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The Common Core Cover-up – Part 3 in a series

September 1, 2013

What happens when the very wealthiest of the top one percent – IT pioneers, global financiers, and top execs from gargantuan foundations – pool their wits to design an efficient educational infrastructure for a one-world economy? Why, Common Core, of course!

What, you thought Common Core was a state-led, grassroots movement mounted by educators across the U.S. to improve teaching at public schools? That it would make learning achievement consistent across all states, and boost America’s ability to compete against other countries? And that it probably wouldn’t affect you very much, especially if you don’t have children in public schools?

Well, think again, kemo sabe – you just got snookered by a PR campaign that would earn any Mad Man a lifetime annual bonus.

pig in a poke

Much as we at Back in River City hate to be the bearers of bad news, especially about something we hoped was very good news, the facts are that Common Core is the proverbial pig in a poke. Back in River City has devoted the better part of the past five months researching Common Core from all angles and points of view. We read scores of news briefs, white papers, scholars’ opinions and blog posts. We watched hours of videos and participated in teleconferences with Common Core experts. We also reviewed the standards themselves – all in an effort to separate the facts from the fluff, truth from puffery. What we learned is not what we hoped.

searching truth

The bottom line?

Common Core is the first piece of a long-term plan to fundamentally redefine the American educational system – one without the local and parental control we have enjoyed, thanks to constitutional protection, for 232 years. One that tracks all children from infancy and decides not only what each will be required to learn, but who will be the lucky few (the talented tenth?) selected for a full university education when they are – oh, perhaps, around ten years old.

Like it so far?

The vast majority of students in the redesigned system will leave high school at age 16 to be channeled into low-skilled jobs or guaranteed-acceptance, two-year vocational-technical institutions. A few, if they are lucky,  and the Smart People (formerly known as the Powers-that-Be) approve, might be able to transfer to a four-year university after earning their two year technical certificates. And no more worrying about college loans! All tuition is free! (That is,  paid for by your tax dollars.)

Every child in America will be part of this highly efficient school-to-work system. No more kids in high priced, fancy-schmancy private schools (that is SO unequal!) or home schools (unfair how those homeschoolers always ace the SATs and win the spelling bees), because everybody will have the same textbooks and curriculum when the ACT and SAT are geared to Common Core. Getting a job will be a cinch, because every child’s future will be planned in advance, depending on the needs of the global workforce. Parents, you will be able to rest easy. Under the new educational model – let’s call it Gateschool – little Biff and Barbie won’t have to compete for grades or college entrance. They will never be forced to read difficult classic literature or take high school calculus or learn world history. Life will be easy for everyone! Teachers – the few that are left – won’t be evaluated anymore, because they will just act as proctors and behavior enforcers; students will be taught and  tested by computer. Every adult will be released from the head-scratching difficulty of deciding whom to vote for in local school board elections, because there won’t be any local school boards. Everything about K-12 and higher education will be conveniently planned for us by the Smart People.

children of the core

The Smart People, of course, are the people who created Common Core and ingeniously orchestrated a process to make it law without any messy, divisive public debate, or boring state hearings. They had the vision, money, technology, and influence to partner with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and the Obama administration to implement changes so sweeping that American education will never be the same.

Until recently, there wasn’t much of a debate about Common Core, just a few scholars whose voices were easily drowned out in the hoopla generated by enthusiastic governors, educators, state agencies, business interests, and a compliant media. (Read about those scholars, experts on the evaluation teams who refused to sign off on  “dumbed down” standards in Part 2 of this series.) The Smart People really know how to mount a public relations campaign! Nearly everyone bought into the talking points about a “state-led,” “voluntary” effort to improve K-12 education, ensure brighter futures for all students (especially the unlucky ones living in low-performing states like Tennessee), and make the U.S. more competitive with other countries in creating living wage jobs.

The Smart People really know what’s best for us. After all, Bill Gates is the wealthiest man in America and an IT tycoon. It common core cartoon american gothicwas terribly smart of him to spend $200 billion or so greasing palms and greasing skids so that everyone from the Fordham Institute to the National PTA would praise Common Core like it’s the educational equivalent of sliced bread.  After all,  with online testing mandatory for every public school child in the U.S. (eventually the world?), not to mention the elaboration of endless computerized add-ons in Gateschool, Microsoft’s future as one of the most powerful corporations on the planet is pretty much assured.

Common Core is still wildly popular if you look at the numbers supporting it. But a passionate army of newly informed parents, teachers, teacher unions, legislators, bloggers, and think tanks is fighting fiercely to turn back Common Core. They are building momentum rapidly. An opposition group exists in nearly every one of the 47 Common Core coalition members (45 states plus Washington, D.C.  adopted Common Core standards for both Mathematics and English/Language Arts [ELA]; Minnesota adopted only the ELA standards). At least 13 state legislatures are considering or have already enacted bills to opt out of Common Core. Tennessee could be among them in 2014.

