August 12, 2022

Speaking on the Common Core of Standards

B. K. EakmanAn Interview with Beverly Eakman: Speaking on the Common Core of Standards

Michael F. Shaughnessy
Eastern New Mexico University


1) I understand that you have been making speaking, radio and TV appearances recently regarding the Common Core of Standards (or CCS). Tell us about them!


The Common Core of Standards, or CCS, for short, is part of yet another K-12 education “reform” initiative imposed on Americans by the federal government—this time by the Obama administration. As usual, the term “standards” is a misnomer. The entire program should be named Common Core of Political Correctness, or Common Core of Attitudes, as it bears little relation to academics and substantive knowledge.


Some 45 states plus the District of Columbia signed on to Common Core before the documentation was even finalized. That’s because, buried in the $787 billion Stimulus Bill were “incentives” (federal strings) tied to Mr. Obama’s “Race to the Top” scheme, or RTTT. RTTT was a $4.35 billion plan to force the states to take the final step into national standards, which are awash in ulterior, political motivations.


Like past “reform” efforts, CCS is portrayed as purely voluntary, universally endorsed, thoroughly researched, verified, and globally competitive. But none of this could be further from the truth. CCS is the last nail in the coffin for anything resembling a “common body of knowledge,” as we once understood that term. A common body of knowledge is what holds a nation together as a culture. Changes to social studies and literature curricula, in particular, bear the earmarks of a deculturization process, which should be familiar to anyone who has studied populations struggling to hold off the throes of an impending “coup.”


The cost of CCS is astronomical, especially in terms of retooling state and local computer systems to accommodate interactive assessment and curriculum. Senate Bill 1094, the Strengthening America’s Schools Act of 2013, is just one among several schemes aimed at cutting parents out of the loop once and for all. The bill contains some 150 new annual reporting requirements from states concerning teacher evaluations, establishment of learning goals, curriculum standards and most importantly, “assessments”—which are not to be confused with the term “tests.”


All this dovetails with a dictum some may remember from 2007, when the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) declared that “parental rights stop at the schoolhouse door.” At the time, the ACLU was arguing a case on behalf of schools in Lexington, MA.


Understand that education reform movements dating from the 1970s have been political footballs that merge curriculum and trendy politics. The programs undergo semantic transformations under successive administrations and push the envelope ever farther on matters of controversial learning materials, data collection and federal control. Among them:


  • The Effective Schools Movement (Carter and Reagan administrations);

  • Mastery Learning, an older appellation, revived around 1980 under then-Education Secretary William J. Bennett;

  • America 2000 (George H. W. Bush);

  • Goals 2000: Educate America Act (Clinton), the centerpiece being the program Outcome-Based Education in 1993; and

  • No Child Left Behind (NCLB) in 2002 (George W. Bush), built around the International Baccalaureate (IB). Most people mistook IB for its exemplary pre-World War II predecessor, simply called “the Baccalaureate.” That really was rigorous. It reflected substantive learning. But its successor, IB, was politicized — tilted left, toward a collective worldview.


None of these government programs, of course, truly expired; they just got reorganized and expanded. As soon as a program got a particularly big “black eye” in the press and with the public, the name was changed, along with the names of sub-agencies (offices and bureaus within the larger Department) promoting and subsidizing it. The 1980s-90s-era National Institute of Education (NIE) and the Office of Educational Research and Improvement (OERI), for example, both underwent name changes.


2) What are some of the main points that you are trying to make about Common Core?


The main point I try to make, especially to the under-45 age group of parents and teachers, who don’t remember 1960s-era “reforms” like “transformational grammar” and “New Math,” is that education reform movements and “remediation” methods since that time have functioned as re-education agendas. These are are played out over and over, typically utilizing the National Governors Association’s “Center for Best Practices” to further the efforts.


Unless a governor has no further ambitions, he is beholden to the National Governors Association, and will do its bidding to further his or her career. When a sitting administration really wants an initiative to move forward, they hand it to state governors. Each state then writes their supposedly unique version of the same initiative, changing just a few words or phrases and slapping a different name on it statewide or even in local areas (e.g., CSCOPE is the “name” given to the Texas version, with some local Texas areas tagging the initiative as “Raise Your Hand”).


