Category archives: Education

Conservatives Should Resolutely Oppose Common Core — And so Should Liberals

by Robert Morrison

October 15, 2014

Conservatives and liberals should oppose federal usurpation of power that is known as Common Core State Standards.

The entire history of this education “reform” effort has been one of stealth and deception. In this Townhall column, FRC Senior Fellow Bob Morrison, an official of the federal education department under Ronald Reagan, argues for returning education policymaking to state lawmakers, locally elected school boards, and parents. That’s where the Founders and President Reagan thought decisions about education should be made. That’s where the Constitution placed education.

When a liberal Republican Congressman asked to meet President Reagan to discuss the “future of the education department,” the Gipper noted in the margin of his daily schedule: “I hope it doesn’t have one.” President Reagan’s note was written in his own handwriting, in cursive script. Common Core educrats want to dispense with teaching cursive writing — yet another reason to oppose it!

Data Mining” Core or Common Core?

by Krystle Gabele

September 12, 2014

On Tuesday, FRC hosted a webcast, “Common Core: The Government’s Classroom,” which featured several government officials and education experts discussing the flaws behind the Obama Administration’s program designed to improve testing and curriculum. Common Core has experienced quite a bit of backlash from both educators and parents alike, as the standards for this program were not fully developed prior to implementation at the state level.

Jane Robbins, J.D., with the American Principles Project, was one of the experts who appeared on our webcast. Robbins discussed how data mining is being used to collect information on students, thus violating their privacy and threatening parental rights. Watch Jane Robbins’s interview below.

Welcome Back to College, USA

by Rob Schwarzwalder

September 10, 2014

The California State University system has booted InterVarsity from its 23 campuses because IV, an Evangelical Christian group, believes its local chapters should be led by (get ready) Evangelical Christians.

Women-only Mt. Holyoke College has announced that it is changing its gender categories, to wit:

  • Biologically born female; identifies as a woman.
  • Biologically born female; identifies as a man.
  • Biologically born female; identifies as other/they/ze.
  • Biologically born female; does not identify as either woman or man.
  • Biologically born male; identifies as woman.
  • Biologically born male; identifies as other/they/ze and when “other/they” identity includes woman.
  • Biologically born with both male and female anatomy (Intersex); identifies as a woman.

    The school’s policy notes one identity category still barred from admission: “Biologically born male; identifies as man.”

How about venerable Vanderbilt, which

… has decided student groups on campus cannot determine their own leadership. Consequently, a Muslim can run the Christian group, a global warming skeptic can run the Earth First group, a Republican can run the College Democrats, etc. … The rule came in part because, as you will not be surprised to learn, a Christian fraternity “had expelled several students for violating their behavior policy. One student said he was ousted because he is gay.” Tish Harrison Warren wrote about this at Christianity Today. Her Christian group allowed anyone to be a member, “[b]ut it asks key student leaders — the executive council and small group leaders — to affirm its doctrinal statement, which outlines broad Christian orthodoxy and does not mention sexual conduct specifically. But the university saw belief statements themselves as suspect.”

And, as of Wednesday of this week, “Rev. Bruce Shipman, the Episcopal chaplain at Yale, has resigned in the wake of controversy over a New York Times letter he wrote suggesting Jews were collectively culpable for Israel’s actions and for subsequent rises in global anti-Semitism.” Yale, founded as an explicitly Christian institution centuries ago, summons the decency to fire a nascent anti-Semite — a tiny flash of light in the gathering twilight that is the moral climate of the nation’s colleges and universities. Of course, this spasm of honor comes long after Yale jettisoned its original purpose: to train young men to “live religious, godly and blameless lives according to the rules of God’s Word, diligently reading the Holy Scriptures, the fountain of light and truth; and constantly attend upon all the duties of religion, both in public and secret … (each student was to) …consider the main end of his study to wit to know God in Jesus Christ.”

It is hard to know how to comment about the things listed above. Their stupidity and hypocrisy possess an umbra so glistening, not dissimilar to that displayed by an oil slick on a garage floor, that I will let them speak for themselves.

