Author archives: Sarah Perry

Everything The Women’s March Movement Wants You To Believe About It Is A Lie

by Sarah Perry

February 9, 2017

In January, it was a march. In February, it’s become a movement: a developing, inelegant phenomenon quivering with the latent energy of a post-march high. The covers of Time and the New Yorker recently featured a certain cat-eared pink hat. Organizers have developed 10 action steps for the first 100 days.

At USA Today, author Heidi M. Przybyla argued that “The march’s biggest asset — that it was completely organic and grass-roots — is now its challenge going forward.” Nascent march group organizers in New Jersey are hoping their collective acts as a clearinghouse on reproductive rights, climate change, and a free press.

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On Elections and the Easy Evil of Hatred

by Sarah Perry

December 5, 2016

This article appeared in The Christian Review on December 2.

All good is hard. All evil is easy. Dying, losing, cheating, and mediocrity is easy.
Stay away from easy.” Scott Alexander

Hollywood heavyweight Aaron Sorkin weighed in with gusto after the election. In a letter to his daughter published recently in Vanity Fair, Sorkin – clearly gob smacked by what he’d believed was an inconceivable outcome – proclaimed, “The Klan won last night. White nationalists. Sexists, racists and buffoons…Hate was given hope. Abject dumbness was glamorized…” In the letter, Sorkin re-invigorates the enraged rhetoric of both millennials and the overlords of social progressivism. It’s the kind of rhetoric that reduced, is nothing more than simple name-calling. His sneering response was not exceptional. In reply to an article in which Samantha Bee asserted white women needed to work off the karma they’ll get after voting for Trump, a Jezebel commenter claimed that if friends or relatives voted for Trump, “[they are] awful human being[s].”

Enter the protests. In Los Angeles, they burned Trump in effigy. In Portland, protestors attacked police, started a dumpster fire, blocked the highway and did $1 million in damage. A teen wearing a Trump hat was beaten and kicked by other students during a high school walk out (one of many nationwide) in Rockville, Maryland. Hundreds of thousands have taken to the streets burning American flags and hash-tagging their disgust, with statements like #RapeMelania and #KillTrump.

For a movement claiming that “Love Trumps Hate,” it all looked quite a bit like…well, hate.

We know now that what propelled Trump to victory was in large part the mass of red-state inhabitants, those in oft-ignored “fly over” country who had been denigrated as ignorant, homophobic xenophobes. These were the voters who decided they’d had enough of the liberal condescension that has been a hallmark of the last 8 years. In fact, Obama had previewed Clinton’s now-infamous “deplorables” caricature, describing the same group in 2008 as those who “get bitter, [who] cling to guns or religions or antipathy to people who aren’t like them, or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

That’s the easy thing to do with people with whom you disagree: lump them unexamined into categories you find anathema, call them “dumb” and walk away.

Hate is facile. Labels are easy. If we succumb to these visceral, knee-jerk impulses, we reject an entire group as adherents to unthinkable ideologies – no matter what their voting motivations actually were – and dismiss them as unworthy of our serious consideration. Hate makes no room for concessions or understanding.

But make no mistake: hate most definitely works both ways. Honesty demands we recognize the Nazis and Klan that voted for Trump and have taken his ascendancy as a cue to wreak havoc. It requires a clear-eyed view of the spray-painted messages and shouted epithets and threats. But here’s the thing: hating them for that is no different than hating all of Trump’s supporters, or for that matter, all of Clinton’s. One member of a group is not its whole. Hate – at bottom – is ignorant. It is myopic, and self-selecting. It is narrow-minded, and fearful. Hate points fingers and burns flags and never asks “why.”

Hate asserts: “You have nothing to add because you’re (conservative)(black)(Latino)(pro-life).” Hate knows no variations. It is the great equalizing force that is as destructive to liberals as it is to conservatives, with its roots in the arrogance of perceived superiority.

In the New York Times, Nicholas Kristof had the fortitude to expose his party’s duality by noting, “We progressives believe in diversity, and we want women, blacks, Latinos, gays and Muslims at the table — er, so long as they aren’t conservatives.” He goes on to describe the unique plight of sociologist George Yancey, who said, “Outside of academia I faced more problems as a black…But inside academia I face more problems as a Christian, and it is not even close.” Even Kevin Drum at Mother Jones was honest enough to explain, “We’re convinced that conservatives, especially working-class conservatives, are just dumb. Smug suggests only a supreme confidence that we’re right – but conservative elites also believe they’re right, and they believe it as much as we do. The difference is that, generally speaking, they’re less condescending about it.”

So the conservatives – many of them in the disenfranchised working class, caught in a cycle of stale wages and denied opportunity – voted in droves. Not because of hate. Not because of racism or xenophobia or sexism, but because of the hope for a better personal future. Their choice of president lay in two unsavory candidates. But only one candidate deigned to treat them with respect and offer a vision for their personal prosperity and success. As John Daniel Davidson writes at The Federalist, “The mainstream media caricature of angry blue-collar whites turning to Trump out of racial animosity and misogyny didn’t stand up to scrutiny.” So it was that Trump broke through the industrial wall of the previously-blue Midwest – a region nearly guaranteed to fall for Clinton.

