Three years after the Department of Education announced a contest called Race-to-the-Top for $4.35 billion in stimulus funds, some parents, teachers, governors, and citizen and public policy groups are coming to an awful realization about the likely outcomes:
- A national curriculum called Common Core
- Regionalism, or the replacement of local governments by federally appointed bureaucrats
- A leveling of all schools to one, low national standard, and a redistribution of education funds among school districts
- An effective federal tracking of all students
- The loss of the option of avoiding the national curriculum and tests through private school and home school
Working behind the scenes, implementing these policies and writing the standards are associates from President Obama’s community organizing days. In de facto control of the education component is Linda Darling-Hammond, a radical left-wing educator and close colleague of William “Bill” Ayers, the former leader of the communist terrorist Weather Underground who became a professor of education and friend of Obama’s.
When these dangerous initiatives are implemented, there will be no escaping bad schools and a radical curriculum by moving to a good suburb, or by home schooling, or by enrolling your children in private schools.
How was it that 48 governors entered Race-to-the-Top without knowing outcomes?
It was one of the many “crises” exploited by the Obama administration. While the public was focused on a series of radical moves coming in rapid-fire succession, like the health care bill and proposed trials and imprisonment of 9/11 terrorists on domestic soil, governors, worried about keeping school doors open, signed on. Many politicians and pundits praised Obama on this singular issue, repeating the official rhetoric about raising standards.
It stands to reason, though, that education policies would be consistent with Obama’s agenda. After all, one of his most controversial associations, highlighted during the 2008 presidential campaign, was with an education professor, Bill Ayers. As a terrorist, he and his wife, Bernardine Dohrn, had dedicated their Prairie Fire Manifesto to Sirhan Sirhan, the convicted assassin of Robert F. Kennedy. It was for this reason that Kennedy’s son, Christopher Kennedy, chairman of the University of Illinois board of trustees, voted against bestowing “professor emeritus” status on Ayers after he retired. “I intend to vote against conferring the honorific title of our university whose body of work includes a book dedicated in part to the man who murdered my father, Robert F. Kennedy,” he said.
THE OBAMA DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION: WHERE DID BILL AYERS GO?
Back then, the former bomber and co-founder of the communist terrorist Weather Underground organization was Distinguished Professor of Education at the University of Illinois at Chicago. The two had worked together closely from the year Ayers hosted a political launch party for Obama, in 1995, to 2002. At the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, “the brainchild of Bill Ayers,” they funneled more that $100 million to radical groups like ACORN and Gamaliel, which used the funds to promote radical education.[i] This initiative was also promoted by Arne Duncan, now Secretary of Education. Also as board members of the Woods Fund, Ayers and Obama channeled money to ACORN and the Midwest Academy.[ii]
When initial White House visitor logs were released in 2009, the administration quickly dismissed speculations about visits by “William Ayers.” That was a different William Ayers Americans were told. The Obama administration is appealing an August 17 order to release the other visitor logs in response to a lawsuit filed by Judicial Watch and others.[iii]
It appears, however, that “the” Obama-friendly Bill Ayers has been visiting Washington, D.C. for education-related matters.
In October 2009, the year before he retired, Ayers had an encounter with the “Backyard Conservative” blogger at Reagan National Airport. At that time, there was speculation about Ayers being the real author of Obama’s autobiography, Dreams from My Father. Ayers teased that he was indeed the real author.
Blogger and law professor, Stephen Diamond, noted that no one asked why Ayers would even be in Washington, D.C. It turns out that Ayers was one of three keynote speakers at a conference sponsored by the Renaissance Group, which, according to Diamond, was dedicated to problems of poverty, diversity, and multiculturalism—and the inability of white teachers to deal with them. The other two speakers were Secretary of Education Duncan and U.S. Under Secretary of Education, Martha Kanter.
It is not clear what Ayers spoke about at this particular conference. But my analysis of his courses and methods at the University of Illinois determined that his purpose is to radicalize future teachers—and by extension their students—for the purpose of sparking a revolution and overthrowing capitalism.
It is shocking that Obama Education Department officials would appear at a conference that also featured someone like Ayers. On the other hand, their boss, President Obama, worked with Ayers in Chicago, and this kind of collaboration is not entirely surprising. We are left, however, wondering about the precise nature of the role that Ayers is playing in the development of this federal education plan. But his participation in this conference clearly suggests he is playing a role of some kind.