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.”

Revolution Then and Now

by Robert Morrison

July 14, 2014

The French Revolution began this day two hundred twenty-five years ago, July 14, 1789. Then, a mob in Paris stormed the grim royal fortress of the Bastille. When one of King Louis XVI’s counselors came to him at Versailles with the news of the bloody attack on this prison, the king asked: “Is it a revolt?” His aide answered: “No, Sire, it is a revolution.”

I had occasion to reflect on the French Revolution and on our own during a walking tour with three French students in my hometown of Annapolis this past weekend. We had started at the Alumni House of the Naval Academy Alumni Association. It turned out that this particular building had hosted a reception in 1824 for General Lafayette. The aged Marquis was on an extensive tour of the U.S. then, one where he was met with wild enthusiasm in all the 26 states he visited. This French nobleman was a hero of our American Revolution. In 1824, he was the last surviving general of our Continental Army (it helps when you get your commission at age 21!) We then proceeded to the grounds of St. John’s College, there we visited the Monument to the French Soldiers and Sailors buried there. They died fighting for our freedom.

There are many French connections to Annapolis. When Congress met in Annapolis in 1783-84, the Treaty of Paris was presented to our elected representatives for ratification. This treaty officially recognized American Independence and concluded our own Revolution. It was from the Old State House that Congress in 1784 dispatched Thomas Jefferson as our second minister to France. Upon arrival there, young Jefferson was asked if he had come to replace Benjamin Franklin. “I am Dr. Franklin’s successor,” Mr. Jefferson replied with becoming modesty, “no one can replace him.” Jefferson remained in Paris until 1789, leaving shortly after the Storming of the Bastille. He would long defend the French Revolution and his pro-French tilt would affect the destiny of our own republic. It would be Jefferson who, as president in 1803, would double the size of the U.S by his Louisiana Purchase—from France.

Taking my friends around the Naval Academy, they instantly recognized the French architecture. Ernest Flagg had been educated at France’s Beaux Arts school, and the USNA Chapel is a replica of France’s famous Hotel des Invalides. Below the Chapel is the Crypt of John Paul Jones. My guests also saw the obvious link to the Tomb of Napoleon, beneath the Invalides.

The Continental Navy’s Captain Jones, our first naval hero, sailed the U.S.S. Bonhomme Richard into battle against Britain’s HMS Serapis. As his ship’s name (“Poor Richard”) indicates, Jones’s warship was a gift of the French. John Paul Jones died in France in 1792 and his body lay in a Paris cemetery for a century before being exhumed and returned to the U.S. for burial here. As a tribute, the entire French navy escorted John Paul Jones’s remains across the Atlantic in 1904.

Don’t forget the bone ships! [You can see a video here at minute 2:14.] The bone ships are an amazing collection at the USNA Museum. There, in subdued lighting, you can see highly detailed models of British and American fighting ships, all fashioned from beef bones, mutton bones, and even an occasional human bone. These precious works of art are two hundred years old and were crafted by French prisoners of war. They had been captured by the British during the wars of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars, taken prisoner over a period between 1793 and 1815. These ship models almost seem to have been crafted of ivory they are so beautiful. And they speak volumes to us today about the souls of these tough French sailors who wanted to leave a legacy. We don’t know their names but we see the work of their hands and it tells us about their hearts.

As I guided my French friends around my town, pointing out the French connections to them, they were teaching me about the latest developments in France. They spoke of their immigration issues, their clashes on church and state matters, and, of course, of their fight to defend true marriage.

The French have been turning out hundreds of thousands of protesters in the Manif pour Tous (The Manifestation—we would say demonstration—for all.) The Manif grassroots supporters have come to Paris repeatedly, but they have even greater strength in the provinces. That great part of France, that enduring part of France, outside of Paris, is sometimes called la France profonde, the deeper France. Here, the resistance to the Socialist schemes of President Francois Hollande is rising.