Tennessee Against Common Core  is headed by Karen Bracken, a politically savvy, apparently tireless grandmother from Ocoee, Tennessee. She has researched every aspect of Common Core, including listening to every hour of the 2010 Tennessee House and Senate hearings relevant to its adoption. Her comprehensive, one hour presentation, given to many audiences, is on YouTube here.

Thanks to the relentless efforts of Tennessee Against Common Core, the first-ever hearings on this comprehensive reform program will be held by the Senate Education Committee at the State Capitol in Nashville on September 19-20, 2013. On the 19th from 1:00-5:00 p.m., the standards for Mathematics and ELA will be read. Hearings will begin at 9:00 a.m. on Friday, September 20, with seven experts speaking for each side.  Hundreds, if not thousands, of Common Core protestors are expected to attend.

In a recent email to supporters of Tennessee Against Common Core, Mrs. Bracken referred to the process our legislature went through in adopting the reform program:

(Tennessee’s legislators) went into these hearings already knowing come hell or high water those bills were going to be passed. It was stated many times THEY NEVER SAW ANY STANDARDS AND NEVER SAW THE APPLICATION (emphasis hers). They spent most of the time talking about ASD and Teacher evaluations. They were led down the primrose lane (sic). They agreed to support something because they were TOLD to support it . . .

Why the rush to pass changes that will completely transform our K-12 educational system, affect students in private and home schools as well as public schoolers, and cost taxpayers billions, all without public input? Because Tennessee’s legislators did not know much about Common Core, except that Tennessee had to adopt it or risk losing out on millions in much-needed educational funding and waivers for No Child Left Behind. The U.S. Department of Education earmarked $4.35 billion in 2009’s Stimulus Bill to advance Common Core. Race to the Top (RTTT) was a competitive bidding process for that grant money. The grant application period was a short two months, during a time when most legislatures were not in session. Most governors decided unilaterally to go after the grant money. Tennessee applied for (and received) $500 million. Governor Bredesen told key legislators the stakes were too high for lengthy public debate. So, like  45 other states, Tennessee was in.

At the time of the sign off by the Tennessee legislature, Common Core standards were still in draft form. No one knew what extensive, systemic changes they would produce in our educational system. They were touted as “more rigorous” standards and “more challenging” teaching methods – not curriculum – that would better prepare students for college. Legislators were led to believe that the standards were being crafted by curriculum specialists and expert educators from many states, with input from classroom teachers and parents.

Georgia State Senator William Ligon said in an Atlanta Constitution article:

Perhaps never before in American history has K-12 education experienced such a huge shift from local to federal educational control with less involvement of elected legislators. The Race to the Top (RTTT) grant process bypassed a fundamental principle of constitutional government, ‘the consent of the governed.’ This grant was developed entirely within the federal executive branch, without federal or state legislative review. Executive branch state officials unilaterally committed their states to implement the mandates of the RTTT grant, including the adoption of the Common Core standards, even though the standards were not yet written, the tests undeveloped, and the costs unknown.

In our next post, we will answer many of the questions raised by this article. We will explain some of the major elements of the Common Core State Standards initiative that will systemically transform America’s educational model, and introduce you to more of the Smart People we have to thank for Gateschool. Meanwhile, you can find numerous resources online, including many at Tennessee Against Common Core. You can sign up for TNACC’s newsletter here.

tearing hair outWe know you have a busy life. It’s hard to find time to explore public policy issues that affect us all,  especially when local and national news organizations either cover those issues with bias or not at all. That’s why Back in River City exists. We care about these issues and we care about Memphis, so we dig for the truth and share our findings with you.

This is Back in River City’s third article in an ongoing series about Common Core. Part 1  addresses general issues and concerns raised about Common Core.  Part 2 specifically raises concerns about the quality of the standards.

busy parents cartoon

Common Core represents yet another sketchy public policy that will fundamentally change American life for generations to come. To make it worse, Common Core was sneaked into law by private-public interests that deliberately and deceptively circumvented due legislative process and  public debate. Maybe it’s time to accept that a universal educational system for a planned global economy is inevitable, that the experiment  in personal liberty known as  the United States of America is doomed for obsolescence. If so, there should at least be open debate and voter input.

Don’t give up your right to participate in the political process. Get involved! We welcome your questions, comments, and debate as we continue to explore this important issue.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Kelleigh permalink
    January 22, 2014 12:12 am

    Personally I believe you’ve been fooled by some people you mention in your article.

    • January 22, 2014 3:45 am

      Thanks for taking the time to respond! This blog is about discussion, finding truth, and – we hope – finding common ground on those issues important to the quality of life of all Greater Memphians. We would welcome your further elaboration on any specific points you believe are untruthful or misleading.Our goal is to print only what appears to be true after extensive research of all credible sources representing different points of view (in the case of Common Core, nearly a year of research). You are welcome to comment here or on our Facebook page. Welcome to the conversation, Kelleigh!

  2. February 27, 2015 1:01 pm

    Common Core has left my paying thousands in tutoring costs and he is still failing Math.

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