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The Common Core Resistance Now Has a Song!

Thursday, April 16th, 2015 - by Paula Bolyard

A bunch of moms in a garage band in Massachusetts have recorded a new version of the Beatles song “Revolution” to give voice to their opposition to Common Core. Dressed in jeans, anti-Common Core t-shirts, and tri-cornered hats, The Revolution Band sings that “politicians fear no retribution” and that “control and money’s is what it’s about.” They belt out, “Well, we have to tell the Feds, it’s not alright…” The third verse gets to the heart of the problem:

You’d have to change the Constitution
Well you know, you just spit on it instead
Teachers have no say in education
Well you know, schools should be state led

British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher used to say, ”First, you win the argument, then you win the vote.”

These moms — and hundreds of thousands of others across the nation — are winning the argument that we need local control of education instead of the top-down, federally influenced behemoth that Common Core has become. They are making this argument in their local communities, in their state capitols, and in every nook and cranny of the internet. And their arguments are translating into votes and political influence — nearly every potential Republican presidential candidate has come out against Common Core (Governors Kasich and Bush being the stubborn holdouts).

Well done, ladies (and you too, drummer dad!). This is how you effectively “do” resistance in 2015.

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Is It Time Women Start Apologizing for Being Feminists?

Friday, April 3rd, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

With her song “Sorry Babe, You’re a Feminist” comedian and songwriter Katie Goodman reacts to the onslaught of millennial celebrities who refuse to take on the title of “feminist” with reasons ranging from the practical (“like voting, like driving?”) to the politically stereotypical rants about online conservatives (perhaps she has yet to encounter Christina “Factual Feminist” Hoff Sommers via AEI?) and obnoxious commentary about math being “hard.”

Where’s her line about being sexually subservient like Queen Bey, going on a local Slut Walk, or falsely accusing a male college student of rape? What about the needs of women in the Islamic and third worlds? She mentions education, but never bothers to acknowledge the anti-feminist mentalities that lead to generations of women growing up ignorant, sexually mutilated, or forced into marriages or sex slavery.

After hearing her rhyming rant of a tune, would you want to call yourself a feminist, or is Goodman merely personifying the many reasons why women are turning away from the feminist movement today?

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WATCH: Passover, Rube Goldberg Style

Friday, April 3rd, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Need a way to explain Passover to a kinesthetic learner or future engineer? Check out this video from Israel and you’ll be saying, “L’shana haba b’Technion!”

Chag Peseach Sameach!

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Actually, No, Governors & Classroom Teachers Did NOT Write the Common Core Standards

Wednesday, April 1st, 2015 - by Paula Bolyard

Ohio Governor John Kasich appeared on Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace in January and made a claim about the origins of the Common Core State Standards. “These were governors who helped create Common Core,” insisted Kasich, who is pondering a presidential run. “That up-close involvement means they know Common Core wasn’t Obama-driven.” He went on to say that the standards were “written” by state education superintendents and local principals, a claim he has made repeatedly as he has stubbornly defended the standards in the face of growing public resistance. For emphasis, he added that the standards were “created by local school boards.”

Try to imagine for a moment the hilarity that would ensue during a giant conclave of governors (from both parties), state school superintendents, local principals, and local school boards tasked with writing national education standards.

But that’s not all.

The Common Core State Standards website claims that the National Governors Association was involved in writing the standards, as was the Council of Chief State School Officers, teachers, parents, school administrators, standards experts from across the country and the alphabet soup of education special interest groups — the National Education Association (NEA), the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM), and the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) along with “other organizations.”

If that sounds like way too many cooks in the kitchen, you’re right. A group that large with a myriad of diverse and competing interests could not possibly be expected to sit down in a room together (if a large enough room could be found) and agree upon a list of all the things every student in the nation should know before they graduate from high school. Sure, those special interest groups could give input and make suggestions, but when it came time to sit down and actually write the standards, that responsibility fell to a pair of workgroups and a handful of individuals who received their marching orders from three groups: the National Governors Association (NGA), the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), and Achieve, Inc.

It started with the Memorandum of Agreement (MOAs) that 46 states signed in 2009 when they agreed to take Race to the Top funding in exchange for implementing the not-yet-written Common Core standards. The “owners” of the copyrighted Common Core States Standards (CCSS) are named in the title of the MOA: The Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices Common Core Standards Memorandum of Agreement. 

Neither group has any authority to make decisions that are legally binding on the states; nevertheless the states agreed when they signed the MOAs that the writing of standards could be assigned to a pair of “work groups” — one for the math standards and one for English Language Arts. 

It’s important to note a few things about the NGA. Though governors do vote to express some measure of solidarity with shared priorities during the group’s two annual meetings, details about how the governors vote (or whether individual governors even show up to vote) are not released to the public, despite the fact that the group is heavily subsidized by taxpayers. Five Republican governors — from Florida, Maine, North Dakota, South Carolina, and Texas — have publicly withdrawn their membership from the group in recent years, saying membership in the group was a waste of time and taxpayer money. So when Common Core supporters try to say that the effort to create the standards was “led by the nation’s governors” and they cite the NGA’s involvement as proof, it must be understood that the NGA’s support is not necessarily representative of the nation’s governors and it certainly does not represent the will of state legislatures, which did not have a say in signing the MOAs.

Achieve, Inc., a nonprofit dedicated to promoting higher educational standards, joined with the NGA and the CCSSO in 2009 to begin working on the CCSS standards, but again, the actual work of writing them fell to the two work groups. (A year later, Achieve, Inc. signed on as a “Project Management Partner” for the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers [PARCC] tests.)

Mercedes Schneider described the 24 individuals who participated in the work groups (all of whom had to sign confidentiality agreements about what went on at the meetings). She said that instead of teachers with classroom experience, the groups were stacked with individuals with “ACT” and “College Board” credentials.