One of my student visitors tells of the Vendee, his home region. During the French Revolution, that portion of Northwestern France rebelled against the bloody excesses of the Jacobins and their supporters in the Paris mobs. From 1793-1799 the revolutionary republican government put down their peasants’ revolt with extreme violence, with an estimated 200,000 victims. Documented stories of mass guillotining and drownings—even of children—shock us to this day.

The French are teaching us that abolishing marriage is only a part of the Left’s agenda. They speak of Le theorie du genre (Gender Theory) that will be incorporated into all school curricula.

We Americans should especially heed this danger. If we think counterfeit marriages can be limited to adults, limited to the few who would claim those privileges, we should think again.

Radicals are demanding the end of marriage. They say so on their website [www.beyondmarriage.org.] We know from past experience they will soon be demanding the right to teach all children they can marry persons of the same sex. After this will come, inevitably, the indoctrination of children into the false idea they can change their sex.

One reason the radicals want Common Core and are so intent on nationalizing all school curricula is so they can conscript all pre-school children into what President Obama calls “universal pre-K.” This is so he can bring about that “fundamental transformation of this country” that he promised in his 2008 campaign.

The French Revolution began this day in 1789 with great hopes:

Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive/But to be young was very heaven.” So wrote the English

poet William Wordsworth. Soon, however, as the radicals leading the French Revolution began to crush religious freedom, to stamp out local governments, and sever the connections between generations, many Frenchmen, Englishmen, and even Americans had second thoughts. It was then that people said the Revolution was consuming its young. It’s time for us to remember the famous words of John Paul Jones: “I have not yet begun to fight!”

Common Core Support Cools

by Nathan Oppman

June 26, 2014

Common Core support among those with school age kids is rapidly declining. Government bureaucrats have long made the argument that they can better educate children than parents can. It appears that parents in America disagree. Nearly everyone agrees that getting a quality education is important but there is a sharp disagreement between those who believe the state should direct educational activities and those who believe parents should direct the education of their children. Look for soon-to-be-released details on an upcoming Common Core event hosted by FRC and featuring some of the key players in this national discussion.

Common Core: “A Little Rebellion Now and Then”

by Robert Morrison

June 18, 2014

One of the factors that led to Congressman Eric Cantor’s recent defeat was his failure to recognize the threat posed by Common Core State Standards. His victorious opponent, David Brat, trumpeted his opposition to Common Core. And Brat struck a responsive chord among the voters of Virginia’s Seventh District. We could certainly call the first defeat in over a century of either party’s House Majority Leader “a little rebellion.”

It’s fitting that this little rebellion would get traction in the Old Dominion. It was Virginia’s own Thomas Jefferson who took a fairly relaxed view of Shays’s Rebellion in Massachusetts in 1786. Jefferson was then serving as our minister to France, but almost alone among the Founding Fathers, Mr. Jefferson did not take alarm at the uprising. “I hold that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing. The tree of liberty must be watered by the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.”

The entire episode of the grassroots rebellion against Common Core is an example of that spark that Thomas Jefferson never wanted to see quenched in us. “It is in the manners and spirit of the people,” he would write, “that a republic is preserved in vigor.” We don’t have to agree with Jefferson’s dismissive attitude toward Shays’s Rebellion. I don’t. And neither did George Washington or James Madison. Madison would become Jefferson’s most faithful ally and advocate.

We can look at Common Core as the ultimate expression of elite opinion about American education. Americans in this view need to be led, fed, directed, managed, cajoled, cosseted, and coerced—all for their own good. Instead of education reform welling up from the grassroots, it would be better, in the view of Common Core adherents, for the necessary changes to come from the top down. Grasstops will tell the grassroots what they need to know.

The Washington Post recently let the Common Core cat out of the elitist bag by publishing a front-page expose headlined “How Bill Gates Pulled Off the Common Core Revolution.” The story is red meat for the opponents of Common Core. It is replete with insider deals and hurry-up, get on board, this train is leaving the station hustle. The Common Core “revolution” so called has never been field tested, never been submitted to public debate, never fully explained, never honestly presented. It’s been a shell game from Day One.

