By Karen VanTil Gushta
Editor’s Note: This is the fourth in a series of stories about Common Core, the controversial new educational agenda aimed at imposing federal government standards on every aspect of public and private education in America, which some are even calling “ObamaCore.” The first part examined the high stakes for parents, students and education. The second followed the money trail behind Common Core. The third revealed who is fighting back.
The battle over Common Core is far from over. More and more people are joining the fight against it, even in states where it is considered a done deal. Parents and concerned citizens now realize what’s at stake is the complete makeover of America’s schools in the image of Common Core. And in all likelihood, homeschools and private schools will eventually be required to follow the national standards, too.
“There are a lot of organizations that have sprung up for the express purpose of fighting Common Core,” said Jane Robbins, senior fellow at the American Principles Project.
She has spoken to Republican, tea-party and 9/12 groups and people who’ve started Facebook pages against Common Core.
“It’s truly a grassroots effort. It is extraordinary,” Robbins said, explaining that no one thought the movement would get this big. “The whole point was the way they treated this was that it would be a done deal before anyone found out. They thought people would be sheep and roll over and accept what the ‘experts’ told them to do. But it hasn’t turned out that way.”
She doesn’t think the opposition to Common Core is going to fade away.
“If those pushing Common Core think this is just going to stay under wraps and it will die out,” Robbins said, “they are in for a great surprise. People will not stand for it when their children are involved.”
Opponents to Common Core say it is a states-rights issue, a teacher-rights issue and ultimately a parents-rights issue because it is about children and their futures. They say Common Core will not benefit kids and, instead, will benefit big publishing companies that produce the tests and textbooks (like Pearson) and software companies (like Microsoft) that provide online testing. These companies stand to make hundreds of millions of dollars in the billion-dollar education industry.
It’s not just the textbook and testing companies that will profit, according to Robbins.
“It’s the groups who want to be in charge, and those people are in the federal government and in state departments of education,” she said. “They are happy to let the federal government tell them what to do. It’s the people in the trade associations. Those are the people who benefit from transferring control from the local level.”
The Arkansas State Board of Education approved the standards in 2010, and Common Core is now impacting math teaching.
“All of a sudden, we cannot help our own children,” said one parent.
Another mom said her fifth-grader and her seventh-grader used to love math, but now it’s more of a headache. She elaborated in an interview with the Jonesboro, Ark., TV station.
“It’s like they’re trying to take the parents out of the education process,” she said. “We have no books; we have no guidance to help our children.”
Robbins said parents need to remember they are “in charge of their children’s education, and the people who want to assume that control, especially those in government, work for them.”
She emphasized: “The thing parents have to understand, and I think they are beginning to understand, is that this education monolith has grown over the past 50 years without any constitutional authority, and if they stop and say, ‘You can’t do this!,’ it will crumble.”
The battle against Common Core can be won, Robbins said, “but people will have to wake up, and they will have to decide that they are free-born American citizens, and they don’t have to do what they are told by people to whom they have not given that authority.”
Terrence O. Moore, author of “The Story Killers: A Common Sense Case Against the Common Core,” thinks the Common Core proponents have “overstepped.” Now parents are starting to figure out what the changes mean.
“And the prospect of a national curriculum is really starting to bother people. So they’re looking at what we can do that’s better,” he said.
Like Robbins, Moore thinks people are starting to see that the problems in education didn’t just start with Common Core.
“They are waking up to what we’ve had for decades,” Moore told WND. “People now see that their schools are not as good as they thought they were. Homeschooling, charter schools, private schools show a clear desire for school reform among 10-20 percent of the people.”
Moore thinks the private initiative is a hopeful sign.
“I hope that students and parents will pay more attention to what’s going on in the classroom,” he said. “I don’t think they will just lapse into indifference. The more they find out, the worse it is, and this will have to have electoral consequences and consequences for the way schools are set up.”
As a historian, Moore, who is assistant professor of history at Hillsdale College, takes the long view.
“We have to have a national discussion about what education is,” he said. “This needs to be part of the Common Core discussion. People are letting Common Core proponents say education is ‘college and career readiness.’ There’s a lot more to education than just getting into college and then getting a job.”
Many Republicans, including Jeb Bush, don’t understand this, he said.
“They say they are talking reform – but they always come back to saying it’s the computer that’s going to revolutionize education,” Moore explained. “They are not talking about education but ‘job training.'”
