|Obama Team Hijacks Schools’ Core Standards|
By Quin Hillyer
Thursday, February 16 2012
The constitutional, statutory and philosophical abuses by the Obama administration continue piling up. Last week, two of the top former lawyers for the federal Department of Education released a peer-reviewed report showing the administration violating or evading three separate federal laws by pressuring states to adopt a national core curriculum. Those laws exist for good reason: Control of educational content by the national government risks creating a national system of indoctrination, without local recourse to diversity of thought.
It was not a conservative but the Democratic former Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, Joseph Califano, Jr. (an aide to both Lyndon Johnson and Jimmy Carter), who warned that “In its most extreme form, national control of curriculum is a form of national control of ideas.” To protect against such dangers, local control of public education always has been a touchstone of the American system. Robert Eitel and Kent Talbert – respectively, the former Deputy General Counsel and General Counsel of G.W. Bush’s Education Department – explain in the new essay that this is why federal law consistently “ban[s] federal departments and agencies from directing, supervising, or controlling elementary and secondary school instructional materials.”
Nonetheless, without statutory authority, the authors explain how the Obama administration has begun issuing “waivers” of expensive federal mandates, along with providing cash grants, in return for adoption of national standards. The administration then defines the national standards in such a way that only one initiative actually fits the definition – namely, the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), a supposedly voluntary national effort that easily morphs into a form of compulsion.
No matter what the standards are, this would be a perilous step for the reasons listed above. In the case of the CCSS, additionally, the standards themselves are flawed. Indeed, they actually dumb down some state standards previously in existence, such as those in Massachusetts and California. And, as one review found, “unlike standards that point to the general cultural or literary knowledge, (as well as the generic thinking and language skills) needed at each grade level, Common Core’s ‘anchor’ and grade-level standards not only provide no intellectual base or structure for a curriculum, they actually prevent one from emerging.” Moreover, these standards “may lead to fewer high school students prepared for authentic college-level work.”
And while the standards themselves do seem, to the untrained eye, to be largely free of discernible ideological bias or agendas, there is no guarantee they will stay that way. If, as is already starting to happen (according to the study), the federal government effectively can dictate curriculum through the CCSS, then it takes little imagination to see how the government in future years could hijack those standards to push objectionable content. That’s what ideologues in federal agencies do. If you think culture wars are bad now, with state governments and left-wing outfits pushing First Graders to read about the joys of sex, imagine how bad it would be if the Feds could use compulsory power to force claptrap on children nationwide.
It’s likewise easy to imagine high schoolers never being introduced to the likes of Miracle at Philadelphia: The Story of the Constitutional Convention, but being force-fed leftist propaganda like Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States, without a shred of leavening influences.
Here in Alabama, from where I write, the fight against Common Core has become an animating cause for Tea Party groups such as the Common Sense Campaign. The steering committee of the state Republican Party and numerous other GOP groups also have expressed official opposition.
Past experience with national standards gives cause for concern. While the longstanding and usually respected National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) performs a slightly different function than CCSS, even it has been susceptible to leftist massaging. At a recent Common Sense Campaign candidate forum, impressive state school board contestant Jessica James noted that one NAEP model question for Fourth Graders goes out of its way to monkey with the Declaration of Independence. You guessed it: It conveniently drops the word “Creator.”
Government-controlled Common Core standards could terribly multiply such problems.
The new report by Eitel and Talbert does not digress into these specific concerns about content, because its focus is on the legal aspects of the administration’s power grab. From the legal standpoint, however, the report’s indictment is highly persuasive, and devastating. In short, say the authors, “The Department has simply paid others to do that which it is forbidden to do.”
The authors call for congressional hearings, an investigation by the Government Accountability Office and resistance by state officials to participation in the administration’s waiver and grant programs. They make good sense. Tyranny, whether by overt means or by the backdoor methods being used here, is still tyranny. It should be fiercely opposed.
(Note: Robert Eitel was a college apartment-mate of mine. And I am doing some work on a completely different issue with the Pacific Research Institute, which is one the report’s four sponsors. But I was writing and doing radio shows against the Common Core standards well before, just last week, I learned of the report described here.)
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