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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Common Core: Threat or menace?

“Six years after Common Core’s debut,” its critics “have produced enough books to collapse a sturdy bookshelf,” writes Fordham’s Robert Pondiscio. However, most “traffic in fear mongering and paranoid conspiracy theories about corporate greed.”

For example, teacher/activist Kris Nielsen, author of Children of the Core (great title!), believes the “Common Core network” is trying to “dismantle public education.”

Common Core and the Truthby Amy Skalicky, billed as a “parent’s journey,” asserts that the standards are designed to create “new markets for corporations” and “centers of indoctrination to create ‘global citizens’ with all the right behaviors, attitudes and beliefs, otherwise known as puppets.” Nielsen wrote the intro.

It’s the nefarious cabal of billionaires, stupid.

In The Story-Killers, Terrence O. Moore argues that the standards are “deliberately killing off what is left of the great stories of Western literature.” Common Core is designed, Moore insists, “to smear the Western and American tradition with the brush of sexism, racism,” etc.

Brad McQueen, a teacher and “former Common Core insider” (whatever that might mean), wins the prize for hyperbole by comparing Common Core to the Holocaust in his book The Cult of Common Core: Obama’s Final Solution for Your Child’s Mind and Our Country’s Exceptionalism.

Many of the books by teachers aren’t really about the standards, writes Pondiscio. They are attacks on education reform.

For example, Mercedes K. Schneider’s book, Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?,  claims “corporate-minded education ‘reformers'” are plotting a “power grab” by promoting the idea that public education is in crisis.

The best of the anti-Core books is Drilling through the Core: Why Common Core Is Bad for American Education from the Pioneer Institute, writes Pondiscio. It’s deals with the real Core problems.

The book includes essays by Sandra Stotsky, who helped Massachusetts write its excellent standards (abandoned for the Core), as well as Peter Wood, Mark Bauerlein, R. James Milgram, and Williamson Evers.

. . . Wood’s takedown notes that Common Core critics cannot agree whether the new standards are too rigorous in K–12 or not rigorous enough, leaving students underprepared for college. “The standards are vague and ambiguous and invite manipulation by those who are charged with filling in the details,” he writes, noting Common Core is “ripe for hijacking.

A Common Core supporter, Pondiscio wishes the Drilling critics would fight the hijacking rather than the standards themselves.

He thinks the Core’s foes are exaggerating the transformative power of standards. “Academic standards cannot create anything close to a uniform experience for students in K–12 education in a country as large and diverse as the United States, any more than building codes force us into identical houses, or USDA standards compel us all to eat boiled eggs for breakfast,” Pondiscio writes. “All standards can do—and it’s not nothing—is to create something close to uniform expectations.”

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