Untenable choices ought not to serve as the platform for hate, but the springboard for hope. Empathy must prevail. Our nation hums with the agitation of polarization. But we who recognize a Savior of the greatest compassion, One who sought out the “least of these” and pursued we lost souls with an everlasting love, must be the first to reach out our hands and ask why. We must set the difficult example, because the easy thing will ensure our discord and our ultimate destruction. We are, it turns out, all members of the same irredeemable cohort, situated comfortably in a basket built for deplorables.

So let us do the hard thing, extend our hand to our neighbor and get ourselves out.

No Thanks, Common Core

by Sarah Perry

August 25, 2014

Too often, conservatives engaging in critical analysis of a federal policy presenting smart, salient critiques to hopefully fair-minded opponents, find themselves thrown into that category of the “lunatic fringe.” Case in point, the straw-man bonfire Family Research Council endured in the Washington Post recently.

The Post’s “Answer Sheet” took a Family Research Council fundraising letter regarding “Common Core” (in which I am named) to the level of circus fare. The author, Valerie Strauss, made reference to the derisive Twitter hashtag, “ThanksCommonCore,” equating the rhetoric in the letter with “garbage.”

It appears as if Ms. Strauss was at a loss for what to write about, and so chose to mock a fundraising letter directed toward FRC’s constituency, utterly ignoring what she calls the “legitimate criticism” we’ve offered to the CCSS Initiative in the past (I would direct her to watch our recent webcast forum, or read some of my white papers, or op-eds at TownHall.com or DailyCaller.com). Rather than moving the ball, she decided to foul another player. On her own team.

#ThanksCommonCore.

What Ms. Strauss also fails to recognize is that language employed by FRC in its letter to constituents about CCSS does not change the fact that the components of CCSS themselves are still problematic.

Everyone from the National Education Association to the Socialist Worker to the Heritage Foundation to the American Enterprise Institute have recognized the Standards as a failed experiment in test-heavy, sub-par, bureaucratic academics.

I set wholly aside the avowed directive of the CCSS (to, among other things, “broaden worldviews“). I’ll leave out of this discussion the fact that the Core’s development was steeped in secrecy, or that’s its architect, David Coleman, is now replacing the AP U.S. History Exam with a creation that shifts the landscape of American history “sharply to the left.” It is clear that the Common Core engineers had a worldview, and one they didn’t want open to discussion, which to my mind is the epitome of closed minded “nonsense.”

But from whence Common Core’s divergent critics draw our conclusions should not matter if we are all energized to the same end: its ultimate and swift repeal.

Tragically, Ms. Strauss quotes the “report” of the Southern Poverty Law Center, “Public Schools in the Crosshairs: Far-Right Propaganda and the Common Core State Standards.” That self-same “report” which lacks a single footnote or citation, that “report” which is as much propaganda itself as that which it claims to expose, that “report” which notes that “this far-right campaign is really a proxy for a broader assault on public education itself.”

As a citizen of blue-state Maryland who sends three children to public school, I speak for both myself and my organization in saying I have no interest in assaulting public education; only in making it better. I think Ms. Strauss and I agree — perhaps for different reasons — that the Common Core Standards are not the way to do so.

If we both see the initiative as riddled with problems, what good is served in criticizing the Family Research Council, aside from ingratiating Ms. Strauss to the left? Particularly in using the left’s own arguments against us? It is no secret that the Southern Poverty Law Center is no friend of the Family Research Council.

But, Ms. Strauss. I thought we were friends.

#ThanksCommonCore.

Crunching Common Core’s Numbers

by Sarah Perry

August 8, 2014

It’s now an easy to thing to say the much-publicized Common Core State Standards Initiative lacks educational exactingness. Once upon a time, Americans were led to believe that the standards were deeper, more rigorous, and internationally benchmarked. But if the implementation of the Common Core — its concrete use with actual students, in actual classrooms, actually subjected to the standards — has demonstrated anything, it’s that the failings of the Standards are myriad.

As the reality of the initiative reaches its zenith, school districts nationwide are watching their scores plummet. In my home county in Maryland — the highest performing in the state — a year of implementation resulted in the lowest math scores in seven years. And maybe that’s just how it was designed: as an effort to prove that we parents are “misguided” as to how much our children know, and that they have to fail against these (mediocre) standards before actual learning can take place, thereby promoting the U.S. to the level of global competitiveness that will ensure the salvation of our flagging economy.

We know the English standards promote informational and technical texts over the study of literary classics — up to a 70% preference by grade 12. We know there is more of a stress on writing, and not reading. There is no list of literary movements, no standards on British literature (aside from Shakespeare), and no standard on authors from the ancient world. We know handwriting is lost in the English standards, and that the standards themselves are unclear and poorly written.

