Serious Critics of Common Core Could Really Do Without Tea Party Help
Politics sometimes makes for strange bedfellows. We’re seeing this now in opposition to the new Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in education. Indeed, it seems more than a little odd that liberal champions of public education find themselves on the same side of the issue as the Tea Party, the Christian right, the Koch brothers, and even Alex Jones and Glenn Beck.
Some would shrug this off, glad to see the increasing opposition. But educators and liberals should be far more circumspect: right wing claims about CCSS are increasingly unhinged and their end goal is not to save U.S. public education, but to dismantle it.
It’s turning into the Obamacare frenzy all over again, only now it’s “Obamacore”. From a new report from the Southern Poverty Law Center:
To the propaganda machine on the right, the Common Core—an effort driven by the states—is actually “Obamacore,” a nefarious federal plot to wrest control of education from local school systems and parents. Instead of the “death panels” of Obamacare,” the fear is now “government indoctrination camps.”…
By raising the specter of “Obamacore,” activists on the radical right hope to gain leverage against their real target—public education itself.
There are, of course, very legitimate criticisms of the Common Core. Many educators and parents are concerned that the standards are not all developmentally appropriate; there is a significant disconnect between the standards and the resources available for implementation; and the CCSS, as currently designed and implemented, does nothing to alleviate, and in fact magnifies, the deleterious growth of high stakes testing. Skepticism is further fueled by the less-than-transparent process by which the standards were developed, major funding from the Gates Foundation, and an arm-twisting tie to funding from the Obama administration’s Race to the Top program.
Coming at a time when profit-driven companies, hedge fund managers who think they know something about education, and corporate Democrats are pushing cynical and destructive “education reform” that serves primarily to attack teachers and their unions and to drain funding and resources away from the bulk of public schools, it is exceptionally important that this legitimate criticism be voiced and addressed. After all, one needs only to look to the disastrous history of No Child Left Behind to grasp the impact of rushing head-long into disruption of U.S. education without robust public debate. Unfortunately, right wing crazy is causing this sane criticism to be obscured.
The attacks from the far right stand apart from the legitimate criticism because of their incendiary language, their apocalyptic warnings, and their reliance on distortions, outright falsehoods and antigovernment conspiracy theories.
Eagle Forum founder Phyllis Schlafly, for example, blasts the Common Core for its supposed “active promotion of gay marriage.” Glenn Beck calls it “communism” and “evil.” The John Birch Society claims the standards are the work of globalists “working quietly but fiendishly” to produce “green global serfs” to serve a looming New World Order. The Birch-affiliated Freedom Project calls the Common Core an “absolute appropriation of Soviet ideology and propaganda” and says it is “mainstreaming … homosexuality, promiscuity and other practices.” An Eagle Forum leader links the Common Core to Nazism, communism and to the “ultimate goal” of setting up “internment or re-education camps.”
All of this makes it easy for proponents of Common Core to conflate all opposition and label it as the irrational rantings of extremists who either just don’t get it or have ulterior motives. While liberal critics hardly deserve to be lumped in with the likes of Glenn Beck, David Barton, Phyllis Schlafly, Alex Jones, and the Kochs, it’s happening nonetheless. (If you think about it, it’s the same thing that happened with the Affordable Care Act: legitimate debate on the left which could have resulted in stronger legislation was essentially quashed by the need to ban together against crazy right wing charges of communism, slavery, and death panels. Like I said, it’s Obamacare all over again.)
While there is strong disagreement about how to achieve it, the end goal of preserving and strengthening the American system of free and universal public education is shared by educators, parents, and advocates on the left. For those on the far right, however, the end goal has long been the destruction of U.S. public education as we know it.
Today, many of the critics offer no suggestions for reform. Instead, they contend that our secular neighborhood schools are rotten to the core, and the only hope is to turn back the clock to church-affiliated education and “every family for itself” homeschooling. …
As the standards are hotly debated, schools and teachers are being dragged through the mud by Christian Right culture warriors whose cause has been joined not only by Tea Party factions and radical antigovernment activists but by powerful right-wing think tanks and advocacy groups with an even more expansive agenda to privatize education. Indeed, the Koch brothers-affiliated group FreedomWorks… is scheming to use the Common Core debate to build support for the private school vouchers and other “school choice” measures, and to abolish the U.S. Department of Education.
Our children deserve better than this.