A LOOK INTO THE ”EDU-SHARK TANK”
April 8, 2014
As a long time researcher and sometimes activist observing the shark tank of education, it can sometimes be difficult to tell the shark from the bait. To casual observers looking only through shallow water, images can become distorted beneath the surface.
Occasionally one hungry shark gets the attention of a whole cross section of the watchers. One issue which has generated publicity, anxiety, anger, articles, organized opposition, books, and even a movie, is Common Core Standards. [Hereafter in this article referred to as CC]
CC is a big shark rightly perceived as dangerous in a lot of levels of education waters. Rarely have I seen any of the parade of deliberate dumbing down agendas generate such opposition on the part of self-identified “conservatives.”
One case in point is the recently released movie about CC, “Building the Machine,” produced by Home School Legal Defense Association. The approximate 40 minute film is professionally crafted as a documentary presenting pro and con positions re: CC. It is hosted by HSLDA’s, Michael Farris.
Rolling into the short comments by a litany of opinion makers, the introduction begins with a statement that “by 2013” people “began asking questions.” Fact check: A whole lot of people were aware of CC long before late 2013.
The film appeared to be carefully paced with initial short snippets of a cacophony of faces expounding pro and con views of CC. Next came Michael Patrilli of Fordham Institute, Bill Gates and Jeb Bush asserting how great CC happens to be. That followed by a counterpoint of speakers, pro and con, in short clips justifying and questioning with versions of the origins of CC. Then longer segments of statements by critics of CC.
Finally the conclusion is reached that, “Humans are not machines” and that the CC agenda is “education as a production line.” A Lynchpin commentary by David Coleman, President of College Board and lead writer of CC Standards leads to the response to Coleman. Farris closed the film by admonishing viewers that motives of the writer of CC Standards should not be questioned, for Farris said he is sure Coleman “wants to try to improve the public school system.” Farris poses the question for parents to ask. “Is education about my child or about the system,” followed by an appeal for “Parental Involvement” and an invitation to join the dialogue.
The concluding remarks raise questions in and of themselves. The question posed re: whether education is about “my child” or about the “the system”, is the wrong question. The question should be, “Should schools exist to educate or to train?” There’s a fundamental difference.
The pendulum has already swung to the latter, for it has never been possible nor ever will it ever be possible to create a tax-supported school system which can be tailored to every parent’s wishes or criteria. Besides the obvious, tax supported schools do not belong to or exist exclusively for parent’s children, but need to be accountable to all the taxpayers who pay for them as well as parents of children attending them. Private schools (secular and religious)and home schooling which do not take any “assists” or dollars directly or indirectly i.e. vouchers, etc, exist to serve the needs of parents who want to tailor an education specifically tuned to their child.
The movie is troubling in many respects. It gives the impression that CC is a new phenomenon only recently catching the attention of people. Not so. The attempt to nationalize by imposing identical curricula manifested itself in the late 1960’s with “Family Life Education” shortly following the original enactment of ESEA in mid 1960s. I was there and fought FLE in the 60’s and 70’s (see documentation with my presentation at a conference in Maine in 2012: “Exposing the Global Road to Ruin through Education”which is available to view and read on www.deliberatedumbingdown.com .
CC Methodology, and that’s what it is all about, is nothing new either.The same methodology contributed mightily to the dumbing down in the 70’s. It was called “Inquiry” or “Discovery Learning”—a decade of sharing ignorance as students were led to believe they invented the wheel.
Expect CC to be pared back as organized opposition continues to get publicity, but the “one step back” will have served its purpose , for the two steps forward of the dialectic. It will resurface with a new name. In the 60’s and 70’s technology didn’t yet exist to track the thought processes of every student as his/her brain can be tracked today to assure a predetermined outcome.