In the math work group:

In sum, only 3 of the 15 individuals on the 2009 CCSS math work group held positions as classroom teachers of mathematics … Only one CCSS math work group member was not affiliated with an education company or nonprofit.

And in the English Language Arts work group:
In sum, 5 of the 15 individuals on the CCSS ELA work group have classroom experience teaching English. None was a classroom teacher in 2009. None taught elementary grades, special education, or ESL, and none hold certifications in these areas. Five of the 15 CCSS ELA work group members also served on the CCSS math work group. Two are from Achieve; two, from ACT, and one, from College Board.

Within the work groups there were a handful of lead writers who did the bulk of the work: David Coleman (who is now president of the College Board, which administers the SAT) and Susan Pimentel in English, and Jason Zimba, Phil Daro, and William McCallum in math.

There were also two feedback groups, which, like the work groups, were stacked heavily with professors and included only one math teacher. These groups were tasked with providing research and advice to the writers. Finally, there was a validation committee which was supposed to sign off on the standards after ensuring they were “research and evidence-based.” Five of the 29 members of the validation committee refused to sign off on the CCSS, though the final report failed to mention that fact.

Last week Kasich defended the statements he has made about the the genesis of the Common Core standards, telling reporters at Nashua Community College, “I said, ‘If I don’t know what I’m talking about, please correct me,’ and I was met with profound silence.” He said that concerns about the standards are a “runaway internet campaign.” If Kasich were so inclined, he could, with just a few simple Google maneuvers, discover plenty of evidence (on that internet he so quickly dismissed) that would “correct” his mistaken statements about who wrote the standards, including these articles from Neal McCluskey at U.S. News and World Report and Joy Pullman at The Federalist, education activist Diane Ravitch, and Steve Byas at The New American.

Today, I add my voice to those telling Kasich he’s dead wrong about who wrote the Common Core State Standards. While he’s correct to say that President Obama didn’t write them, neither did Kasich. Nor did his predecessor, Democrat Ted Strickland, or any other governor. And the claim that the standards were written by teachers only rings true if by “teachers” you mean experts in testing and assessment.

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Is Successful Feminism Capitalist Feminism?

Tuesday, March 31st, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Dame Stephanie “Steve” Shirley, while a wife and a mother of a special needs child, pioneered an all-female staffed software company in England in the 1960s. Fascinated by technology, she also had a head for business. Possessing an interest in employing working mothers, her staff were able to work from home in a variety of capacities, including as coders and programmers. A self-made millionaire, Shirley turned many of her employees into millionaires as well by opening stock options to them at a time when that was a relatively unheard of benefit. 

Adopting the nickname “Steve” in order to get her foot in the door with male clients, she employed “extraordinary energy, self-belief and determination” in a pre-second wave feminist era. Shirley didn’t wait for bras to be burned or Gloria Steinem to appear in her bunny suit before taking charge. In fact, the UK’s Sex Discrimination Act of 1975, a direct result of the second wave feminist backlash, required that Shirley hire more men into what she was proud to make a nearly all-female company.

This pioneering businesswoman’s story flies in the face of second wave feminist tropes regarding female business owners, women in the workplace, equal pay and women in STEM. Which demands the question: If feminism seeks to be an empowering voice for women, what can it learn from the ideologies, like capitalism, that it chooses to berate or ignore?

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Can Feminism Exist Without Institutions of Higher Education?

Thursday, March 26th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Anita Sarkeesian, self-dubbed “social justice activist,” details that, had she not engaged with the sphere of contemporary feminist academia, she would not have become a feminist. A convert to the faith, it was only by adopting the “systemic and institutional framework” depicted by modern feminist writers that Sarkeesian was able to “see how oppression manifests in many subtle ways under the systems of what bell hooks calls white supremacist, capitalist patriarchy.”

Sarkeesian’s feminism wouldn’t exist without this systemic framework, a mode of thinking that has caused her to question the individualism she sees inherent within the “neo-liberal worldview.” Therefore, “choice feminism” empowers oppression, because a choice good for one woman isn’t necessarily good for all women.

Sarkeesian believes that “choice feminism obscures the reality that women don’t have a choice.” The real question is, if women refuse to believe in the “systemic and institutional framework” preached by feminist academics, are they free to embrace the reality of having more choices than they’ve previously been led to believe? What would a feminism free of oppression look like? Could it function outside the walls of the academic temple?

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VIDEO: Israeli Sisters Mash Up Yemeni Folk With Hip-Hop Beats

Wednesday, March 25th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Need further proof that Israeli Jews are anything but racist towards their Arab counterparts? Listen to the music. A-WA brings the Yemeni folk beats made famous by Ofra Haza into the 21st century with style. They put a new twist on classic Barbie Jeep imagery, and as far as those fez baseball caps? Yes, please.

Read more about A-WA (pronounced Ay-wa, Arabic for ‘Yes’) here.

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If You’re Really Serious About Getting Rid of Common Core, Here’s What It’s Going to Cost You

Wednesday, March 25th, 2015 - by Paula Bolyard

During a speech in New Hampshire last week, Texas Senator Ted Cruz said that education is too important “to be governed by unelected bureaucrats in Washington.” He said that education should be at the state level, or even better, at the local level, where parents could have direct input into the curriculum and what’s being taught in the classrooms. He went on to explain:

If you don’t like what’s being taught to your kids you can go down to the local principal, the local superintendent, the local school board, and you can make your views known. If they don’t listen to you, you can say, ‘You know what? I’m going to run for school board.’ You can have a direct impact. On the other hand, if education decisions are decided by some bureaucrat in the bowels of the Department of Education, he or she doesn’t care what you or I think. It needs to be close to the people because it’s too important, and education should reflect the values of each community at the local level.