And Common Core resisters have kicked up a fuss from Day Two. I want here to salute these Sons and Daughters (mostly Daughters, frankly) of Liberty. These are the grassroots activists who know what is going on in their local school districts. They know the Constitution and the laws. And they care about their children and, in many cases, their grandchildren. It was easy for sophisticated liberals to dismiss such folks generations ago as “little old ladies in tennis shoes.” Well, now those little old ladies are wearing combat boots.

First to feel the heat (if they didn’t entirely see the light) was the Republican National Committee. Despite the fact that some leading GOP Governors had fallen for the Common Core siren song, the RNC pulled back and passed an anti-Common Core resolution. That helped to legitimize opposition to Common Core.

Here, one is reminded of the French popular leader who sits happily smoking his Gauloise at a Paris sidewalk café. Seeing a massive demonstration headed for the National Assembly, he jumps up. “Those are my people, he says, I have to find out where they are going so I can lead them!”

For whatever reasons, the Republican Party will almost certainly see resolutions offered at its next Platform-writing session to condemn Common Core—and particularly to condemn the stealthy and dishonest way that it has been “pulled off.” States are perfectly free to reject Common Core, we are endlessly told. But if they do, they have no escape from that other terrible idea: No Child Left Behind. The Obama administration has cleverly contrived to let your state get off the rack of NCLB only by signing up for the Iron Maiden of Common Core. Then, the federal bureaucrats will generously let your state spend its own money.

When I served in the Reagan administration, I was given two weeks of “orientation” by Dr. Ed at the federal education department.  Dr. Ed had his Ed.D from Harvard and was a most intelligent, learned, and devoted public servant. He was also thoroughly liberal. Dr. Ed took me to each of the ten assistant secretaryships. Each day for those two weeks, Dr. Ed would assure me that the federal department spends “only 7% of the total education budget.” Just 7%, he repeated like a mantra. Dr. Ed was too diplomatic to say that surely I now understood that what Mrs. Schlafly and all those little old ladies in tennis shoes were saying about our beneficent federal department could not possibly be true.

I reflected on Dr. Ed’s wise counsel. But I recalled my dad’s wartime visits to India. He taught me how the mahouts train elephants there. It takes the mahout about two weeks to break the elephant to the master’s will. Up, down, backward and forward, left and right, the elephant in those two weeks is put through his paces. The mahout only weighs 7% of what the elephant weighs. But the mahout has a stick that he jams behind the elephant’s ear. And the elephant soon learns to do the master’s bidding.

That, Dr. Ed, is how the federal education department works.

And Thomas Jefferson’s great lieutenant, the “magnificent little Madison,” put the dangers in perspective when he wrote:

I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.”

As a veteran of the federal education department and a recovering bureaucrat, I am proud of America’s little rebellion against Common Core. Bill Gates almost pulled it off. But the Washington Post let everyone know how corrupting the influence of this powerful man has been. If you bribe the Governor of Virginia, you can get indicted. And the governor can get indicted. You are considered corrupt. But if you lavish money on all the governors to entice them to do your will, you are counted a philanthropist.

What the little rebellion over Common Core proves is that here, the people still rule. And it is heartening to see America rising.

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.

Be Wary of Uniform Education Measurements

by Nathan Oppman

March 18, 2014

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal cited the challenge of measuring college success. As college debt increases, it will likely become more important to acquire tangible measure of collegiate success. Some members of Congress and the Department of Education have weighed in with new ways to measure college outcomes.

The problem with establishing uniform measurements is that education is multi-faceted. Getting a job is not necessarily an indication of academic success. College is not designed to be a job training center, but to give students a greater understanding of the world. Education is valuable beyond the workforce in such areas as voting, training children, and morality. If a degree does not directly lead to a job, then it is not necessarily wasted. If going to college leads to a job, it does not mean the education was exceptional.

It is important to accurately assess the many benefits that college education can provide. But we should be assessing those benefits at the local level and should seek to discourage any government imposed national measurements. From No Child Left Behind to Common Core, we have learned that we must be wary of our government’s involvement in education. Keep an eye open for national collegiate success measurements and tell the federal government to keep out of the classroom.

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