In my last column I discussed ongoing attempts by the federal government to nationalize education through programs created under the auspices of the Department of Education.
Hundreds of billions of federal tax dollars have been spent on programs such as No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top to entice states to adopt programs and standards emulating from bureaucrats and private interests in Washington. The results have not lived up to the hype even as they have wasted copious amounts of taxpayer money.
In addition to the aforementioned programs, there is still another – the Common Core State Standards Initiative or simply “Common Core.”
“Sponsored” by the National Governors Association (more on that later) and formally announced in 2009, its stated goal is to “provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn.” Wikipedia describes it as a U.S. education initiative that seeks to bring diverse state curricula into alignment with each other.
So much for local control. In fact, from the description the aim appears to quash diversity and promote a one-size-fits-all curriculum. West Virginia has signed on, but there are five states with backbone that have chosen not to join – Texas, Virginia, Alaska, Nebraska and Minnesota.
The Common Core has come under increasing criticism from parents and teachers. Originally presented as a set of standards, it has revealed itself to be a standardized curriculum. Instead of inspiring excellence, critics are charging that it has become a political propaganda tool with required reading that includes a presidential executive order (13423) and an article from New Yorker magazine promoting Obamacare.
The chief architect of the curriculum is David Coleman, now president of the College Board and the effort was largely funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Bill Gates is the founder of Microsoft, and his foundation raised eyebrows in 2010 when it purchased a half million shares of Monsanto, but that’s perhaps a subject for another column.
There are Stop Common Core movements in several states such as Indiana, Missouri, Georgia and Washington. Some parents and teachers claim that the standards, particularly in literature are not up to par. Other complaints allege that once a state accepts the Common Core standards it no longer has any say in the curriculum. Innovation is stifled and teachers’ hands are tied.
Another criticism is that it is not the state-led initiative it was advertised to be. Some charge that the standards were initiated by private interests and promulgated by Washington bureaucrats without any representation from the states. Eventually these interests realized the need to present a façade of state involvement and subsequently enlisted the National Governors Association, a trade organization that does not include all state governors to “sponsor” it. It is further charged that most states that adopted the Common Core did so to be able to compete for Race to the Top funding.
Opposition to Common Core is growing. One act of defiance has been dubbed the “Garfield Stand” – where teachers at Garfield High School in Seattle — the home of Microsoft incidentally — refused to administer a standardized test, the MAP test that is funded by the federal government. The teachers felt the test was unnecessary and caused severe financial hardship on school budgets. Another example of pushback appears on the Missouri Education Watchdog website: “Regardless of how proponents define it, Common Core is anything but voluntary. In actuality, it’s a $16 billion trickle-down mandate, the vast majority of which is unfunded.”
In other words, states that sign on lose their freedom to innovate at the local level, are forced to teach the curriculum imposed on them by special interests and then have to bear the costs of implementation.
The Common Core is another top-down, impersonal one-size-fits-all program that once again wrests local control from parents and teachers, putting it firmly in the hands of unaccountable bureaucrats and special interests with an agenda.
Education should be administered on the local level; it should be based on local community standards with direct input from the stakeholders – teachers and parents. Ultimately it is parents who should decide what their children learn – not special interests.
When will we ever learn?
— Elliot Simon writes from Harpers Ferry.