Is there any parent who would disagree with that? Unless you’re a hardcore ideologue with an unwavering faith in the benevolence and competence of the federal government, you must believe that local elected officials are going to be more responsive to the needs of families and more accountable to the community than the unelected central planners working in a massive ’70s-era concrete building in Washington.

So why don’t parents and local school boards just tell the feds to take a hike on Common Core? After all, the 10th Amendment guarantees that the federal government possesses only those powers delegated to it by the states  – or the people. It should be as simple as state or local governments exerting their constitutional authority and in turn, local governments doing likewise.

The problem, of course, is the money that the federal government uses to subjugate the states and suppress meaningful local control. Unfortunately, in most states, federal dollars account for 7-8% of education budgets. In essence, it’s a huge money-laundering operation, in which taxpayers send money to the federal government, a whole bunch of it is wasted in the massive federal bureaucracy, and then the feds send what’s left of it back to the states — but only after attaching plenty of strings and issuing volumes of federal regulations.

Lawmakers in Washington talk a lot about “fixing” No Child Left Behind (NCLB), which is arguably one of the most intrusive federal overreaches in our nation’s history, but you rarely hear anyone talking about eliminating the federal role in education altogether. Ted Cruz did say in New Hampshire that he thinks the Department of Education should be abolished completely, but most of the Republican establishment, including Rep. John Boehner, who co-authored NCLB, isn’t particularly troubled by continued federal involvement in education.

So, do states and local school boards have any recourse while they wait — maybe indefinitely — for the federal government to get out of the education business?

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What if they refused the federal money?

Realistically, no state is going to voluntarily turn off the pipeline of education dollars currently flowing from the federal government. But what about local school districts?

No Child Left Behind, Common Core, and most of the other burdensome regulations owe their existence to the fact that compliance with them are conditions of receiving federal funding. If you refuse the funding, you remove the conditions.

What would it cost a local district to refuse federal funding?

The funding varies by state and by individual district, but as an example, my school district in Wayne County, Ohio, receives 7.41% of its funding from the federal government, or $676.25 per student. The state averages are 8.28% and $980.45, respectively. My district has around 1450 students, so refusing federal funding would cost the district around $980,000. I realize that I’m oversimplifying. The federal dollars provide funding for things like services for children with disabilities and the school lunch program, among other things, but I’m just looking at raw dollar without assessing how those dollars are used here.

Would it be “fair” for taxpayers to continue to send money to the federal government for education while receiving nothing in return? The reality is that taxes were never meant to be a dollar-for-dollar return on your investment. We all pay for government services we don’t use. We fund bridges we’ll never drive over and firetrucks that will never come to our homes. Those of us who homeschool pay for schools in our community that our children will never attend.

If you feel like your local schools are getting their money’s worth out of the 7% they’re receiving from the federal government and you think the federal mandates are a small price to pay for that funding, then by all means, encourage your local schools to continue to pay.

But when the price of freedom — of meaningful local control — is less than $1000 per student, it’s certainly worth asking whether the Trojan horse of government money is worth the enormous loss of local autonomy that rolls in with that money every year.

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Image illustration via shutterstock / 

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Is the ‘Female Way of Learning’ Destroying Boyhood?

Wednesday, March 25th, 2015 - by Rhonda Robinson

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In my house ADD is considered a personality type, not a mental disorder.

I’ll admit that there were times when homeschooling my boys felt like keeping order in an asylum rather than a classroom. After raising five girls in a row, the two boys that followed stood in stark contrast. In fact, more than once my boys dumbfounded me.

For example, the time I explained a math problem to my son, for the umpteenth time. He had struggled with the concept for several days. This time, I secretly impressed myself. A mental news roll streamed through the back of my mind. “Brilliant explanation,” I thought. “This makes it all so crystal clear.” Just as my self-congratulatory thoughts began, I saw it. That flash of light in his eyes that showed actual brain activity.

“I got it!” he blurted.

“Yes!” I thought to myself. Waiting with the anticipation usually reserved for Christmas morning, I leaned in.

“Mom, you know that motor on the old lawn mower? Can I put that on my go-cart?”

As my over-inflated bubble of expectations burst into flames, all I could muster was, “No. However, you can go outside. Don’t come in for at least 30 minutes.”

Your first impression might be that I just gave up on the boy and sent him outside to play–and you would be wrong. I released him from captivity to burn off energy. It was a necessary move so that he could come back in and concentrate.

This is where a homeschool setting has the advantage over a public educational system simmered in cultural Marxism. Unlike teachers, mothers are not required to pound their boys into a cultural and political mold.

Rather than being appreciated for the future explorers, warriors and leaders they were designed to be, boys are viewed as defective little girls. Teachers want them to love reading and play nice, and no one wants to know where their hands have been. What is the real trouble with boys? Well, simply put, they are not girls.

Boys are no longer judged by their developmental standards. We have lost sight of a very basic tenet of humanity, one that our ancestors understood since the beginning of time: girls are very different from boys. Boys with uniquely masculine strengths, once prized, are no longer valued. In fact, these traits of boyhood are considered dangerous, even pathological.

Schools, steeped in the feminist agenda, have been instrumental in furthering what Susan L.M. Goldberg calls “gendercide” for some time now:

Should it come as any surprise that the idea of medicating away behavioral problems would be associated with a feminist movement….Medicine is the solution to eliminating those pesky biological and psychological problems an ineffectual ideology fails to confront.

She’s exactly right, and it all started in 1990.

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J.M. Stolzer explains that back in 1990, Carol Gilligan, a “difference feminist” and author of In a Different Voice, published a series of case studies that became widely accepted as fact. According to Stolzer, Gilligan hypothesized that it was the masculine bias deeply rooted in the American school system that was causing girls to suffer severely both psychologically and academically.

Gilligan garnered unprecedented exposure and acclaim from policymakers and academia–all accepting her theory without question. The cultural Marxists did what Marxists do best–they created an underclass of victims. What more compelling victim to raise money and change policy for than sweet little girls?

