Four Important Mythbusters About the Common Core

This piece is written to help clarify many misunderstandings about who designed the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), who supports it, and who opposes it. These clarification are necessary for any sustainable “coalition of the sane” to work together to dismantle it. I am not attacking my Conservative friends here. I think many of us from all sides the political spectrum can find enough common ground, built on a reality of facts, and to work together so long as we have shared visions and goals.

But if you are one of those persons (or groups) who is promoting any of these myths I listed here I have a request:Stop it. You’re scaring people. And you are disrupting the opportunities for others to develop any collaborative informed, fact-driven efforts to fight for public schools and our children. Expounding on these myths does nothing but lend fodder to pro CCSS corporate reformers to discredit the opposition to CCSS. Ignorance and fear are not the elements upon which a sustainable movement can be built.

There are folks (aka myth makers) who might not like progressive values or ideals. That’s fine. I am not asking anyone to like them. But I humbly request we remain clear that progressives (like many conservatives) historically have been, and are, opposed to Common Core and other tentacles of education reform.

If you are someone perpetuating these myths to communities or parents you’d be better off telling them to duck and cover beneath a school desk because the atomic bomb is coming. It’s 2013. Welcome to the world of (inter)nationalized/corporate-dominated interests. It defies traditional left/right political bifurcations, and breeds itself on a philosophy of greed and power. And it’s happy to see you waste energy attacking the wrong “enemy” (unless of course, in keeping with the ideology of ALEC co-founder Paul Weyrich, this is truly your goal). 

Myth #1: CCSSS was written/created by Bill Ayers (or anyone else from the “radical” left):

This is not a curricular reform crafted by Bill Ayers or anyone on “the left.” I cannot find his name anywhere on any documents for authorship or financial support of CCSS.
What I do find is record of him saying that Race to the Top is a debacle and that federal top- down reform is wrong.

Rethinking Schools likewise has been listed as a “dangerous” text indicted (associated with) in the CCSS agenda when in fact they devoted an entire issue to criticizing CCSS.

Some sites  I have found even implicate brilliant, dedicated, highly respected, and passionate pro public education advocates such as Deborah Meier and Jonathan Kozol. Identifying the existence of lame ass attempts at the CCSS to pay “homage” to certain ideals like social justice and equity, which might reflect the values of these individuals is not precisely a smoking gun for indicting them in the actual creation of CCSS. In fact both Meier and Kozol have been very vocal opponents of CCSS! Maybe you don’t like their views -but stop implicating them in a reform they clearly oppose merely to serve your own ideological agenda.

If you really want to know who wrote the standards, rather than insinuate or implicate people simply because you don’t like them, just go to the website that identifies the list of who wrote CCSS. For a full list of who DID write the CCSS click here.

Why don’t these myth makers go after Jeb bush and Rupert Murdoch? Their names are littered across the pro Common Core websites- the money trail between them and CCSS are public record and their interests are clearly intertwined. CCSS was in the works by the Business Roundtable before Obama broke ground in the White House. 

A summary of CCSS authors includes about 30 individuals who work (mostly) for one of five major entities: Achieve, the College Board, ACT, America’s Choice, or Student Achievement Partners.  While I can’t speak to each of their individual political associations, I can clearly see how the groups they represent will profit hand over fist. Say what you want about leftist ideologies, greed is not one of the motivating values.

Myth #2:  Achieve , Bill Gates or any other DC “think tanks” are “progressive” entities. Stop interchanging the terms “left” or “progressive” with a neoliberal agenda! Bill Gates, Eli Broad and the Business Roundtable are neo-liberal (if not flat out Conservative) idealists. Even Paulo Freire, poster child for the progressive left rails againstthe neoliberal agenda. 

Here’s a dictionary definition of “neo liberal”: a modern politico-economic theory favoring free trade, privatization, minimal government intervention in business, reduced public expenditure on social services, etc.

Myth #3Suggestions for a national data base to own children’s data was developed by a “communist” agenda. Now on this one, conservatives have my sympathy. I can appreciate why this appears to be socialist or communist because of the word “nationalized.” But please do some more homework.  A 1950’s high school text book understanding of communism will not help you accurately understand the complexity of federal and corporate relationships or motives. Achieve is not a progressive group. It is a neoliberal group, as are all the other so-called “liberal” think tanks and corporations involved with CCSS. The rest are card- carrying members of American Legislative Exchange Council. Achieve itself is funded largely by members of ALEC which is a conservative group dedicated to promoting conservative values. In spite of their lip service to opposing CCSS, their finger prints are all over it. 

