Friday, August 9, 2013

The New American

Common Core: A Scheme to Rewrite Education

If something is not done soon, the vast majority of American K-12 school children will be taught using dubious, federally backed national education “standards” that have come under fire from across the political spectrum. America’s kids, as well as their parents, will also be monitored and tracked in unprecedented ways from early childhood into the workforce. Opposition is growing by leaps and bounds, but government officials are not yet backing down.

The controversial “standards” scheme, known informally as “Common Core,” is being foisted on state governments all across the country with a combination of taxpayer-funded bribes, outright deception, and federal bludgeoning. Despite America’s long traditions of local governance and separation of powers, the Obama administration and its establishment allies in both parties are determined to get the standards rolled out nationwide. So far, their progress has been remarkable.

Even with the backing of billionaire Bill Gates and the U.S. Department of Education, the entire “Common Core State Standards Initiative,” as it is referred to officially, was developed and rolled out with almost no serious media attention. The eerie silence, of course, helped proponents avoid scrutiny in the early phases, when it would have been much easier for critics to derail the scheme that will essentially nationalize education — along with the minds of America’s youth, and therefore, the nation’s future.

Education and policy experts who spoke with The New American blasted the standards themselves, the centralization and federalization of schooling, the long-term agenda behind the plan, and the nefarious tactics used to advance it. One critic, Tennessee Liberty Alliance co-founder Glenn Jacobs, even suggested in a column that Common Core proponents were seeking to produce what Russian communists referred to as “New Soviet Men.” Others are calling the program “ObamaCore.”

With the federal government handing out massive grants only to state governments that comply, some 45 states and Washington, D.C., have already signed up to implement the full plan. Among the few states that have not jumped completely on the bandwagon, only Texas appears to be standing firm, with Minnesota, Nebraska, Virginia, and Alaska all reportedly flirting with various elements of the scheme.

Even the states that refuse to join — not to mention homeschoolers and private schools — may find themselves ensnared in the program due to national testing, college admission requirements, and more. However, experts expect resistance to accelerate.

The Standards

To avoid a national outcry, advocates of the national standards started out by focusing just on mathematics and English, two subjects expected to be the least controversial among the voting and taxpaying public. Even in those fields, however, critics have already slammed the curricula as woefully inadequate and a step back in terms of properly educating children. Meanwhile, standards for science and social studies are already in the works.

Common Core proponents continually use vague language about “excellence” in education, “raising the bar,” and getting America’s children “ready for the workforce” as the reason the standards should be implemented. For critics, however, the standards, which are copyrighted by the Washington, D.C.-based National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and were only released in mid-2010, represent a major step backward. If something is not done to stop it, opponents say, a vast educational experiment will begin soon.

Among the most common criticisms leveled at the English and Language Arts Common Core standards is the emphasis on reading dry, technical writing — government documents and technical manuals, for example — as opposed to literary classics. At least 50 percent of reading assignments under the new standards will be “informational” texts. Consider, for instance, some of the “suggested” texts students are expected to read: “Recommended Levels of Insulation” by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency/U.S. Department of Energy, or Executive Order 13423: Strengthening Federal Environmental, Energy, and Transportation Management. While for some students, such as those on a vocational track who will not go to college, reading manuals may be appropriate, critics say a one-size-fits-all approach for the nation is worse than counterproductive.

Opponents, even among those involved with the standards, have been quick to lambaste the guidelines. “The major problem is the 50/50 division of reading instruction from K-12 — 10 standards for informational text and nine for literature — meaning that literary study is reduced and the opportunity for kids to develop critical thinking skills is reduced,” Dr. Sandra Stotsky, the 21st-century chair in teacher quality at the University of Arkansas’s Department of Education Reform, told The New American about the new standards.


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