At this three-day conference, Mr. Nevin Brown of Achieve, Inc., made a presentation on the “Common Core State Standards” Initiative. A recipient of the largesse of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Achieve would become a key player in revamping education under Common Core. Hence, Ayers was a major speaker at a conference that was involved in developing a new national curriculum. If Achieve has ever disavowed Ayers or his teaching methods, we could find no evidence of this on the public record.
The notion of a “Common Core” seems to recall E.D. Hirsch’s traditionalist Common Knowledge curriculum, which emphasizes the need for students to understand America’s cultural and national heritage. But Common Core is not that at all. Many have been fooled, and an estimated 80% of the public does not even know about Common Core.
Common Core is part of an effort to implement regionalism, the replacement of local governments by regional boards of federally appointed bureaucrats, who in turn are beholden to international bodies. Regionalism will eliminate the freedom parents now have in choosing neighborhoods with good schools because tax funds will be distributed equally. There will be no escape in home schooling or private schools either, because the curriculum will follow national tests. Students will be tracked through mandatory state records that will then be accessible to Washington bureaucrats. Ultimately, all students will be subject to education mandates implemented by Obama’s radical cronies.
NOT LETTING A CRISIS GO TO WASTE
“Race to the Top” required that states commit to yet-to-be-written Common Core standards in math and English/Language Arts (ELA). Today, Common Core has the support of Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, and was included in the platform of the Democratic National Convention. It was embraced by former Republican Florida Governor, Jeb Bush, much to the consternation of Tea Party groups, who see this as an unconstitutional federal takeover of education. The Republican Party is divided.
Emmett McGroarty and Jane Robbins, in their white paper “Controlling Education from the Top: Why Common Core Is Bad for America,” describe the pressure and sleight-of-hand that led governors to sign onto a commitment that was then changed before the ink had fully dried. They reveal that rather than being a state-led reform initiative, as touted, the new standards were written by a few well-connected, but non-qualified, education entrepreneurs. The history goes back decades, but in the most recent phase, the vision for Common Core was set in 2007, by the Washington-based contractor, Achieve, Inc., in a document entitled Benchmarking for Success.
The question is: Why was Bill Ayers keynoting a conference attended by the two highest officials in the Education Department and by Achieve, essentially the project manager of the nationalized education curriculum? It may be years before we know how often Ayers visited the White House, but the Ayers educational brand or philosophy is all over Common Core.
Some states are waking up. Virginia pulled out when Governor Bob McDonnell was elected. Georgia, Indiana, Utah, South Carolina, and others have begun the effort to extricate themselves.
When South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley said she would support a state legislative effort to block Common Core, which her predecessor had instituted, Education Secretary Arne Duncan dismissed her concerns about nationally imposed standards as “a conspiracy theory in search of a conspiracy.”
But it doesn’t take a conspiracy theorist to realize that Common Core will ultimately dictate the curriculum. Two consortia of states (SBAC and PARCC)[iv] have been given $360 million in federal funds to create national Common Core-aligned tests and “curriculum models.” Well-connected companies, such as Educational Testing Service (ETS) and the multinational textbook company Pearson, are in competition to design the test. David Coleman, a chief architect of the Common Core standards for English/Language Arts, recently was named President of the College Board, which administers tests, including those designed by ETS, like the SAT.
The Education Department on August 12, 2012, announced another competition for $400 million in Race-to-the-Top funds for local districts to “personalize learning, close achievement gaps and take full advantage of 21st century tools.” Such a competition cleverly bypasses recalcitrant states and lures individual districts into the federal web.
The feds’ announcement echoes Common Core’s emphasis on personalized learning and leveling of achievement through technology and collaboration (the “21st century skills”). Common Core emphasizes “in-depth” reading of short passages, rather than long fictional or historical narratives. The Publisher’s Criteria reveal that a focus on short texts will equalize outcomes. Text selection guide B mandates that “all students (including those who are behind) have extensive opportunities to encounter grade-level complex text” through “supplementary opportunities.” The strategy of gathering students into groups to collaborate on short passages ensures that no one advances beyond others.[v]
In the tradition of John Dewey, multiple “perspectives” and “critical thinking” are emphasized over the accumulation of “facts.” Common Core advertises itself as promoting “skills,” rather than content. The skills, though, do not promise to make students more knowledgeable about literature or history, but to make them “critical thinkers” in the tradition of the radical curriculum writers who are selectively critical of the U.S. and the West.