Indiana’s Gov. Mitch Daniels went to Washington last week to give an education speech to a conservative think tank. TheWashington Post‘s Dana Milbank was there and boy, was Milbank entranced:
“At a time when Republican voters are disenchanted with their presidential choices, and the existing candidates are marginalizing themselves by campaigning on abortion, homosexuality and birth certificates, not-yet-candidate Daniels looks like a grown-up,” Milbank wrote.
What did Mitch Daniels say the prompted such a gushy response from a liberal columnist?
“Most of what I’ve talked about so far, and much of what I will, is strongly supported by the Obama administration,” the Republican governor of Indiana told the standing-room-only crowd at the American Enterprise Institute. “I salute the president, Secretary (Arne) Duncan. They are right about these things.”
“There is a federal role” in education Daniels argued. “I believe in national standards.”
Ironically, Milbank’s praise for Daniels’s “shrewd” political instincts (standard from the mainstream media whenever a conservative says something liberalish sounding) came just a few days before Pres. Obama’s push for common core standards came under a new, penetrating critique by more than 100 education, business and conservative political leaders.
The consensus is over.
This impressive counter-manifesto, “Closing the Door on Innovation,” opposes President Obama’s use of common core standards to create a national curriculum on the grounds that a national curriculum “will stifle innovation and freeze into place an unacceptable status quo; end local and state control of schooling; lack a legitimate legal basis; and impose a one-size-fits-all model on America’s students.”
I would add: It will take control and influence over education away from parents and grandparents, and transfer it to bureaucrats in Washington who will be influenced by big money and education fads.
For several years, President Obama and Arne Duncan have successfully portrayed their proposals as consensus-building, bipartisan, and research-based. They have used conservative-sounding rhetoric to camouflage a rather radical redistribution of control of education to Washington, largely fueled by Bill Gates’ delusion that because he is a brilliant computer entrepreneur, he knows better than you or I what our kids’ schools should teach.
People like Mitch Daniels appear to have been taken in by this misleading conservative-sounding rhetoric at the exact moment in which it is being exposed, and the apparent “consensus” is falling apart.
It is not just conservatives who are concerned. “Closing the Door” was signed by a wide array of individuals. Signatories include legislators who chair or vice-chair education committees in Minnesota, Colorado, Arizona, and Texas; state board members from Colorado and Alabama; two former general counsels at the U.S. Department of Education; anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist; Bob Enlow, president of the Foundation for Educational Choice; the heads of a number of state-level conservative think tanks; and academics including Shelby Steele, University of Chicago’s Richard Epstein, Stephen and Abigail Thernstrom, and, as Hess notes, “intriguingly, progressive icon Joel Spring” (who, among other things, is the great-great grandson of a Choctaw chief).
Hess himself anguishes over the aggressiveness with which President Obama and the Common Core Standards movement are seeking to morph from doing things like promoting research-based assessment methods to installing a de facto national curriculum, ungrounded in any clear research basis, drafted by people with no classroom experience.
“Done right, the effort could be a terrific boon to assessment, accountability, research, tool-building, and instruction,” Hess writes. “Done wrong, it may well unravel what leading states have accomplished on standards, undercut charter schooling and autonomous district schools, stifle online learning, compromise school accountability, and fuel a more destructive replay of the ’90s national standards fight. And, as I’ve said, I think it more likely that the enterprise will go wrong than that it’ll go right.”
I would argue the enterprise is not “going wrong”–that nationalizing the curriculum was the goal from the start. The underlying agenda of the “Common Core Standards” movement is now becoming crystal clear.
Listen to this thoughtful piece by Prof Michael Moore, Professor of Education Literacy in Georgia Southern University, which he called, “Cornering the Education Market”:
“If you’re following the money, it goes like this: Link the common core standards to winning ‘Race to the Top’ money, then link this to these quasi non-profits (which really aren’t non-profit) testing companies who get to use federal money to fund the creation of standards’ assessments and who had a seat(s) at the standards writing table, and you’ve got the creation of quite the little market corner,” Prof. Moore writes.
As Grover “Russ” Whitehurst, a former research guru for the U.S. Department of Education and current director of the Brown Center for Education Policy at the Brookings Institute, put it, “It’s easier to have good-sounding rhetoric about new materials, thinking, approaches, technology than it is to do it.”
Prof. Moore says, “I’m not usually a conspiracy theorist,” but when he looked beneath the curtain to discover who is drafting these materials for your children to use, “my scorecard shows 11 members of the English/Language Arts Standards writing team had ties to companies with a financial interest in the committee’s decision. Adding insult to injury, no members of the Work Group were K-12 teachers and no teachers were mentioned in the Gates/Pearson curriculum announcement. “
Prof. Moore concludes, “If you’re a teacher, administrator or teacher educator, it has to be a bit overwhelming to realize that you do not have a seat at the table; we don’t even know where the table is.”
If teachers feel that way, how must parents feel?
For the most vivid example of how President Obama is centralizing control in Washington, consider what happened in the first week of May this year, when a local Delaware school board imagined that it was in charge of how teachers were hired or fired. The Secretary of Education of the United States, Arne Duncan, publicly reprimanded the school board for violating the terms of its Race to the Top funding, and threaten to freeze the funding. And the school board abruptly and obediently obeyed, reversing its decision on the hiring and firing of 13 teachers.
President Obama decides which teachers can work in your child’s public school. Is that really the future we want?
People are looking behind the rhetoric to the reality of President Obama and Arne Duncan’s radical power grab over education.
Texas steam is gathering for House Bill 2923, which would amend the state education code to bar the state from adopting "national curriculum standards,” including "any curriculum standards endorsed, approved, sanctioned or promoted by the United States Department of Education, the National Governors Association, or the Council of Chief State School Officers."
(The Texas hearings held over Common Core standards as part of this bill are incredibly revealing. Check out a summary here.)
Bills to block or unravel the adoption of Core Common Standards are under consideration in New Hampshire, Minnesota, and South Carolina, notes Education Week.
Whiteboard Advisors’ survey of influential D.C. “insiders” found support for Common Core standards has dropped 18 percent since July 2010–the only key education issue for which insiders indicated that support in Congress has dropped.
The organization where I work, The American Principles Project, was one of the first groups to spot the destructive hidden agenda being lauded not only by liberals but by many conservatives. We’re proud that a new grassroots resistance effort is underway. Thank you for making it happen.