But when all is said and done, the measure looks the same and adds virtually identical new twists to its curriculum, assessment and teaching methods, has the same entities pushing it (the Education Commission of the States, the Carnegie Foundation or Corporation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Council of Chief State School Officers, among others), and the same monetary transmission mechanisms in place.


Most of the latter are hidden from taxpayers that don’t already know how the game is played—i.e., know where to look for the money trail (for example, from “technical assistants” sent into the states and local areas to “implement” and promote the particulars).


The second key point about CCS is that it will greatly facilitate and accelerate the already out-of-control trend toward data-mining among children and their families. In particular, the job of identifying those who do not hold the “preferred” views and attitudes of government will be simplified. The cross-matched viewpoints of students vis-à-vis their parents increasingly serve as indicators of how thoroughly youngsters are accepting “New Ethics” attitudes that are different from what their parents and grandparents viewed as “givens.”


Children are also being acclimated to report on parents, friends, and neighbors who may be harboring oppositional beliefs. Worse, oppositional attitudes are being tagged as “markers” of mental illness. In other words, out-of-favor opinions are being “psychologized” using medical-sounding terminologies, such as dogmatic, inflexible, absolutist, disturbed, and mentally rigid. If you need proof, you need to read Chris Mooney’s book, The Republican Brain. Mooney does not use the word Republican in the context of a political party; he means traditionalists in general, and even those who would describe themselves as “independents.” Mooney writes: “[L]iberals consistently score higher on … ‘openness to experience,’ one of the ‘Big Five’ personality traits, which are easily assessed through standard questionnaires.” Where do most of those questionnaires originate? In school assessments. There are many well-publicized personality/psychology experts who agree with Mooney, as well as taxpayer-funded “studies” echoing the same message.


The third point is that the concept of excellence in education has been swept away in favor of mere functional literacy. Those who are very bright may be siphoned off for other purposes if their attitudes reflect the views of the State, but that is of lesser importance than changing the direction of curriculum for ulterior political purposes.


Even mathematics is politicized. For example, a CCS guideline in the State of Maryland suggests that math be a route to: “[r]ecognizing and responding to … important facets of equity [in order to] promote the rich conversations needed in your collaborative team to promote high-quality instruction and equitable classrooms….”


Even where math is really math, there is little or no emphasis on incremental mastery of course work. Common wisdom dictates that there is no longer a necessity to simply know some things by rote when one can just as well look something up on an “app.” This logic virtually assures failure at higher math, such as trigonometry, geometry or calculus—all necessary, in turn, for success in sciences like chemistry or physics.


Finally, moral values which were once considered American standards—modesty, individualism, self-sufficiency, self-reliance, and self-determination—are being phased out in favor of popularity and “teamwork” (a.k.a. “collective spirit”). Anyone with an understanding of pre-1960s history will recognize that this trend doesn’t end well.


3) Who is behind this “Common Core” curriculum—Washington, Bill Gates, Arne Duncan or all of the above?


Well, all of the above. Administrations, along with their appointees and supporting bureaucracies are increasingly left-leaning, irrespective of party affiliation. I could fill two pages with lists of foundations, associations, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), institutes and centers-for-this-and-that, which have been building their base for years and amassing billions of dollars, while the constitutionalist/traditionalist opposition has been busy waging turf battles instead of working on a strategic game plan.


The thread that runs through the Obama administration’s initiatives is “community activism,” which is centered, unfortunately, on deception and mis-direction—which means promoting or promising one thing while doing another. We’ve seen this strategy in ObamaCare—“anyone who likes their insurance company can keep their insurance … and [probably] at a lower price.” We’ve seen it in the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) scandal—holding up 501 (c)(3) status based on political buzz-words in a blatant attempt to censor the opposition groups, after promising the “most ethical and transparent government in history.”