Women’s groups rallied and lobbied, and government agencies responded with funding, policy changes and programs. The “girl crisis” became a commonly held belief: girls are at a significant disadvantage in the American school system because a masculine bias tilts it.

All this happened with under an ounce of peer-reviewed scientific evidence. Instead, it fit the narrative of what Thomas Sowell calls “the vision of the anointed”–and the paradigm shifted.

As it always does with cultural terrorists, the remedy implemented for the manufactured crisis has created a real crisis.

Stolzer writes,

Never before in the history of the American education system have we accepted a theoretical premise that suggested that males and females would follow similar developmental pathways. It appears that recently the female “way of learning” has become the gold standard in public schools and that those who deviate from this standard are assumed to be developmentally delayed, behaviorally disordered, and/or learning disabled.

For millions of years, males have been perfecting the art of “maleness,” and this maleness was considered throughout historical time to be extremely valuable to the functioning and maintenance of society (Stolzer, 2005). What are we to do now that, for the first time in the history of humankind, we have defined these ancient and uniquely male traits as pathological? The answer is that we have constructed a myriad of disorders (i.e., behavioral disorders, learning disabilities, and so on) that are currently rampant in the education system and in many instances require that male children use pharmaceutical drugs in order to alter their behavioral patterns so that they will conform to the scripts set forth by their female constituents (Stolzer, 2005). Ethical Human Psychology and Psychiatry, Volume 10, Number 2, 2008

The “female way of learning” has become the standard for both sexes in the classroom, and the gold standard for behavior in general.

Just as we will never fully comprehend the emptiness in the world that an aborted child might have filled, so, too, the world suffers the loss of modern-day knights, and leaders subdued in boyhood.

As long as male traits are considered defective, boys will be left to sharpen their skills in the fantasy world of a video game. While the real world, in desperate need of heroes and bravery, is content to have him sitting quietly on the couch.

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Photo credits: Shutterstock, Pshenina_m,  LopoloMerla

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VIDEO: Would You Enroll in Preschool for Adults?

Tuesday, March 24th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

The Wall Street Journal is covering the latest trend in rejuveniling among the Millennial set: preschool for adults, where “play is serious business.” Six adults pay anywhere from $300 to $1000 to crowd into a Brooklyn duplex on Tuesday nights from 7 – 10 p.m. and participate in everything from nap time to envisioning themselves as superheroes.

Student Amanda Devereux detailed her reasons for enrolling in the Pre-K at Cosmo:

The self-help and goal-setting aspects were new, but welcome. I can use all the help I can get in making it to the gym, even if it means creating a superhero to get me there. I’m looking forward to seeing whether the preschool experience changes me over the next month, and I’m excited to see where Miss Joni and Miss CanCan take us on our class field trip. Mostly though, I’m excited about the snacks.

Is this latest trend in seeking eternal youth another glorified self-help program, or a sign that our traditional cultural institutions aren’t filled with hope and change? Is there a solution to be found in regressive creativity, or is this just another attempt at blissful ignorance? If you enrolled in preschool today, what would you learn?

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VIDEO: What’s More Sexist, Meghan Trainor Singing to Her Future Husband, or JCPenney’s Butt-Firming Jeans for Teens?

Tuesday, March 24th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

You have to admit the retro stylings of YouTube star Meghan Trainor make for some catchy little tunes. But in her latest video, Dear Future Husband, the siren dons pinup-wear while scrubbing the floor of a 50′s kitchen and warning her husband he’d better compliment her every day and buy her jewelry. Contemporary feminists are in an uproar over the classic imagery, but does Trainor have a better grip on the inherent power of her sexuality than the teenage girls who feel the need to buy “butt-enhancing jeans” at JCPenney?

The national department store catalog includes:

The “YMI Wanna Betta Butt Skinny Jeggings” boasts: “With a slight lift and shift and contouring seams, our wanna betta butt skinny jeggings hug you in just the right places to give you a firmer, more flattering look.”

Rewind Smoothie Super Stretch Booty Buddy Skinny Jeans” features “rear-end-enhancing structure” designed to “augment your jean collection — and your backside” and comes in an acid wash finish.

Penney’s isn’t alone. Several online stores including Modaxpress, Hourglass Angel, and even Amazon offer butt enhancing denim to a teenage crowd. Where’s the feminist outrage over a wardrobe enhancement specifically targeted to those vulnerable teen girls suffering all those dreaded body-image issues? Perhaps they’re too busy in Trainor’s kitchen arguing over who gets to make the pie.

 

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VIDEO: Camille Paglia Dubs Contemporary Feminists ‘Stalinists, Fascists’

Thursday, March 19th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Camille Paglia sits with Reason TV’s Nick Gillespie to discuss the failings of contemporary feminism, specifically in relation to the contemporary feminist obsession with gender politics which Paglia dubs “gender myopia.” Tagging the culture’s current obsession with viewing the world through the lenses of “race, class and gender” (what Gillespie titles “the holy trinity”) as a “distortion of the 1960s,” Paglia, a self-described atheist, explains that “Marxism is not sufficient as a metaphysical system for explaining the cosmos.”

The powerful dialogue should be required viewing for all college freshmen and women, of course. A general in the culture wars, Paglia continues to be the only academic unafraid to conquer Marxist ideology and its subsequent theoretical fields on its own turf.

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VIDEO: How Feminism Becomes a Religion on College Campuses

Tuesday, March 17th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Melissa McGrath, an undergraduate student at Ohio State University, was invited to participate in her college’s TEDx Talk, because, although not in possession of a doctorate, McGrath has  “a valid story to tell, and (she thinks) that will shine through.” Her thesis: Feminism proffers salvation.