Moore, who was principal of a highly successful classical charter school in Fort Collins, Colo., before joining the Hillsdale faculty and becoming academic adviser to Hillsdale’s Charter School Initiative, wrote in “The Story Killers”:
We know what works in schools – or we ought to. A liberal education works, and it works for a reason. The wolf in progressive sheep’s clothing never works, and it fails for a reason. The key rests in the human mind and soul. Human beings want to know things. Human beings also feel things. They have a moral constitution. Both the human mind and soul long for greatness, for stories that are good and beautiful and true.
Will Estrada, director of federal relations with the Home School Legal Defense Association, agrees: “It’s about giving that love of learning to individual kids. That’s what this whole battle is really about.”
Estrada said central planners claim they need access to student data to improve education.
“The successes of homeschool and private schools have shown that it’s not having 400 points of data on every student, but rather good teaching, good curriculum and parental involvement,” he said. “That’s the key.”
In their effort to inform parents about the negative impact Common Core will have, the Home School Legal Defense Association has produced a documentary, “Building the Machine,” scheduled to be released March 10.
“The big issue is that parents have got to be involved in their children’s education. They have to wake up and see what’s going on with education,” said Estrada, echoing Robbins and Moore.
“We want to re-inspire them and show how essential it is for parents to be involved in their children’s education, whether you homeschool, whether you private school or use public schools,” Estrada said. “One of the unintended consequences is that more public school parents are getting involved. But this may be their last shot. If Common Core goes into effect, it will bring about nationalized education. This shows why this is such a critical battle.”
“We think Common Core will eventually be defeated,” said Estrada. But he agrees with Terrence Moore – “The question is what’s going to replace it?” How should we reform public education? “We have to leave education decisions in hands of local school boards, competent teachers and parents.
“I hope the battle over Common Core is signaling that parents are going to be more engaged in their children’s education,” Estrada concluded.
Robbins, Moore and Estrada all believe parents hold the key to taking back America’s schools. They are the only hope in preventing progressive elites from gaining complete control.
William H. Jeynes, professor of education at California State University, Long Beach, and author of the acclaimed book, “Parental Involvement and Academic Success,” shared his views on how to enlist more parents in the battle against Common Core.
Since research shows that parental involvement is highly related to children’s academic outcomes, Jeynes said parents “need to be available to their children to refute inaccuracies that might arise in the curriculum.”
He said parents should attend school-board meetings and “make their displeasure known to the officials,” including their state legislators and Congress.
Jeynes urges African-American and Hispanic parents to join the fight against Common Core. The secularized content of the Common Core will particularly impact them, since they generally say their faith is important to them.
“It is ironic that American educational leaders are looking to increasingly secularize the curriculum of our public schools,” Jeynes said, “because research indicates that if African-American and Hispanic children are believers [in Jesus Christ] and come from two biological parent families, the achievement gap is actually totally eliminated” – a fact that Jeynes documented in his 2003 book, “Religion, Education, and Academic Success.” In view of these facts, Jeynes said every effort should be made to inform parents about the secularized content of the Common Core.
Moore, in chapters five and eight of “The Story Killers,” shows in detail how Common Core handles religion.
“As long as it is an ‘origin myth’ – like an American Indian account of natural origins – it is applauded. Anything having to do with Christianity is excluded or undermined,” he said.
Christians should “do all that they can to make this a nationwide political issue,” Jeynes said. “The nation also needs Christians who care enough about the public school system to stand against negative trends of this kind. Therefore, believers should seriously consider such actions as becoming teachers themselves or running for the school board or a higher political office.”
Both Jeynes and Moore suggested it may be time for parents to “vote with their feet.” Jeynes challenged pastors to consider initiating or expanding Christian schools and suggested that many Christians may want to consider homeschooling. Moore is working with Hillsdale College to set up a network of charter schools that offer students traditional classical education.
Whichever way parents go on this issue, it is now clear – the battle over Common Core will be won or lost, depending on their actions.
Karen VanTil Gushta has a Ph.D. in philosophy of education and is a freelance writer and former educator with experience teaching at all levels, including graduate teacher education. In 2009, Coral Ridge Ministries published her first book, “The War On Children: How Pop Culture and Public Schools Put Our Kids at Risk.” She writes regularly on the topics of protecting faith and freedom, and defending the sanctity of human life.