The only socialist organizations that I have found are opposed to this federal intrusion as much as any right wing ideologue. 

It feels very “Brave New World-y” and I agree with the suggestion that these efforts (CCSS reform policies) have global implications-but they’re not communist in their roots. They are attempts at corporate-government capitalist global interventions. Here’s where the neoliberal ideologies rears its head once again.

While I am not defending the federal government as victims or mere patsies in this game, because they are equally guilty, we must acknowledge they are not working alone either.

One of the key tenets of a neoliberal agenda is:

PRIVATIZATION. Sell state-owned enterprises, goods and services to private investors. This includes banks, key industries, railroads, toll highways, electricity, schools, hospitals and even fresh water. Although usually done in the name of greater efficiency, which is often needed”, (or I would add, false “liberal”- leaning claims to help greatly under-served children) “privatization has mainly had the effect of concentrating wealth even more in a few hands and making the public pay even more for its needs.” 

Who is profiting from such data mining? Is it the United Socialists of America? Oh wait…they don’t even exist. Who does want data mining? Conservative Tea Party darling Rupert Murdoch, among others, are contracting to mine the data and profit handsomely from it and garner control over our children’s private data. 

According to Class Size Matters: Data “is to be stored on a data cloud run by, with an operating system by Wireless/Amplify, a subsidiary of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation. InBloom Inc. plans to share this highly sensitive information with software companies and other for-profit vendors.”

Maybe he didn’t get the memo that this was a communist overthrow?

Myth #4: CCSS makes learning more “subjective”/ “collaborative” with an aim toward social justice, equity, and a socialist indoctrination. Maybe the writers of CCSS were trying to throw a bone to the progressive movement using language they wanted to hear in order to sell them a bad bill of goods. But in spite of the sound bites some myth-makers are paying attention to in order to make this claim, it is fallible for a few reasons. First off, (and I am not defending CSSS here)… how does the use of the words “equity” or “equality” become tantamount to socialism? The word “equal” is used no fewer than 24 times in The Declaration of Independence written by our Founding Fathers.

The attacks on Dewey make no sense to me either. Such “progressive” education philosophies actually attempt to disrupt hegemony or oppression by calling for learning that is student –centered, so that individuals are FREE to THINK FOR THEMSELVES. Wouldn’t an open-ended process that embraces children for their INDIVIDUALITY be far more reflective of American ideals? (note—I don’t believe for a moment that CCSS actually does this-such an approach cannot exist alongside curriculum driven by high stakes testing). Some Tea Party-sponsored curricular recommendations call for “back to basics” or one- size- fits- all mode of fact delivery, and a SINGLE version of history- ironically, teaching single versions of history, which silence any dissent or critique are far more endorsed by communist nations like Russia and China. Whereas democratic societies thrive on dissent and multiple points of view or voices.

So if that’s what you’re worried about, you’d be better off stepping aside and allowing CCSS to carry on-it will do more to destroy student centered free thinking than you could ever dream of. The focus on CCSS is not on a touchy-feely social justice approach to learning, but instead aims to make students “career and college ready” to “compete in a capitalist-supported global economy.”  In the words of CCSS supporter Chester Finn (former CEO of IBM and a card carrying Republican) the national standards make students, “readier for college, readier to get good jobs, readier to compete in the global economy.”

CCSS enforces a “narrowing” or the curriculum, driven by high stakes standardized testing. This is easy to discern when examining the facts (rather than reading “into” standards as if one were reading tea leaves or a horoscope). The CCSS were written by corporations, for corporations to shape (and control) the future workers of America (aka children) to fit their corporate image.

And by the way. In regards to many of those things these myth creators fear are being infused into CCSS like social justice, culturally relevant pedagogy, and anti-racist perspectives? I am for all of those things. And I am opposed to CCSS. So it concerns me that many of the brilliant advocates who are against CCSS are being “demonized” by myth makers, manufacturing their supposed affiliation with it; possibly a strategy by the myth makers to alienate parents and communities from associating with them or their views, and to cement their own position for alternatives to the CCSS?

So those of us in the “coalition of the sane” need to focus our shared energies not only on ending CCSS and the other tentacles of ed reform such as high stakes testing and data-mining, but we must double down on our efforts to articulate and prepare for what we envision for public education when this current policy nightmare is over, lest we wake up only to face even more nightmarish policies.


Photo: Flickr user D. Sharon Pruitt, creative commons licensed.

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