Her “valid story” plays like a tent-revival testimonial about how feminist theory, reinforced by college professors, informed her that it was not her fault that she was sexually assaulted on campus. Avoiding the details of her assault, McGrath instead focuses on feminist liturgy as a method for teaching “intersectionality” that is, how the human race is tied together in a Marxist state of oppressor and oppressed.

Pulling all the approved contemporary feminist buzzwords from “white privilege” to “rape culture” McGrath weaves the kind of soap box narrative trademarked by the best faith-based snake oil salesmen (and women) of the 20th century. Her’s is a speech proving that feminism isn’t just ideology, but idolatry; a religion whose places of worship are in university classrooms, whose holy texts are available at your nearest bookstore, and whose icons live on “Pinterest boards” and social media outlets.

Cover image “Female Jesus” by Juno.

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Heartwrenching Video: Mother Compares Common Core to Her Abusive Marriage

Monday, March 16th, 2015 - by Paula Bolyard

Deborah Torres Henning, a mother of four, appeared at a March 9 meeting of the Dutchess County Legislature in New York to read the heartbreaking testimony of Gwendolynn Britt, who suffered physical and emotional abuse at the hands of her husband. Britt’s testimony, which was read in her absence, compared the abuse she experienced in her marriage to the suffering that children are enduring under the Common Core standards. Britt warned that our children are being conditioned to accept abuse through the implementation of the Common Core Standards: “It took one final, massive beating for me to leave. By then my brain had been hardwired to accept bad as good, good as bad, and to believe that I was a small-minded crazy woman who didn’t deserve better.”

Henning read more of Britt’s story at the meeting:

I was the victim of abuse at the hands of my husband. For years, he emotionally and verbally abused me. This may sound strange, but I was relieved the first time he beat me. I finally had something to show others. I finally had something he couldn’t twist and manipulate. Something tangible that he could no longer claim was my imagination. When I look at Common Core assignments I see them as a physical manifestation of the abuse that is occurring right now, across our country, directed squarely at our children.

For a decade I was told by my “loved one” that I was stupid and crazy. I was told that things I knew in my heart were right, were really wrong. I was told things that I really felt in my heart were wrong, were really right. If I said, “I have an idea!” I was told, “Don’t think.” If I said, “I feel like this is wrong,” I was told, “I make the decisions. This is my domain.” If I cried after being yelled at for four hours and asked to be allowed to care for our four small children, I was told I was crazy. You see [I was told] my priorities were backwards. My allegiance should be to my husband first, not our children. It’s been four years since I left him and to this day I cannot think or speak the words, “I have an idea” without hearing him yell back, “Don’t think!”

Britt said that when she looks at her children and sees what’s happening with the Common Core standards, alarm bells go off in her head. “I ignored these bells in the past and I vowed never to ignore them again.”

She said it’s abusive to test children on developmentally inappropriate math standards and then fault them for failing. ”You are essentially giving them a task they cannot do and then telling them they’re stupid. Now do that over and over and over again,” she said. “Are these rigorous results we are looking for or is this simply abusive?”

Many of these students are then diagnosed with ADD or ADHD, Britt said. ”Now we are telling the child there is something wrong with them mentally. We are telling them that they are crazy.”

“Children naturally want to please. They want their parents and teachers to be proud of them. Let me tell you from experience, if your hand gets slapped every time you reach out, guess what you learn to do? You stop. You just stop trying. Do you want your children turning away? Do you want them giving up? That’s what they will have to do to protect themselves. They will retreat away from their parents and teachers. They will no longer feel safe to take that next step. To reach out — to venture out and grow,” she said.

Britt warned that Common Core will cause the hearts, minds, and spirits of children to atrophy. “We’ve only begun down this path. Imagine what it will look like in ten years,” she asked.

Henning and other parents appeared before the Dutchess County Legislature to ask them to send a resolution to the New York State Legislature supporting repeal of the Common Core.

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Are Teachers’ Unions Community Organizing Our Kids Under the Guise of Common Core Opposition?

Saturday, March 14th, 2015 - by Paula Bolyard
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There’s been a curious development in the movement to oppose the Common Core State Standards across the country as the debate has become highly focused on the evils of testing and, in particular, the tests associated with Common Core — the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and Smarter Balanced tests.

Many school districts are reporting significant numbers of parents opting their children out of the tests — and in New Mexico, more than a thousand students walked out of schools and refused to take the PARCC test. The AP reported that “students…took to the sidewalks with signs and chanted as supporters honked their horns.”

Pantograph.com reported on a student PARCC protest at a high school in Normal, Illinois:

Tanvi Singh, a NCHS junior and representative of the Bloomington-Normal Student Union, encouraged students to refuse to take PARCC although the Illinois State Board of Education and local educators, including District 87 Superintendent Barry Reilly, have said that is not an option. She cited ISBE by-laws that state students can refuse to take standardized tests.

“Now they know that next week, when schools across Bloomington-Normal boycott the PARCC test, if any student is treated unfairly for refusing, we will be there fighting for them,” she said. “To fix this, it’s going to take students … being defiant and disobeying and being disruptive and demanding that they be heard, and that’s what we’re doing today.”

Singh said students must protest because they “have nothing to lose but our chain.”

Singh complained about “high stakes testing” and “corporate education reform” as she rallied students, who marched around the school chanting, ”1, 2, 3, 4, we are not a test score” and “the students united will never be defeated.”

The Bloomington-Normal Student Union’s website has a strong labor union theme:

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Local school districts across the country have been scrambling to implement policies to handle the absences on test day and the missing test scores. Several states, responding to the anti-testing backlash, have proposed (or passed) legislation to limit the impact of the tests and to protect students, teachers, and schools from negative consequences that would result from low test scores.

