There’s an old saying that a fish rots from the head down. That’s true in government, too, and especially so in public education. A scam starts in Washington, D.C., and then spreads to the states and local agencies – with federal money as the perfume to mask the stink.

Take, for example, the so-called “Common Core” national education standards. Starting in 2009 and 2010, state education agencies and state legislatures were bribed into giving up state standards and adopting the new national “Common Core” standards through the offer of federal grant money in the U.S. Department of Education’s “Race to the Top” competition. Five years later, the grant money has evaporated and the stink from the scam of national standards is rising in state after state.

The good news is that in growing numbers, parents across the nation are rejecting Common Core and demanding that states return to state sovereignty in education and to higher educational standards.

Studies in Massachusetts and other states have revealed that in purely educational terms, the new standards are in fact inferior to what they replaced. Moreover, they are inferior in one area they were advertised to be superior – in preparing students for careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, the so-called STEM subjects. See, for example, this study by the independent Pioneer Institute.

But the real scandal is not in the broken promises on higher standards, which is bad enough. The real scandal is in the abandonment of state and local authority over K-12 curriculum in favor of national standards enforced by a national testing program. This transformation to a de facto national school system has been accomplished in a thoroughly underhanded and deceptive manner, and too many Republican governors and elected state school superintendents have been willing partners in this betrayal of federalism.

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What many Republican governors have refused to admit is that the the Common Core standards circumvent and sabotage local control of curriculum. Although the standards by themselves do not seem to mandate specific curriculum choices, hitching a state’s educational practices to a national testing program effectively pushes teachers and local curriculum planners into selecting curriculum materials that are based on the national standards or “aligned” to them. And who is the major funder of this national “student assessment” program? Care to guess? Right: the U.S. Department of Education.

Increasing numbers of parents are saying, “Hell no! We want our traditional local control of curriculum and we want to aim for higher standards.” Parents and classroom teachers are leading this revolt, not politicians.

They are not alone, and wonder of wonders, state elected officials are starting to listen. State legislators in two states have voted to withdraw from the Common Core standards and several other states are debating the idea. In April, the Colorado Board of Education voted to ask the state legislature to halt the state’s participation in the national student assessment program.

The new Common Core student testing program has become the focal point for the debate over standards. The state-required but nationally administered student testing is the lever now used to coerce local schools and teachers into adopting curricula materials certified as “Common Core compliant.” If schools do not change curricula to “teach to the test,” they risk seeing their students have lower scores on those tests. Despite the little flexibility local schools still have in setting curricula, the assessment regime is the hammer driving them to accept “compliant” curricula at all levels.

What kinds of curricula are being adopted to pursue the Common Core standards?

  • District of Columbia math teachers are using curricula that directs students to “Common Core aligned lessons,” which include 130 links to websites on “social justice,” including this gem:  “Educators increasingly recognize the important role that teaching plays in helping students to understand and overcome social injustice and inequality.”
  • Another math problem was featured on a hilarious video, where random individuals were asked to solve a simple math problem: “32 minus 12 equals – what?” Anyone who answers “20” fails the quiz unless he uses a complex and incomprehensible process for arriving at that answer.
  • Boston Public Schools have announced that instruction in history and social sciences is being folded under humanities and English/language arts to promote “interdisciplinary collaboration.” Goodbye Paul Revere and James Madison?

There has long been weak math and English curricula in some schools, and a left-wing bias in texts is nothing new. What is new is the institutionalization of bad curriculum choices as the norm on a national scale with the full, active support of the federal government – with local boards and parents disenfranchised from decision making.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and other Republicans have been among the ardent promoters of the new “Common Core” standards and the federal government’s role in implementing them. Any politician of any political party who supports this nationalization of our public schools cannot claim to understand or support the principles of federalism or the 10th Amendment.

A related controversial issue is the privacy of student educational data and student records such as health data. Parents want stronger protections against “data mining” and unauthorized uses of student data. This is a major issue under Common Core because the wider sharing of student achievement data is one of the goals of the national assessment program.

Conservatives and all patriots must stand 100 percent in support of this revolt against the planned mediocrity in our nation’s schools.

Media wishing to interview Tom Tancredo, please contact [email protected].


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