The Obama administration is using taxpayer money to bribe state governments into accepting a dubious national education curriculum known as “Common Core,” and so far, the controversial campaign has flown largely under the radar. The national scheme, which is already arousing some serious opposition, is geared toward standardizing educational requirements in a move that critics say represents an assault on local control over the school system. Homeschooling groups are expressing concerns, too, and the outcry is growing louder every day.
Incredibly, even with the backing of billionaire Bill Gates and the Obama administration’s Department of Education, the entire “Common Core State Standards Initiative” was developed and rolled out with almost no serious media attention. The eerie silence, of course, helped proponents avoid scrutiny in the early phases, when it would have been much easier for critics to derail the scheme that will essentially nationalize the school curriculum.
With the federal government handing out massive grants to state governments that comply, some 45 states and Washington, D.C., have already signed up to implement the plan. Widespread acceptance of the scheme thus far has been attributed to the taxpayer largesse offered under Obama’s controversial and unconstitutional “Race to the Top” program. To be eligible, states were forced to adopt the Common Core or other "internationally benchmarked standards.”
The administration is also requiring states to sign up for the Common Core to obtain so-called “No Child Left Behind” waivers. And in an effort to ensure that all students are learning the same material, the Common Core will also roll out national tests, making it even harder to avoid the scheme. “We’ve convinced nearly every state in the country to raise their standards,” Obama claimed during his 2012 State of the Union address, failing to mention that he was using taxpayer money to “convince” states and that the new “standards” have already come under severe criticism.
The foundation of the whole national curriculum, however, may be built on sand. Analysts say that as awareness of the federal power grab increases, opposition will only continue to mount. When “states signed on to common core standards, they did not realize … that they were transferring control of the school curriculum to the federal government,” explained Sandra Stotsky, 21st century chair in teacher quality at the University of Arkansas’s Department of Education Reform, during a speech at the Heritage Foundation.
Only Texas, Alaska, and a handful of other states are putting up firm resistance to the plan so far, but a few have withdrawn their participation and several others are considering doing so as well. However, with the opposition just getting started, opponents of the plan are expected to expand the campaign to restore local control over education in the not-too-distant future, which analysts say could yield results and throw a wrench into the controversial scheme before it progresses any further.
Some state officials and lawmakers are speaking out already, too. “This administration has an insatiable appetite for federal overreach,” explained Indiana Schools Superintendent Tony Bennett at a Tea Party rally regarding the lawless federal power grab involved in foisting Common Core on America. “The federal government’s involvement in these standards is wrong.”
There are also legal issues involved. Aside from the lack of constitutional authority, multiple federal laws specifically prohibit any federal direction, control, or supervision of curricula, programs of instruction, and instructional material in the elementary or secondary schools, as more than a few experts have pointed out in opposition to Common Core.
To avoid a national outcry, advocates of the national curriculum are starting out by focusing just on mathematics and English, two subjects expected to be the least controversial among the voting and taxpaying public. Even in those fields, however, critics have already slammed the curricula as woefully inadequate and a step back in terms of properly educating children. However, the aim is to eventually extend “Common Core” to other subjects as well — social studies, science, history, and more.
According to the scheme’s official website, the mission is to “provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, so teachers and parents know what they need to do to help them. The standards are designed to be robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers. With American students fully prepared for the future, our communities will be best positioned to compete successfully in the global economy.”
Developed by a consortium of officials with massive backing from taxpayers and billionaires like Bill Gates, the planning has been underway for years. It was formally unveiled by the National Governors Association in 2010. In May of 2012, though, the U.S. Department of Education, which conservatives have long sought to abolish as an unconstitutional entity pursuing an unconstitutional agenda, also began offering huge taxpayer-funded incentives to school districts if they adopt the controversial scheme.
“This district-level program is a full-scale assault on state sovereignty,” explains the group Truth in American Education, which opposes the Common Core plan. “It is a power-grab through which the federal government will skirt citizens’ elected statewide bodies and negotiate directly with school districts to embrace federal policy. It will also undermine the state governmental structure by grouping school districts together on policy decisions and thereby making it more difficult for the group to disengage from federal programming.”
Indeed, among the many controversies swirling around the shadowy plan, the brazen attack on state and local authority has caused the greatest uproar. Allowing out-of-touch federal bureaucrats to decide what material children in, say, Kansas, should be learning, critics say, is a recipe for disaster akin to putting all of one’s metaphorical eggs in one basket. Experts have also slammed the “one-size-fits-all” approach while noting that the scheme goes against America’s long tradition of local governance.
