Barack Obama, having little else in his arsenal, began his first debate by touting his signature education program “Race to the Top.” Joe Biden also cited “education” in his debate with Paul Ryan. Last Tuesday, Obama even turned a question about gun control into an opportunity to boast about his education policies. During the final debate, Obama repeatedly claimed that continued government investments in education are necessary to compete with China and to develop “clean energy technology.”
Race to the Top may have been the one domestic policy initiative that did not garner the universal ire of Republicans — indeed, it has many GOP supporters. They likely do not realize what a monster they have birthed by promising to follow federal Common Core curriculum guidelines (in math and English/language arts, so far) as part of the Race to the Top contest for $4.35 billion in stimulus funds.
The potential payoff to well-connected software companies like Microsoft and curriculum and textbook companies like Pearson threaten the likelihood of Solyndra-style failures, with about as much benefit to the taxpayer. While Obamacare puts health and well-being into the hands of federal bureaucrats, “ObamaCore” (as Race to the Top has been dubbed) puts education into their hands as well. The threat to taxpayers is set to come after the election.
The nonsensical debate answers regarding the benefits of Obama’s education plan should give clues. When the first question at the town hall debate came from a 20-year-old student in college but worried about his job prospects after graduation, Obama talked about making college “affordable” and bringing back manufacturing jobs, which wouldn’t be of interest to most college students. On October 17 when Thomas Friedman cited Race to the Top as a “jobs creator,” Fox News host Bill O’Reilly had no response.
To his credit, Mitt Romney replied to the college student by addressing the jobs college graduates would want. He again referred to Massachusetts’ top national ranking,which occured before Democrat Governor Deval Patrick chucked the prior high standards for the Common Core. Although its proponents claim that Common Core increases academic rigor, education professor Sandra Stotsky — a major force behind Massachusetts’ previously high standards — refused to sign off on Common Core, referring to its “empty skill sets.” Others have noted the emphasis on the lowering of standards that is necessary for the goal of “closing the achievement gap.”
In my recent report, I added to the discussion by looking at some of the Common Core lessons now being peddled by school districts and freelance Common Core entrepreneurs. Among these materials was a horrendous “Common Core-compliant” book titled Master of Deceit: J. Edgar Hoover and America in the Age of Lies by professor Marc Aronson. Extremely manipulative, historically inaccurate, and age-inappropriate for middle school students, Aronson’s book is a continuation of the Soviet disinformation campaign of diverting attention about the communist threat to J. Edgar Hoover’s alleged homosexuality. Sadly, it is these kinds of materials – tracts that meet the new focus on “informational text” — that school districts are now forced to buy. Teachers, professors, and freelance writers who had previously resisted standards now see a bonanza, as schools replace traditional literary works with books about such subjects as diamonds, snakes, New York City gangs, public artists, and yes, Justin Bieber.
Teacher training also has been going on apace, at considerable cost to taxpayers. In Georgia, our Public Broadcasting affiliate produced the teacher training videos. PBS, already the recipient of the largesse of taxpayers, has been eagerly promoting Common Core materials through its sites.