We’ve seen it in the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), which takes makes a show of harassing upstanding Americans with a clean record, while allowing individuals, foreign and domestic, having long “rap sheets” to board planes with false papers in airports all around America. We’ve seen it in the promise of energy independence, while war is waged on coal, and the Keystone project languishes in red tape, even though not even the State Department can find any negative impact on climate or air quality considerations, according to reviews of Keystone earlier this year.


So, it should come as no surprise that Common Core turns out to be not at all as promoted, publicized or described.


4) Are we moving toward a national curriculum?


Oh, most definitely. That is the point of the exercise. CCS is intended to be a final move in that process. We now have an official Party Line on most issues (and in this context the word “party” does not signify a specific political party like Democrat or Republican; it means “Government Approved Outlook,” which brings new meaning to the acronym GAO). Having the proper GAO, via this national curriculum, will determine a graduating pupil’s chances of success in finding or keeping a job. (A RWA is the opposite of a GAO in this context:


The University of Manitoba’s associate professor of psychology, Robert Altemeyer, developed a Right Wing Authoritarian (“RWA”) Scale, through mental-“health” screening, drawn from “health” questionnaires, social studies surveys, and standardized assessments. Altemeyer works to detect individuals harboring conservative “mental illnesses.” Where are the liberal mental illnesses, or even atheist mental illnesses? Apparently, he couldn’t find any. Whether a student is able to move into a field that entails influence and leadership will be particularly defined by his or her GAO vs. RWA on assessments that target the ‘belief system” as opposed to level of knowledge.


5) It seems that people are forgetting kids with special needs amongst all the hoopla surrounding Common Core. Is anyone addressing the blind, the deaf, those with learning disabilities or head injury or intellectual disability?


The only “special needs” being addressed under CCS as far as I can see is Special Education; that is to say, “mental health.” Unfortunately, the school environment itself is chaotic and virtually bankrolls a climate of toxicity, disrespect, and criminality. Many people assume that Special Education teachers are taught methods that actually help students struggling with various subjects and/or emotional issues. They are given no such training. So any child is apt to get thrown in with the “behavior problems” via Special Education. The only way to survive in the Special Education environment is either to become hyper-aggressive or completely apathetic.


Bullying is rampant. The aim of government seems to be to have as many children as possible tagged either with a “learning disability” or a “mental illness.” This increases funding for “education,” of course, even though many of these labels are either bogus or avoidable.


As for physical ailments, schools must pay money for facilities such as bathrooms and ramps that accommodate wheelchairs (money for which they can apply to federal and state governments for assistance under various titles of the ESEA (the Elementary and Secondary Education Act) or IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act), among other programs.


But when it comes to the hard of hearing, or the blind, birth defects, or the seriously injured, parents of such students typically have to find private educational options, despite the rather glib promise to “mainstream” these pupils.


Again, there are government-supported financial assistance programs, in the form of SSI and options, to help defray family costs. But they have little or no relation to Common Core, probably because, from the standpoint of the government, the affected population is not large enough to exploit. It does not lend itself to assessment and curricular indoctrination.


6) What have I neglected to ask?


There is typically confusion over the role of the State versus the federal government in terms of how each of these entities steals the prerogatives of parents and local schools. Kind of a chicken-or-egg question.


The key is “pass-through” money by the federal government. States have been provided so many incentives for so many years that they can no longer survive without the pass-through dollars, and neither can most local districts and even some private schools.


The upshot is that the individual states are serving as “the fall guys” for federal education malevolence, and that is why it is so important for the feds to have something to hang over the heads of state and local education agencies in the event of a dust-up.


For example, states like Nebraska must assign “unique ID numbers” to students. But if you really dig into documents out of the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), you find that these “unique” identifiers are tied to federal ones, such as the Social Security Number, which is typically given at birth these days.


Of course, on paper, such cross-matching is strictly on a “need to know” basis to avoid major public relations backlashes. What you will find, however, is a table which notes the capability to do cross-match the numbers—along with some fascinating federal codes that categorize a child’s religion, number of teeth—I’m not kidding!—and a whole lot of other trivia that, together, proves the federal government’s data-mining intentions extend to just about every aspect of a student’s life, and to that of family members as well.