Unless you’re a political or social activist, you may not be very familiar with the term Common Core — and for good reason. It’s the name of the nationalized K-12 educational standards that have discreetly swept the country, including the state of Ohio, over the past few years. Common Core’s manner of creation and propagation provides crucial insight into how such a colossal change in education could be taking place while many parents and educators remain virtually unaware of the shifting plates beneath their (and their children’s) feet. The details of its implementation reveal a great deal about why we should all be concerned.
Common Core is, in many respects, the younger sibling of No Child Left Behind (NCLB), the wildly unpopular and largely discredited Bush II-era federal education program. But while No Child Left Behind is a household name, Common Core remains mostly a mystery to parents, teachers, and lawmakers alike. The reasons for this are simple. Despite all its shortcomings, NCLB was enacted through the relative transparency of the legislative process. Common Core, on the other hand, was written and adopted almost entirely out of the public eye. And this was exactly how the “powers that be” orchestrated it.
The idea behind Common Core and the standards themselves were devised by a small group of private organizations in Washington, D.C., funded, in part, by more than $100 million dollars from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (B&MGF). B&MGF’s involvement raises some serious red flags about the underlying philosophy and long-term vision for the standards. The organization seeks to spread its own vision for a kind of global utopia, a vision which ends up looking eerily dystopic in practice. For evidence of this, one need look no further than B&MGF’s support for universal abortion-on-demand in places like Sub-Saharan Africa. And it doesn’t take much imagination to see this pseudo-eugenics program for what it is. But thanks to Common Core, B&MGF values will soon be coming to a school near you.
Here’s why. In 2009, the Obama administration announced millions in stimulus dollars for states through its Race to the Top program. The one proviso for reception of the money was the complete embrace of the Common Core Standards once they were rolled out a few years later. Suffering budget shortfalls in the midst of the Great Recession, many states (46 in all) hastily signed-on ahead of the administration’s tight deadline. Thus, without so much as the opportunity to evaluate the Standards or mandatory assessments, the states were now on the hook, where many, including Ohio, remain today.
Many folks pose a perfectly reasonable question: “what’s so problematic about more rigorous educational standards?” Of course, there’s nothing wrong with greater rigor in education; it’s sorely needed. But the unfortunate reality is that rather than injecting more rigor into our educational system, these standards impoverish it with less. For instance, Common Core math and English, rolled out ahead of more controversial subjects like health or social studies, have been deemed defective by countless practitioners in their respective fields.
Consider Common Core math. According to a joint paper from the Pioneer Institute and American Principles Project, under the new standards, algebra I would be taught in ninth rather than eigthth grade, resulting in the majority of high school students graduating without calculus, a subject in which most elite colleges expect incoming students to demonstrate proficiency. In fact, many schools offer level-one calculus as a remedial class. But it’s not just calculus. Common Core delays or eliminates instruction in many other crucial math skills, as well. For instance, division is postponed from fifth to sixth grade and converting between fractions, decimals, and percents is eliminated altogether. After all, who needs such skills when your iPhone can do it for you? More rigorous indeed.
Brendan Shea is founder and president of Madison County Right to Life. He lives with his young family in London, Ohio, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.