by James Corbett
May 27, 2014
“Felix made 8 birthday invitations with hearts. He made some more with stars. He made 17 invitations in all. How many invitations had hearts?” [link]
“Irini has a favorite day of the week. She chose this day because it is the only day that has an i in it. What is Irini’s favorite day? Show your work in the tank.” [link]
“Make the sentence less wordy by replacing the underlined words with a possessive noun phrase: The commands of government officials must be obeyed by all.” [link]
These problems and countless more like them have shown up online in recent months. They are examples culled from worksheets, tests, homework assignments and other materials developed under the United States’ Common Core K through 12 educational standards, an initiative designed, according to the Common Core official website, to provide “a set of high-quality academic standards in mathematics and English language arts/literacy.” Its critics, however, see it very differently.
A lot of that criticism has been directed at examples of overly-complicated, baffling, impossible or utterly meaningless questions and activities that have been developed to meet these standards, or on controversial statements like those of Amanda August, a curriculum developer in a Chicago suburb who was berated for seeming to imply that under Common Core math, 3 x 4 = 11 will be an acceptable response.
Common Core’s defenders argue that the questions and assignments showing up online are examples of individual school board’s interpretation of the standards and do not reflect on Common Core themselves. They also point out that August was not saying that teachers wouldn’t correct students’ incorrect answers, only that greater emphasis will be placed on showing the processes by which students’ deduce their answers.
More serious criticism of Common Core has been leveled at the standards themselves and their development by a host of critics including professors of education, mathematicians, former members of the Department of Education, the largest teachers’ union in the country, and countless other professionals. Some of the most impassioned critiques, however, come from the affected students themselves. One notable example is Ethan Young, a high school senior who spoke out against Common Core at the November 6, 2013 meeting of the Knox County School Board regular meeting.
As Young mentioned, only two academic content specialists participated in the drafting of the standards, and neither of them actually approved the standards that were eventually drafted. Both specialists, education professor Dr. Sandra Stotsky and Stanford mathematician Dr. James Milgram, now travel the country warning parents of the complete inadequacy of Common Core for preparing American students for college entry or for the necessary skills to compete in the 21st century.
So if the Common Core is so reviled by teachers, students, education standards proponents, principals and seemingly every other sector of society with a direct stake in them, why are they being promoted so heavily? Where is the funding for this initiative coming from?
Common Core has been developed with the direct support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which has invested $173 million in the development of Common Core materials and promoting the initiatives at the state level, and an estimated $2.3 billion in total funding related to Common Core standards development, including grants for the development of biometric bracelets that will monitor students’ interest levels in class.
If the interest that billionaires like the Gates and other Common Core advocates displayed in revising educational standards were merely about dumbing down the math and language skills of children across America, that would be bad enough. But the ramifications of this process do not stop at the ability to add, subtract, or spell. They go right to the heart of a vision for society that was laid out over a century ago, and perhaps most baldly articulated by President Woodrow Wilson in his 1909 address to the New York City High School Teachers Association, where he admitted:
“We want one class of persons to have a liberal [classical] education, and we want another class of persons, a very much larger class, of necessity, in every society, to forego the privileges of a liberal education and fit themselves to perform specific difficult manual tasks.”
As educators like former New York State teacher of the year John Taylor Gatto have exhaustively documented over decades of study, the end goal of this process is and always has been to prepare students solely for the purpose of being obedient workers and citizens in a status quo owned and operated by the political, economic and industrial elite.
That the conscious manipulation of the masses into obedient workers is the real end goal of these educational “reforms” is made explicit in example after example from the Common Core materials that promote blind allegiance to and obedience to government in inappropriate and blatantly propagandistic ways.
Everything you have been told about Common Core is a lie. It is not a state initiative. It was not developed by educators. It is not going to better prepare students for college or real world applications. It is part of a century-long process of using the education system to mould students into more obedient workers and tax cattle. And it is promoted by billionaires with hidden agendas of their own.
After all, if Common Core is worthy of hundreds of millions of dollars in direct investment and billions of dollars in indirect investment, why doesn’t Gates send his own children to a school that actually makes use of the standards? Instead, the prestigious Lakeside School in Seattle that the Gates children attend does not mention the Common Core math or language arts standards anywhere on their website, and explicitly states that their school is for “more advanced” children and thus eschews the standardized testing that forms the basis of the Common Core system.
As opposition to Common Core continues to rise and implementation continues to proceed, concerned parents, students and community members would do well to ask why Common Core is “good enough” for their own children, but not for the privileged offspring of the Gates and the other billionaire oligarchs behind the modern education system.