At the top of the page of the video of the movie, one finds a place to click to “Be Involved.” There one can download a “Group discussion Guide.” Excuse me, but isn’t that the terminology and methodology associated with Inquiry, Discovery Learning and CC? Group, group, group! Have even opponents of an atrocious CC been so affected by the systems managed schools and society, that they themselves have lost some capacity to think independently to come to an individual conclusion? Has the prediction of a spokesman for the FDR Administration come about eighty years later, when the spokesman said, “The rugged individualism of Americanism must go, because it is contrary to the purpose of the New Deal….which is re-making America. Russia and Germany are attempting to compel a new order by means typical of their nationalism—compulsion. The United States will do it by moral suasion. Of course, we expect some opposition, but the principles of the New Deal must be carried to the youth of the nation. We expect to accomplish by education what dictators in Europe are seeking to do by compulsion and force.” [Monroe Evening News, Monroe, MI, Sept. 13, 1933]
Has it come to the point of near accomplishment of that agenda which has not really changed through the eight decades it has been pursued to one degree or another through administrations of both political parties?
Group discussion is a term of the 70’s Human Potential Movement as is the group learning format in classrooms necessary with CC. In itself it is one of the problems in shark tank of education.
Finally, the movie, “Building the Machine,” concerns itself with only half of the picture. Most opponents of CC rightly see it as dangerous, another move toward nationalization of education. They are pouring their time, energy and money into organizations and collective action to stop or disarm it. All the while a larger shark is being ignored and even encouraged which will swallow the concept of elected representation, including the “tank” itself…the Constitution. For the most dangerous predator in the shark tank is the “School Choice Movement,” charter schools, vouchers, opportunity scholarships, et al. Tragically, many of the most ardent opponents of CC are simultaneously advocating charter schools and vouchers. Once Charter Schools and vouchers (tax money following the student) prevail, then to what elected entity will parents and tax paying citizens have left to appeal? Once elected school boards are decimated and charter schools prevail who will be accountable to the local and state taxpayes? Profit-making charters? Non- profit charters? Voucher accepting private schools which forfeit the reason to be called “private” when they accept those tax funded vouchers?
As with CC, the idea of charter schools is not new. Important documentation has been uncovered by the astute researcher, Debra Niwa, who while researching ESEA reauthorizations, came across two Federal laws mentioning Charter Schools.
 Public Law 103-382. See Title X “Part C—Public Charter Schools” Signed by President Clinton on October 20, 1994.
 Public Law 105-278 charter School Expansion Act of 1998” amends ESEA Title X “Part C—Public Charter Schools” enacted in 1994—signed by President Clinton on October 22, 1998.
Remember Bill Clinton’s Arkansas Governor’s Schools where students went off for elite training and came home from their time in those schools with ideas parents didn’t recognize? Remember the infamous letter from Marc Tucker to Hillary rejoicing that “their”agenda could move forward with the Clintons in the White House? Do charter school advocates really want to join the agenda of Bill Clinton’s administration? And why are the names of the GOP 2016 hopefuls advocating for charter schools no different from Bill Clinton? And Hillary, as she grooms for 2016 as well?
Does the thought occur to the well- meaning,“self -identified” conservatives who are so passionately fighting CC to the exclusion of fighting charter schools and vouchers and even promoting the same, that CC may possibly have been launched or seized upon just in time to siphon off time and energy of parents and others who may have begun to look deeper into the shark tank of education and recognize charters and vouchers as the Big Daddy of Sharks it is?
It is the CONCEPT OF ELECTED REPRESENTATION ITSELFWHICH IS AT STAKE, and consequently the CONCEPT of TAXATION WITH REPRESENTATION. The quality of specific charter schools or lack thereof is irrelevant. What is relevant, is the issue of private interests usurping the domain of publicly funded schools…substituting appointed entities so education can be MANAGED by private interests using public (tax money) to do it. School boards now. How about those “pesky” elected city councils? Or “pesky” elected county supervisors? Or going up the ladder, “pesky” assemblymen, “pesky” senators? Appointed special- interest managers might be more efficient following the logic recently proposed by tech titan, Reed Hastings, but that’s what the Soviet System was, wasn’t it? Didn’t that spokesman for FDR Administration way back in 1933 telegraph the agenda to align U.S. schools with the Soviet and German system and nobody paid any attention?
We all need to be wary when swimming in the shark tanks lest we become distracted and end up bait for the bigger shark who wants to damage the tank itself, the original constitution of our Republic with elected representation and taxation with representation.