Americans were shocked at the dictatorial grab for power when Barack Obama threatened to change any law with his pen or phone, and even used that power to personally alter Obamacare and the Welfare law, and to “legislate” the Dream Act that Congress refused to pass. Now Americans are rising up by the thousands to stop Common Core, which is the current attempt to compel all U.S. children to be taught the same material and not taught other things parents might think important.
Ever since Congress began pouring federal tax dollars into public schools, parents have been solicitous to have Congress write into law a prohibition against the federal government writing curriculum or lesson plans, or imposing a uniform national curriculum. Parents want those decisions made at the local level by local school boards which are, or should be, subject to the watchful eyes of local citizens and parents. Parents are supported in this view by the U.S. Constitution which gives the federal government no power over education. Here is some of the repetitive language included in federal school appropriation laws.
The 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the first federal attempt to regulate and finance schools, stated: “Nothing in this act” shall authorize any federal official to “mandate, direct, or control” school curriculum. The 1970 General Education Provisions Act stipulates that “no provision of any applicable program shall be construed to authorize any” federal agency or official “to exercise any direction, supervision, or control over the curriculum, program of instruction or selection of instructional materials by any” school system. The 1979 law that created the Department of Education forbids it to exercise “any direction, supervision, or control over the curriculum” or “program of instruction” of any school system. The amended Elementary and Secondary Education Act reiterates that no Education Department funds “may be used . . . to endorse, approve, or sanction any curriculum designed to be used in” grades K-12.
Despite all those emphatic words, Obama’s Department of Education, headed by an alumnus of the Chicago Democratic machine and other leftists, seeks to mold the minds of all our children into supporters of big-government. Their vehicle to accomplish this is Common Core, which is artfully designed to impose de facto national uniformity while complying with all those explicit federal prohibitions.
The mechanism of control is the tests that all students must take, which will be written by the people who created Common Core. If students haven’t studied a curriculum “aligned” with Common Core, they will have a hard time passing the tests required for a high school diploma and entry into college.
As explained by education researcher and author Darcy Pattison, the Common Core gang in 1996 gathered a cozy group of rich big businessmen, six governors, and a few other politicians and founded an organization called Achieve Inc. Working backward from the 12th grade down to kindergarten, this eventually morphed into the Common Core State Standards.
Achieve Inc. started implementation of Common Core with 13 states, but a national curriculum was still the goal, and a congressional debate about that would have been a political risk. So the Common Core advocates bypassed most elected officials and went straight to each state department of education. By 2009, 35 states had endorsed Common Core.
Common Core advocates then announced that “standards” had been developed “in collaboration with teachers, school administrators, and experts . . . to prepare our children for college and the workforce.” By 2011, 45 states signed up even though the final draft of the standards was not yet available and they had never been field tested.
Still careful to skirt the laws barring federal control of curriculum, Education Secretary Arne Duncan used federal funds to bait the states to align with Common Core by offering bonus grants from the federally funded Race to the Top program.
The Common Core promoters, whose goal is a national curriculum for all U.S. children despite laws prohibiting the government from requiring it, used the clever device of copyrighting the standards by two non-government organizations, the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). That enables Common Core advocates to force uniform national standards while claiming that the laws prohibiting federal control of curriculum are not violated. Those organizations have very official names as though they are government agencies, but they are actually private groups financed by foundations, Bill Gates, and various corporations.
No one may copy or reprint the standards without permission, and states that sign on to Common Core may not change the standards. The license agreement that states must sign in order to use Common Core states: “NGA/CCSSO shall be acknowledged as the sole owners and developers of the Common Core State Standards.”
Moms Are Protesting Common Core
One of the major reasons why Moms are vigorously opposing schools adopting the much-ballyhooed Common Core standards is that they are tied to the gathering and storing of in-depth personal data about every child. The files are called longitudinal, which means they include information from birth and track the kids all through school and college.
This longitudinal system reminds us of the ominous practice of the Chinese Communists who store every child’s personal information (academic, medical, behavioral, and home situation) in a manila folder that is ultimately turned over to his employer when he finishes school.
The New York Times published a famous picture of a Chinese warehouse filled with a dangan (the Chinese word for archival record) for millions of Chinese individuals. The collection and retention of voluminous personal information (academic from pre-K through university, behavioral, political, and appraisals by others) is the way a totalitarian state keeps control of its people.
Federal law is supposed to prevent collection of this sort of personal information and the building of a national database on students, but the federal FERPA regulations have been amended to weaken privacy restrictions. Databases on students can be collected by states and then exchanged with other agencies and states, which effectively achieves a national student database.
Only the English and Math Common Core standards have so far been released. The Math standards are based on an unproven theory called Constructivism, which means the kids are not drilled in basic arithmetic (addition, subtraction, and multiplication) but instead are taught to “construct” their own way of figuring out the answers.