“America's founders were nervous about the dangers inherent to a strong national government. James Madison, in Federalist #10, provided a brilliant argument for why power ought to be divided between branches and layers of government,” explained Fordham University political science professor Nicholas Tampio in an opinion piece about Common Core, offering several reasons to oppose the plan. “Sometimes there may be enlightened statesmen or policymakers at the helm. In many cases, however, politicians and bureaucrats will be motivated by self- and group-interest.”
As such, Tampio argued, retaining local control over education — where officials are directly accountable to parents and taxpayers — is a far better solution. “Thus the Constitution ensures that no group can easily assemble great power and, at the same time, that virtually all groups will be able to exercise some power,” he wrote. “Rather than try to enforce one pedagogical orthodoxy, we ought to appreciate Madison's insight that America is big enough for many types of social experiments.”
The influential Heritage Foundation has expressed similar concerns, warning repeatedly that the plan is a bad idea for more than a few reasons. “Not only will greater federal intervention of education significantly hinder state, local, and parental authority over what children are taught in the classroom, but the implementation of the standards is estimated to put cash-strapped state budgets on the hook for some $16 billion in new spending,” the organization noted in August. “On top of this, there is significant worry over the quality of the standards, with states such as Massachusetts having had to water down their standards by adopting Common Core.”
The answer, according to Heritage, is returning control over education to where it belongs: local communities and states. “More federal control of education is not the solution to improving educational quality. States nationwide — Indiana itself being a prime example — are leading the way in innovative reforms by empowering local leaders and parents with greater authority over their children’s education,” the conservative organization continued. “These types of policies, not national standards, will best assure that the unique needs of each student are met. States should stand strong against federal overreach into education to ensure that their reform efforts are not eroded.”
Also under fire by critics are links between the Common Core and various United Nations programs to adopt highly controversial international curriculum schemes worldwide. The U.S. Department of Education even admits openly in its reports that it is cooperating with groups like the UN, often called a "dictators' club," to “improve” education in America. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, a heavyweight promoter of UN-led “education” initiatives, has also thrown its support behind the Common Core plan, helping to fund its development and implementation.
"This is utopian grandiose planning for a managed global economy," said attorney Jane Robins, a senior fellow with the American Principles Project, in a short video explaining Common Core and urging citizens to get involved to stop it. "It's a progressive school-to-work dream to think that government will finally have all the tools in place to plan for future labor markets.... This new vision advances the model of a command economy and unlimited government. Through our schools, the next generation will be conditioned to accept that government has the right to direct them to serve the economic priorities of the nation, or any other priorities the government deems best. In other words, government will no longer be their servant, but will become their master."
Homeschooling organizations are also speaking out against Common Core for multiple reasons. “HSLDA has fought national education standards for the past two decades. Why? National standards lead to national curriculum and national tests, and subsequent pressure on homeschool students to be taught from the same curricula,” explained Home School Legal Defense Association attorney William A. Estrada, who serves as the group’s director of federal relations.
If all of that was not enough to ring the alarm bells, another controversial part of the plan involves the creation of massive federal databases to track students from kindergarten through their careers. Critics say the plan infringes on the privacy rights of Americans and will lead to an Orwellian system of Big Brother tracking that will eventually ensnare virtually the whole population.
Despite the long media silence on such an overwhelmingly important matter, in recent days, multiple articles across the country have started to tout the national standards in what can only be described as propaganda pieces. Most of the articles in the establishment press are treating Common Core as a good idea and a done deal. Still, opponents are just getting started.
Education standards have increasingly become centralized, critics point out, with authority shifting from local school districts to state governments, and now, the federal government. But experts say the centralization leads to poorer educational outcomes, widespread opportunities for abuse, and many other problems. Opponents from across the political spectrum believe it is time to reverse the power grabs and return control over education to local communities.
Even with the federal grants, some states have already refused to accept the Common Core standards, and others have already withdrawn despite initially accepting. Even more states are currently considering withdrawal, and that trend is expected to accelerate as America’s parents realize what is going on. Opponents of Common Core, meanwhile, say that if citizens get active, it is still possible to stop the dangerous scheme to nationalize education in its tracks.
Alex Newman is a correspondent for The New American, covering economics, politics, and more. He can be reached at
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