On the surface, this sounds like a step in the right direction for those who oppose Common Core. I wrote the following about the entanglement of the tests with the federal government and how it will eventually lead to a national curriculum:

Two testing companies — Smarter Balanced and Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) — agreed to create the tests and most Common Core states signed agreements to use one or the other. Some 40 million students nationwide will be subject to these two tests created with federal funding and under the influence of the federal government. According to Education Week, the U.S. Department of Education is providing guidance on the peer-review process for the standards and tests and “could exert a powerful influence on how states set academic expectations.”

Critics say this will result in “teaching to the test” on steroids. The tests will most certainly drive what is taught in classrooms, even though the standards do not have specific curricular requirements. The PARCC Assessment Blueprint and Test Specifications FAQ encourages teachers to use their materials to “guide thinking about classroom rubric use and design.” According to PARCC, “The ELA/literacy passage selection guidelines and worksheets should also be helpful tools to guide text selection for classroom instruction and assessments.”

In other words: if teachers want their students to succeed on the tests, they should use the PARCC-recommended materials in the classroom.

This is one of the worst developments in the history of American education and it should be strongly opposed if for no other reason than it is a frontal assault on federalism and it will chip away at — and eventually destroy — local control of education.

But many teachers — and their powerful unions — oppose testing for very different reasons. Two years ago I wrote about an event held in the nation’s capitol in April of 2013:

A group called “United Opt Out” organized the Occupy the DOE event in front of the Department of Education in April. Their mission statement claims that they are “dedicated to the elimination of high stakes testing in public education,” saying that high stakes testing is “destructive to ALL children, educators, communities, the quality of instruction in classrooms, equity in schooling, and the democratic principles which underlie the purposes of public education.”

Much of the rhetoric coming from this movement is anti-school choice in the extreme. Charter schools and vouchers are the enemy of public education, they say, designed by corporate marauders hell-bent on privatizing our wildly successful public education system that would be a Utopian paradise if only they had an unlimited pot of cash.

If you’re a parent who is working to stop Common Core in your local schools, you must ask yourself if this is a movement you support. And are you on board with your children being community organized and encouraged to parrot the talking points of teachers’ unions? Because although the students who are “organizing” and staging walk-outs and protest marches claim that their anti-testing movement is student-led, their complaints closely echo those of the teachers’ unions.

And what about accountability? While the idea of a national test based on national standards that are heavily influenced by the federal government is reprehensible, are you against all accountability for teachers and local schools? Because that’s what a lot of these groups would like to see.

I’ve seen this picture on a lot of Facebook pages recently, posted by parents who oppose Common Core:

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Fuentes-Rohwer makes an excellent point in responding to one of the main claims of Common Core proponents — that the new standards promise to make all students “college and career ready.” What some of these parents may not know is that Fuentes-Rohwer, a public education advocate with the Indiana Coalition for Public Education, made the statement at a rally sponsored by this anti-school choice advocacy group at the Indiana Statehouse. She railed against Republican Governor Mike Pence and the Republican supermajority in Indiana and ticked off a list of grievances:

  • Legislators who receive thousands of dollars to represent those who profit from the choice of voucher and charter schools, curriculum, and testing.
  • ALEC — the American Legislative Exchange Council.
  • Tying student test scores to teachers and school accountability.
  • The state legislature bleeding “millions and millions of our public school dollars to private voucher schools and charters.”
  • Competition as it relates to school choice.
  • Indiana’s three private school choice programs (tax-credit scholarships, vouchers, individual tax deduction).

Perhaps most disturbing, she compared school choice to Jim Crow laws, which is perhaps the most offensive and derogatory attack that opponents can level at the movement that is one of the few escape routes for disadvantaged children trapped in failing schools:

Our children should not be in competition for a quality education because no six-year-old should be on the losing end for equal educational opportunities. We cannot sustain three tiers of education — charters, vouchers, public. We tried separate but equal, we found it un-American. We found it undemocratic. And that is what this is about — dysfunction in our democracy.

Look, politics is often a game of sheer numbers, and addition — not subtraction — wins the numbers game. In order to advance your policies, it’s imperative to build coalitions, which means you’ll sometimes have to partner with people with whom you disagree on some issues. Eliminating PARCC and Smarter Balanced testing would be a step in the right direction for those of us who want to eliminate Common Core altogether, so there is common ground to be found. But in our haste to fix one part of a very bad education policy, we should be careful that we’re not also advancing other policy proposals that would make things even worse — like eliminating school choice and getting rid of all teacher and school accountability.

And we should be especially careful about allowing teachers’ unions to influence how our children think about these issues. Make sure you child’s teacher isn’t using the classroom — under the guise of Common Core opposition — to indoctrinate him about the evils of school choice and the “corporatists” in the Republican Party who are ruining our “democracy.”

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VIDEO: If He Smiles, He’s Sexist

Friday, March 13th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

The UK Daily Mail has concluded that even nice guys are evil, publishing research conducted by a series of Boston academics who have discovered a new misogyny dubbed “benevolent sexism”:

If you’re the sort of gentleman who holds the door open for a lady – or the sort of woman who expects him to – then be warned.

Such acts of chivalry may actually be ‘benevolent sexism’ in disguise, according to researchers.

Experts say this type of sexism is harder to spot than the ‘hostile sexism’ we are more familiar with – because it often masquerades as gallantry. It is typified by paternal and protective behaviour, from encouraging smiles to holding doors open.

US researchers argue that while women may enjoy being showered with attention, benevolent sexism is ‘insidious’ and men who are guilty of it see women as incompetent beings who require their ‘cherished protection’.

Professor Judith Hall, of Northeastern University in Boston, said: ‘Benevolent sexism is like a wolf in sheep’s clothing that perpetuates support for gender inequality among women. 

‘These supposed gestures of good faith may entice women to accept the status quo in society because sexism literally looks welcoming, appealing and harmless.’

Other telltale signs of benevolent sexism include frequent smiling as well as the ability to engage in warm, friendly chit-chat.