But math standards are their own hornet’s nest of awful. It seems lost on the Common Core’s proponents that Jason Zimba, one of the leading drafters of the Math Standards, openly avowed before the Massachusetts State Board of Education that the standards do not prepare students for STEM careers, nor do they prepare children to attend the kinds of colleges that “most parents aspire to.” Because that, it would seem, is reason enough to re-visit the standards.

Not even Stanford University’s Dr. James Milgram and his passionate criticism of the standards he was retained to validate (and could not), not even his remarks that Common Core math is a “huge and risky experiment” on K-12 students has proven the definitive conclusion to the debate.

Now, some of the most credentialed mathematicians in the nation are witnessing the failings of the Core’s math as it comes home to roost. Marina Ratner, professor emerita of mathematics at the University of California Berkeley and recipient of both the international Ostrowski Prize and the John J. Carty Award from the National Academy of Sciences, is the latest to view the Core’s math standards for what they really are: sub-par.

A few days ago, Dr. Ratner wrote in the Wall Street Journal that she discovered the Common Core standards were several years behind California’s old standards, and that they are clearly not internationally benchmarked. She stated that “Common Core’s ‘deeper’ and ‘more rigorous’ standards mean replacing math with some kind of illustrative counting saturated with pictures, diagrams and elaborate word problems. Simple concepts are made artificially intricate and complex with the pretense of being deeper — while the actual content taught [is] primitive.” She went on to write that the Common Core standards “are lower in the total scope of learned material, in the depth and rigor of the treatment of mathematical subjects, and in the delayed and often inconsistent and incoherent introductions of mathematical concepts and skills.”

Her critique makes perfect sense. Even curriculum directors and Common Core cheerleaders are admitting the standards’ failings (whether wittingly or unwittingly). Just take the comments of Amanda August, Grayslake, Illinois D46 Curriculum Director explaining the focus of Common Core Math:

But even under the new common core if even if they [the students] said 3 x 4 was 11, if they were able to explain their reasoning and explain how they came up with their answer … Really in words and oral explanation and they showed it in a picture but they just got the final answer wrong, we’re more focused on the how and the why.”

Common Core, Creative History

by Sarah Perry

May 8, 2014

Mere days ago, the Rialto Unified School District was defending an eighth-grade writing assignment that asked students to debate whether the Holocaust was merely a political scheme created to influence public emotion and gain.

California is a “Common Core State,” so it follows that the assignment was part of the newly Core-aligned curriculum issued to teachers in Rialto Unified classrooms. The school board so affirmed. According to school board member Joe Martinez, the Common Core Standards “emphasize critical thinking in students, which is what the assignment is intended to teach.”[i] School district spokeswoman Syeda Jafri added that the assignment was simply designed to engage the students in just such a process.

A portion of the contested middle school assignment reads:

When tragic events occur in history, there is often debate about their actual existence…For example, some people claim the Holocaust is not an actual historical event, but instead is a propaganda tool that was used for political and monetary gain.”[ii]

This subversive assignment was distributed to a portion of the 26,000 students in the San Bernardino County school district until a correspondent from the Los Angeles chapter of the Anti-Defamation League raised the flag on what might otherwise have been the quiet and tragic indoctrination of fertile minds on a myth that’s been fully debunked, and by using inferior textual material from http://About.com, and http://biblebelievers.org.au/holohoax.htm, no less. Is this the elevation of English Language Arts education through the analysis of “complex” or credible texts that the Standards promised to deliver? Perhaps future Core-aligned textual sources will include http://Yelp.com and http://MySpace.com.

Notably, none of the parents whose children received the assignment made complaints themselves, perhaps due to their ignorance of it. Unlikely? New York parents and teachers took to protesting Core exams after it was revealed that the parents were not allowed to see the tests, the teachers were not allowed to review the graded tests, and the tests themselves were riddled with ambiguous questions.[iii] The Common Core Initiative has been met with widespread criticism, but its lack of transparency in particular continues to astound the populous. As the Standards are instituted state-by-state, with full implementation anticipated by 2015, the interpretation of Common Core’s goal to “broaden worldviews” appears to be making its calamitous entrance.

Under the glaring spotlight of public criticism, interim Superintendent Mohammad Z. Islam is now set to talk with administrators (its “CORE team”) to “assure that any references to the holocaust ‘not occurring’ will be stricken on any current or future Argumentative Research assignments.”[iv]

Common Core supporters have claimed that despite the Standards’ uniformity and a copyright held jointly by the NGA and the CCSSO (preventing an opportunity for even modest modification of the Standards), that there yet exists a forum for ground-level creativity. Proponents allege that teachers are indeed provided with a blank canvas onto which they might paint lessons adhering to the grand, inflexible agenda of a bureaucratic regime. Perhaps this creativity has debuted first in the arena of historical accuracy.

Perhaps we have reason to shudder thinking of what comes next.

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