Sometimes a combatant in an ideological struggle says something that is refreshing, if disturbing, in its honesty. Such a declaration came recently from Billy Canary, president of the Business Council of Alabama. In explaining why legislators should embrace the Common Core, Mr. Canary said, “The business community is by far the biggest consumer of the product created by our education system.”
How revealing. In 17 words, Mr. Canary encapsulated the education philosophy underlying the national Common Core standards. The education system does not exist to develop citizens fully capable of exercising their liberties and directing government. It does not exist to help children understand others – something that is critical to professionals, entrepreneurs, and all who seek an upward trajectory in life and career. Rather, it is an assembly line spitting out “products.” Those “products” are not unique individuals, but rather cogs in a managed economic machine. And the educational process should be controlled not by the parents, but by the largest “consumer” of the “products” – Big Business.
Mr. Canary’s comment is not an isolated muttering. It echoes the view of Allan Golston, president of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s United States program, which has poured an estimated $173.5 million into promoting the Common Core.
In a flailing attempt to secure its human product, a Big Business cabal, spearheaded by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable launched a national advertising blitz targeted at Republicans who might be listening too much to parents. This is nothing new. To save Common Core, Big Business has already tried high-powered lobbying and massive advertising, and made hundreds of millions of dollars in grants. It has argued, risibly, that Common Core is a matter of national security. It has funded states. It has even leveled veiled threats atgovernors and legislators that it will boycott states that exit Common Core.
What has Big Business so worried?
The people have pulled the curtain back on Common Core. Parents vehemently oppose Common Core because it silences their voice and locks their children into an education of poor quality. “Politicians take note: We will fight Common Core to its extinction,” warns mother and national grassroots leader Jenni White of Oklahoma. “It rests on a demeaning view of children and their parents.”
Parents detest Common Core because it increases the distance between them and the ultimate decision-makers on what children learn and how it is taught. National standards require a national system of control. Private entities financed, developed, and own Common Core, and they asked the federal government to push the national standards onto the states. In such a system, to whom does a parent complain when she notices, as mom Suzaanne Sherby testified before the Indiana legislature, a new math program with a “marked and very obvious lack of basic arithmetic”?
Mrs. Sherby’s predicament results from Common Core’s reintroduction of “fuzzy math” – a discredited fad nowhere to be found in serious math programs, such as those employed by our most successful international competitors. Even the architect of the math standards, Jason Zimba, has admitted that Common Core not only fails to prepare students for studies in science, technology, engineering, and math but even fails to prepare them for admission to selective public and private universities. Dr. James Milgram of Stanford University, the Common Core Validation Committee’s only mathematician (as opposed to math-education professor), rejected the standards because he concluded they would leave American students at least two years behind their counterparts in the highest-achieving nations by 8th grade.
With respect to English language arts, Dr. Sandra Stotsky, this country’s premier authority on English standards, criticizes Common Core as “empty skill sets … [that] weaken the basis of literary and cultural knowledge needed for authentic college coursework.” Common Core slashes the amount of classic fiction taught in ELA class in favor of nonfiction “informational texts.” If Paradise Lost won’t be used at one’s entry-level job, let’s not waste time on it now.
Why would Big Business embrace such drivel? Don’t these corporate groups realize that dumbing down education even further (for evidence, see the new Common Core-aligned, much easier SAT) will be bad for business? Apparently not. The Gates Foundation assures them (while writing a generous check) that Common Core will produce workers they don’t have to train. And of course, many large companies will profit directly from the national standardization of education.
For the targeted governors and legislators, it’s decision time. On one side are the Republican grassroots, which have expressed their opposition to Common Core through a unanimous national RNC resolution and dozens of state and local resolutions. On the other side is Big Business, with all its financial clout. We’ll soon find out who really matters to the Republican Party: parents defending their children and their future, or Big Business trying to line up its supply of human products.
Emmett McGroarty is the Director of Education at American Principles Project, Jane Robbins is a senior fellow with the American Principles Project.