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How to Beat the Thought Police, One American Flag at a Time: A Victory Case Study at UC Irvine

Thursday, March 12th, 2015 - by Spencer Klavan

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Hell must be freezing over: there’s good news out of academia. It’s sorely needed, too. These days, university and college campuses are under constant siege by hyper-sensitive multiculturalist students bent on smothering open debate and silencing opposing viewpoints — let’s call them the Thought Police. Most recently, at the University of California, Irvine, a group of students voted to ban the display of the American flag for the sake of “inclusivity.”

But wonder of wonders: the heads of UCI’s student government have now smacked the vote down with a good old-fashioned veto. Listen up, campus conservatives: this is a case study in how to fight back against the Thought Police.

The Thought Police are easy to spot — they’re the ones demanding vice-like control over campus discourse and shrilly accusing their opponents of bigotry. In 2014, Brandeis University planned to award an honorary degree to Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a women’s rights advocate and a staunch critic of Islam. The Thought Police in the student body harried the administration and slandered Hirsi Ali until Brandeis rescinded its offer.

When Hirsi Ali was invited to speak at Yale, the Thought Police there accused her of hate speech and cast aspersions on her academic credentials in the desperate hope of shutting her up. Not long ago, the Oxford branch of the Thought Police gleefully smothered an open debate about abortion on the grounds that both speakers were male. Anything to avoid the horror of encountering an opposing viewpoint.

Among their peers, the Thought Police defend their position via intimidation, aggression, and abuse. Students who speak up in favor of free expression are often insulted and ostracized. When University of Michigan student Omar Mahmood satirized his school’s oppressively PC campus climate, he was mercilessly bullied and kicked off of the student newspaper.

Others who contradict progressive dogma get publicly excoriated, online and in person, as “fascists,” “repulsive,” and worse. Anything that smells even faintly of patriotism or free thought has to be stamped into dust.

So the UCI Thought Police condemned all flags, especially this country’s, on the grounds that they uniformly promote imperialism and oppression. They voted to remove the American flag from the student government lobby because, as their bill explains, “[F]lags construct paradigms of conformity and sets homogenized standards for others to obtain which in this country typically are idolized as freedom, equality, and democracy.” The students went on to make their stance clear: “freedom of speech,” they wrote, “can be interpreted as hate speech.”

Ladies and gentlemen: the Thought Police at work. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.

Now, when you’re locked in a battle with the Thought Police, how do you dodge their relentless vitriol and identity politics to come out victorious?

Well, you’ve got to hit them where they’re oh, so weak: the flimsy logic of their untenable arguments. Take this UCI bill, for example: the thing is a travesty of reasoning and ideology, not to mention English grammar. It’s written in that illiterate, pseudo-erudite jargon of radical activism that is the lingua franca of Thought Police everywhere.

The idea that flags are morally indistinguishable from one another because they are all symbols of countries is infantile. It’s like saying that bottles of milk and bottles of lighter fluid are identical because they are both containers for liquids. Take a swig from a bottle and you’ll realize it matters very much what kind of liquid, exactly, it contains. Take a stand for a flag and you’ll realize it matters even more which country, exactly, it symbolizes.

And of course, as it happens, the American flag symbolizes the country whose ideals afford those students at UCI the freedom to stumble into their fatuous half-theories in the first place. Fighting make-believe oppression isn’t half so much fun if you’re not doing it under the Stars and Stripes — if you’re doing it, for example, in North Korea.

Where they’ll kill you.

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Inside the Millennial Mind: How Wikipedia Users View the World

Wednesday, March 11th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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Image illustration via Shutterstock /

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Confessions of a Former High School Teacher: 10 Tips for Parents

Friday, February 27th, 2015 - by Joni Nichols

In high schools across America, from small country farm towns to bustling cities, I have seen quite a bit of the high school landscape. In the turmoil of Common Core ideological wars and stories like this award-winning teacher jumping ship earlier this month, it can seem daunting to send our kids to public school. It’s daunting to work there, too. Teachers are riding out big swings in educational reform while moms and dads just want a happy, well-adjusted student.  During my ten years in, I did not have children of my own. I do now. And here are the notes I would want from the other side if I were a parent of a public high schooler today:

1. You are still in charge.

As a parent, you’ve chosen the vehicle to get your child to 12th grade, so you oversee the process along the way. And with free k-12 public school online and university model part-time high schools, you are not locked into any standard. (Here’s what I do.) No, Common Core has not taken over everything everywhere. Don’t let anyone boss you into a picture of what your kid’s education has to look like. You still have those keys.  (And this OHS “Online High School” attender will certainly broaden your definitions of high school through a few confessions of her own.)

2. Don’t be afraid of “paying extra” to customize what isn’t working.

Remember, teachers must aim at the middle, which means they are going too fast for the slower processors, and too slow for the fast processors. There’s nothing the teacher can do about that. But you can do a lot about that. And you should. The teacher will not have the time or emotional investment to initiate, but she is capable of tailoring more than she will ever admit. Yes, it is a little bit of legwork and back-and-forth communication, but this is not barbed wire you are getting through; it’s an email. You’re opening conversations that can lead to compromise.

3. Don’t misinterpret the pushback.

If a blank stare or a little resistance can get someone to solve their own problems and save them from more headache and heartache, then wow, what a skill to develop! Graciously bypass this defense mechanism (rudeness) and set up a meeting or ask for someone else to speak to you about it. They don’t know how serious you are, if you are just venting, or indeed impossible;  just as you don’t know what they are made of. Frankly, these adults are overrun with unique situations, and their brain and heart spaces are limited, so a little pushback of your own may be in order. (A little.)

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Watch the Frustration as 3 High School Girls Take a 6th Grade Common Core Math Test

Saturday, February 21st, 2015 - by Paula Bolyard

Three high school students from Elyria, Ohio, took a 6th grade Common Core math test last week and recorded their efforts. They described their experience in a post on an anti-testing Facebook page. Two of the girls are seniors and the third is in 10th grade.

