EXCLUSIVE: Reviewing ‘Common Core – Building the Machine’…
(CUSA) – Our TRENDS IN EDUCATION Editor and Pungent Commentator, Dee Chadwell, gives us her professional insight into the new movie on The Common Core and how this power-grab for centralized planning became the behemoth it is today. —Ed.
by DEANA CHADWELL—
I was delighted with what I saw – in less than forty minutes you can learn the basics, the who, what, where, when, how – most importantly – why of Common Core.
I was pleased also with what the documentary did not present: no inflamed rhetoric, no spooky propaganda worksheets, no outlandish, out-of-context math problems. The stuff of Face Book wasn’t there. It didn’t need to be – the plain truth is plenty unnerving all on its own.
Building starts where it should start – with the history. You learn about the big names involved: the $200 million that in one year Bill Gates sunk into this, the endorsements from the likes of Jeb Bush and Marc Tucker, whose main interest is “work force development.”
The film begins suddenly, the way Common Core appeared suddenly, like a rabbit whipped out of a hat, in 2010, a fait accompli, backed with close to $4 billion federal “Race to the Top” dollars.
The video puts a serious dent in the argument that Common Core originated with the states. Forty-five states originally climbed on board, yes, but as a result of a well-choreographed carrot and stick routine – money from the stimulus package, money the states desperately needed, money that the governors of the states got to decide about.
There was no consensus from local schools to adopt the federal standards.
The video also deals with the secrecy surrounding the development of the Common Core national standards; it presents fascinating testimonials from two of the 30 members of the official Validation Committee, a federally funded group, the members of which were forced to sign confidentiality agreements, as if their work was not the business of the public paying for it.
In addition to other expert witnesses, committee members Drs. Jim Milgram (math), and Sandra Stotsky (English) gave very logical and articulate reasons for their refusal, at the end of the committee’s work, to sign off on the standards.
Three others on the committee refused to sign, but no minority report was ever written. Milgram and Stotsky cited the stultifying uniformity of the standards, the impossibility of reaching the disparate goals of preparing students for both work and college with the same standards, the heavy emphasis on only that learning that can be quantified, the lack of verifiable research on the efficacy of any of the new approaches, and the paradoxical results of lowered results.
It was news to me that much of the pressure to comply is coming down to the lower grades from the college level. Colleges are being required to give credit for remedial classes, which drives down the curriculum level of all classes. Pre-college testing – SAT, ACT and AP — is being toned down to make CC students appear more “college ready” than they really are.
The biggest problem with the college-down approach is that both home-schooled and privately educated students will then be affected – Common Core will taint everything educational.
We are all concerned at this educational power grab, at the concept of central planning sweeping through our schools. But we must start the fight for local ownership of our schools with learning the facts about Common Core, not just listening to the hype. It’s not that this isn’t worth getting worked up about, but we must be sure that we understand what the problem is and what it is not.
Building the Machine is an excellent place to start educating ourselves. It is clear, packed full of fair-minded information (The 3 main writers of the Common Core standards declined, either overtly, or by default, to be interviewed for the film.). Take 40 minutes, have a note pad handy, and start off down the road.
If we don’t want our children turned into factory widgets rolling off an assembly line, thoroughly indoctrinated and unlikely to do any thinking of their own, it’s time to get informed.