Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Bill Gates, Craig Barrett and even Jeb Bush created a narrative in which the uneducated conservative masses – those scary Tea Party types, are the only opponents to their beloved Common Core.
Professor Emeritus at Georgia State, Jack Hassard, recently revealed the reason for such tactics at the Art of Teaching Science in an article entitled “Why Bill Gates Defends the Common Core. Hassard writes that Bill Gates has spent $2.3 billion adoption and promotion of Common Core. Understandably, a shrewd businessman like Gates would protect an investment of that magnitude.
Testing companies and textbook publishers have made their own sizeable investments in the program. Politicians like Bush and Arizona’s soon-to-be-former Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal have staked their reputations on it.
The marginalization through accusation like Duncan’s famous claim made at a meeting of the Council of Chief State School Officers, that opposition is limited to suburban moms who find their “child isn’t as brilliant as they thought,” has done much to keep parents, teachers and liberals silent about their concerns.
Fearing the broad brush strokes of the Common Core cheerleaders like Huppenthal, who painted opponents as “barbarians,” educators and other education activists have confined their conversations to teachers’ lounges and conservative websites and journals.
One of those barbarians, Brad McQueen, a Tucson, Arizona school teacher, took on Huppenthal in his book; The Cult of Common Core, and the scramble to crush him and silence his opposition has resulted in a lawsuit brought on behalf of McQueen by the Goldwater Institute and made national headlines.
The narrative must succeed for the investment to pay off.
The latest offering by Resounding Books; Common Ground on Common Core demonstrates the fallacy of their carefully crafted narrative. In her $25, 391 page book, editor Kirsten Lombard and her diverse essayists destroy the narrative.
In his Washington Times review, Logan Albright writes: “In the face of slick advertising campaigns by Common Core’s corporate backers and lofty speeches from politicians, the truth can be difficult to ferret out. With the new book, “Common Ground on Common Core,” we finally have a handy, one-volume resource that answers all these questions and more.”
The real trick to Common Ground is that is presents the truth; opposition comes from across the political spectrum. As Albright notes, Common Ground reveals that “opposition to top-down standards is not a partisan issue.”
Common Ground contributor, Tim Slekar, the liberal Dean of Education at Edgewood College in Wisconsin, has been a vocal critic of the standards. “Slekar has been blogging about the dangers of corporate-backed education reform for years at atthechalkface.com. He is also the cohost of the online chalkface weekly radio show on Sundays at 5 p.m., as well as the founder of United Opt Out, a group that encourages parents and teachers to refuse to participate in high-stakes standardized tests.”
Hardly a Tea Partier, Slekar “believes that tests take more and more time away from real learning. According to Slekar the problem isn’t the tests. The problem is the high-stakes nature of the tests. Kids may not get much out of the tests, but their scores determine whether their schools are labeled “failing,” which determines the funding received by schools. Slekar pointed out a trio of foundations — the Walton Family Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Broad Foundation — who are pushing tests that produce data to prove public schools are failing. Parents and teachers are absolutely right to suspect that these tests don’t serve kids well and are instead designed to make schools fail. Failure, in turn, would give credence to increasing standards as a way to improve student performance. Slekar encourages students to opt out of the tests. Although this strategy may seem risky to parents and teachers who worry about their schools receiving a failing grade, Slekar dismisses the strategy as short-term thinking, firmly believing that the drive to label all public schools as failing must be stopped.”
Slekar is joined by Morna McDermott. McDermott, an Associate Professor at Towson University in Maryland, has focused her scholarship and research “on democracy, social justice, and arts-informed inquiry in Kindergarten through post-secondary educational settings as well as working with both beginning and experienced educators. Recent artwork and installations have emphasized the value of art as a “public pedagogy” in creating grassroots social-political-educational change.”
Slekar and McDermott join an impressive group of education experts including Sandra Stotsky, and James Milgram.
In his review, Albright calls Common Ground, “quite simply, the best single resource for understanding, and fighting back against Common Core that exists.” He writes that Common Core “is turning out to be a defining issue for our times.” In light of its diverse opposition, Albright might be right; it could define who is and who is not willing to stand up against the corporate masters.