standards? For one, "promising" is not the same as "delivering." Some authorities believe that the only college for which Common Core students qualify is the non-selective, two-year community college.
In April, the Republican National Committee issued a resolution rejecting common core as a "nationwide straitjacket on academic freedom and achievement." For good reason, Texas, Alaska, Nebraska, and Virginia refused it in its entirety; and Minnesota declined its math component.
Recently, Indiana Governor Mike Pence signed a law to "pause" its implementation in order to hold public hearings. Of forty-six states signed on, twenty-six are having second thoughts. Bills to repeal Common Core have been filed in Oklahoma, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, Alabama, South Dakota, and Georgia.
In short, the Common Core State Standards Initiative isn't what it's cracked up to be.
More to follow in Part 2.
Debra Rae is a regular contributor to The Intellectual Conservative. © 2013