English literature selections are not read for the joy of reading and learning, but so they can be analyzed and critiqued by students using leftwing norms. That’s called New Criticism Literary Analysis, another unproved theory of education.
A bill just introduced in the Florida State Senate (SB 1316) illustrates that the states signed on to Common Core without any parent or public input. The bill would require that, before adopting Common Core, at least one hearing to receive public testimony must be held in each congressional district, attended by at least one state school board member. The Florida bill also requires a fiscal report on the projected cost of implementation of Common Core standards.
Common Core replaces traditional local control of education with a privately copyrighted document that must be used as written and not altered in any way. Schools and teachers are complaining about the high cost of teacher training plus the purchase of all new materials, books, workbooks, iPads and computers for every student.
Common Core has created a tremendous money-making opportunity for private companies that advertise their products as “aligned” with Common Core, and “aligned” has become the magic word to promote sales. California has allocated $1.25 billion in the current school year for adopting Common Core.
For example, now available for purchase is a set of 500-page books called SpringBoard, Consumable Student Edition which is advertised on the cover to be “The College Board’s official Pre-AP program.” There is a book for each middle-school and high-school level that includes large spaces where students can write their answers or comments.
The selected readings in one of these middle school books are a curious lot. Two of the longest readings are the complete United Nations Declaration on the Rights of the Child and the complete United Nations Millennium Declaration. Global diversity appears to be the rationale for article selections. They include articles about head scarves on Muslims in France, the punishment of an American teenager in Singapore, an arranged marriage in India, learning the Japanese language, an African novel, and three articles promoting belief in global warming.
The very few pages devoted to American culture include the problem of a kid trying to avoid parental punishment for arriving home after his curfew deadline, a controversy over sea lions in Oregon, and Halloween.
The advertising for these books specifies that “The SpringBoard program is well aligned with the Common Core standards,” and “The strength of the SpringBoard program continues to be the development of critical thinking and close reading skills through scaffolded instruction.” If you are mystified, so am I and so are the teachers.
But be assured: David Coleman, the person credited with developing the Common Core standards, is the new head of the College Board and says he is now rewriting the SAT tests. Remember, the tests are the mechanism of national control over curriculum.
Teachers Object to Common Core
The reason always offered for national standards and for pouring more federal tax money into schools is that that U.S. students score poorly on international tests. The Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), which compares 15-year-olds in most industrialized countries, reported that U.S. students dropped from 25th to 31st in math, 11th to 21st in reading, and 20th to 24th in science.
The solution offered for these low rankings is always that we should spend more money on schooling. But numerous studies of the billions of tax dollars we’ve spent on education in the last decade show that money has not improved U.S. student performance. Higher scoring foreign countries spend far less per pupil than we do.
Common Core advocates loudly proclaim that there isn’t any CC curriculum, there are only “standards,” and local schools can write their own curriculum to conform to the standards. But the CC tests (usually called assessments) are the mechanism of federal control over the curriculum because teachers must teach to the test.
As Common Core is beginning to be implemented by the states, parents and teachers are discovering many things they don’t like. In a suburb of Chicago, Oak Forest High School government class required students and their parents to fill out a questionnaire that identifies their positions on controversial political issues and then places themselves on a “political spectrum.” Students were instructed to “put a check in front of each statement with which you agree.”
Here are two of the pro-big government statements: “The government has an obligation to regulate businesses in order to preserve the environment for future generations.” “Unregulated free enterprise benefits the rich at the expense of the poor.” Here are two more slanted statements: “The government should guarantee medical care for all citizens.” “The federal government should guarantee the rights of homosexuals.”
Common Core then requires the students to self-identify their political philosophy: “I consider myself A. liberal, B. conservative, C. don’t know.” Here is one of the “outcomes” specified as the objective of this biased survey. “Students will be familiar with: 1. Fascism as an historical example of a reactionary group. 2. American Revolution as an historical example of a revolutionary viewpoint.”
It’s no wonder that parents are upset about this assignment, which asks for information that is none of the school’s business. This survey, published by “The Center for Learning,” is from a textbook called U.S. Government 2 which is part of the Common Core curriculum used by Oak Forest High School.
A Common Core-aligned history textbook, The American Experience published by Prentice-Hall, gives an account of World War II that the “greatest generation” would not recognize. World War II is presented primarily by photos of the devastation of Hiroshima with text from John Hersey’s article on “Hiroshima.”
The Washington Post published a letter from a Delaware teacher who is highly critical of Common Core because she was instructed that she is required “to teach the curriculum word-for-word.” Also, she must “stop teaching for six weeks in the spring to make sure our students pass that test.”
Of course, tests are important to measure performance. But Common Core tests are a big money-making industry and are used to control the content of the curriculum. The plan is to require the tests for private and charter schools, too.
Some of the tests sound downright ridiculous. Here is how a New York City high school principal reported one question on a Common Core first-grade math test: “Take a look at question No. 1, which shows students five pennies, under which it says ‘part I know,’ and then a full coffee cup labeled with a ‘6’ and, under it, the word ‘Whole.’ Students are asked to find ‘the missing part’ from a list of four numbers. My assistant principal for mathematics was not sure what the question was asking. How could pennies be part of a cup?”
Many parents will recognize the Math standards as what is called Fuzzy Math, i.e., teaching very little arithmetic or standard algorithms, and class time wasted in having kids describe how they got their answers instead of teaching them the best way to get correct answers and to memorize elementary arithmetic. The English and Literature standards are worse because they omit traditional and classical literature, confine kids to boring informational readings such as instruction manuals, and fail to teach cursive writing.
The so-called standards are set low enough for most students to pass the tests. Education commentators say that the graduation standards do not prepare students for college work, and some admit that the goal is only to move kids to two-year community colleges with open admission.
The President’s Grab for Dictatorial Power
The United States is at “a constitutional tipping point” and “in the midst of a constitutional crisis.” Has President Barack Obama unilaterally overturned the constitutional framework of three branches that is the basis of our unique and successful system of self-government?
That question is not just partisan bickering by Republicans and Tea Party activists. It was spoken in all seriousness in testimony before the House Judiciary Committee by a distinguished constitutional law professor who voted for Barack Obama.
Professor Jonathan Turley of George Washington University said that the “massive gravitational shift of authority to the executive branch” is unconstitutional and threatens the stability of our separation of powers and checks and balances. We can point to a few moves in that direction under previous presidents, but the current shift of power is proceeding at “an alarming rate” while (and just as ominous) the other branches (Congress and the courts) are “mute and passive” in the face of Obama’s unprecedented expansion of executive-branch power.
Our separation of powers was designed to serve as the primary protection of individual rights because it is supposed to prevent the concentration of power in any one branch. Professor Turley warned that Obama has become “the very danger that separation of powers was designed to avoid,” and we should not “take from future generations a system that has safeguarded our freedoms for over 250 years.”
Our Constitution gives the power to go to war exclusively to Congress, but Obama thinks he can make a “unilateral commitment of our country to war.” Turley explained that Obama “funded an entire military campaign [in Libya] by shifting billions in money and equipment without asking Congress for a dollar.” He just transferred the money from another account, boasting that “he alone would define what is a war.”
Obama is eager to get federal mitts on school curriculum so the screws can be tightened on what kids learn and (just as important) what they do not learn. The previous law to attempt to control education, No Child Left Behind, didn’t fit into his plan, so he just nullified it by a series of unilateral waivers, and is now welcoming nationalization of curriculum by Common Core.
When Obama in his State of the Union Address announced he would take unilateral action “with or without Congress,” Turley expected “an outcry” from his congressional audience, but that didn’t happen. Where was Joe “you lie” Wilson when we needed him to call out “you are unconstitutional”?
It is clear that Obama is trying to rule the country from the executive branch only. As Turley pointed out, “Congress is becoming marginalized” by “hundreds of thousands of regulations that are promulgated without direct congressional action and outside the system created by the Framers.”
Spelling out the problem further, Turley said, “a fourth branch has emerged in our tripartite system. . . . The vast majority of ‘laws’ . . . are not passed by Congress.” This “has accelerated at an alarming rate” and caused “a massive gravitational shift.”
The heart of Obamacare, which Obama’s appointees kept reminding us we must obey because it is “the law of the land,” was a set of minimum requirements for insurance plans. When millions of nonconforming plans were cancelled, Obama unilaterally created one exemption or change after another without any statutory authority, and changed the dates for compliance by employers that had been legislated by Congress.
Congress refused to pass the Dream Act, but Obama ordered the same provisions by regulation. Congress refused to pass the “cap and trade” plan, so Obama just created the new national regulations of greenhouse gases that he wanted.
Obama ordered all U.S. attorneys to stop prosecuting nonviolent drug crime defendants, which negated sentencing provisions set by Congress. Obama changed the meaning of the Wire Act, which had prohibited internet gambling.
The Constitution makes it the prime duty of the President to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed,” but Obama refused to faithfully execute the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) which had been overwhelmingly passed by Congress and signed by President Bill Clinton. Obama instructed Attorney General Eric Holder not to defend DOMA in court, and then Holder told all the state attorneys general not to defend the marriage laws in their own states.
Thank you, Professor Turley for your courage and forthrightness in explaining to the House Judiciary Committee how Obama “has knowingly and repeatedly violated the Constitution.”
The Moral Liberal recommends: Phyllis Schlafly and Grassroots Conservatism: A Woman’s Crusade (Politics and Society in Twentieth-Century America)
Contributing Editor, Phyllis Schlafly, is the Founder and President of Eagle Forum, a national radio show host, and a best-selling author.
Used with the permission of Eagle Forum.