We are taking the practice Math PBA [performance based assessment] PARCC test for sixth grade. Brooke is in Calculus which is only available on the track of honors math classes meaning during freshman year she started in Geometry, although students can get on the track and double up on math classes for a year and get up to calculus. I [Megan] took a quarter of calculus but dropped it because I did not need it for college and am taking statistics. Melanie is in honors classes but is a sophomore, she had more of a fresher memory to middle school math since she’s younger. This test was hard for ALL three of us.

“I can’t do this,” the girl in the middle says at one point when the test asks students to explain why an answer is wrong.

The girl on the right says she could probably figure out the answers if she had her graphing calculator, but her friend reminds her that 6th graders aren’t allowed to use the more advanced calculators.

“How are 6th graders supposed to take this?” the girl in the middle exclaims. “I can’t even do this. I’m 12th grade. I’m six years ahead of them!”

The girls complain that with the online test they can’t go back and check their work like they’re able to do with a paper test.

“I feel like I’m going to cry because I don’t know this and I feel so stupid,” says the girl in the middle.

Later in the video she admits, “I can’t do fractions. I couldn’t even do fractions in 6th grade.”

By the time they get to question 11 of 12 on the first section, the girls give up, completely flummoxed by the test, despite their team effort. When they try to view their scores, they are again frustrated when they discover that they must register for an account to see how they did on the practice test.

“Well, I’m not going to make an account for something I don’t support,” one girl complains (which raises some questions about the motives of this exercise).

Students in schools across Ohio are the first in the nation to take the Common Core tests, administered by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) testing consortium. All Ohio students in grade 3-8 are scheduled to take the tests this week — 100,000 children are scheduled to take the online version.

Ohio has become ground zero for anti-testing protests in recent weeks. A teacher in the same district (Elyria) recently made news when she publicly resigned — to gasps of disbelief – citing the “testing culture” and the “drill ‘em and kill ‘em” atmosphere in schools. There is an active testing “opt-out” movement in the state — driven in part by teachers — with parents across the state saying their children will not take the tests. Many districts have been forced to adopt procedures for allowing students to opt out and some have held meetings with parents to explain potential consequences for students who miss the state-mandated tests.

Sarah Fowler, a member of the Ohio State Board of Education, who has been a vocal critic of Common Core, wrote on her Facebook page that state Superintendent Ross confirmed to the board that there is no law permitting or prohibiting a parent from refusing testing in Ohio.

“Long-standing American tradition protects parent’s right to choose based upon their family’s unique needs and concerns,” Fowler wrote. She explained that Ohio students entering 9th grade have three options for graduation, only one of which involves the PARCC tests:

Students entering 9th grade this school year have three graduation options. 1. PARCC End of Course Exams, 2. Remediation-free score on SAT/ACT assessments, 3. Work/Skills assessment and Industry Credential. It was confirmed with ODE legal counsel that students who choose pathway 2 or 3 may change their mind and take the PARCC exams missed or refused this year in the future.

The Ohio House recently passed H.B. 7 in response to complaints about the new tests from parents and teachers. The law “declares an emergency” and would provide a safe harbor for students for the 2014-2015 school year in regard to testing. Schools would be prohibited from utilizing:

at any time during a student’s academic career, a student’s score on any elementary-level state assessment or high school end-of-course examination that is administered in the 2014-2015 year school as a factor in any decision to (1) retain the student, (2) promote the student to a higher grade level, or (3) grant course credit.

The bill would also allow students to take end-of-course exams at a later time in the student’s academic career if they do not take it on the scheduled administration date. The bill now goes to the Ohio Senate, where it must face Sen. Peggy Lehner, the powerful head of the Senate Education Committee, who is a staunch defender of the Common Core standards and who has called efforts to repeal the federally influenced standards “a circus.” Governor Kasich has not indicated whether he would support a testing “safe harbor” for the current school year.

You can take the PARCC Common Core practice test here.

I’ve pasted some screenshots of the 6th grade math questions the high school girls struggled with below, along with answers from the PARCC Alignment Document. Do you think they are inappropriate for a 6th grader? Should high school students be able to solve these problems?

 

Question 7:

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Field Test Note: I asked my husband and my son — both ‘math people’ — to try the golf ball problem. My husband, who has a background in engineering and computer programming and now works as a senior systems analyst, struggled with it because he wasn’t comfortable with the assumptions being made about year 4 sales. Students are supposed to assume that the rate of sales will increase at the average rate of the first three years, but that is not explained anywhere in the problem.
My son, who was homeschooled and minored in computer science in college (he’s now an IT manager), whipped out an answer in short order. He reminded me that he had learned to do problems just like this during the years we used Singapore Math in our homeschool program.

Question 8:

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Question 9:

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Question 10:

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Question 11:

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Question 12:

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Are Boys the Target of a Feminist Gendercide Campaign?

Thursday, February 19th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Last week social media jumped on the story of a woman who supposedly decided to have a late-term abortion specifically because she found out she was having a boy. Based on a near-anonymous comment posted on an Internet forum, the story is highly questionable at best. Nevertheless, both pro- and anti-abortion advocates pounced on the missive. The dialogue generated took on a life of its own, inspiring the following comment from feminist site Jezebel:

“The virality of this story is sort of a nice reminder about confirmation bias: when something fits our preferred narrative just a little too snugly, it’s probably time for skepticism,” wrote Jezebel’s Anna Merlan.

How, exactly, does gendercide “fit our narrative” in the West, especially in relation to boys?

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Is Common Core the Obamacare of Education?

Sunday, February 15th, 2015 - by Paula Bolyard

This has become a top-down approach, just like Obamacare. We were told you can keep your doctor, you can keep your health plan. We were told this would be locally-driven, local curriculum. That’s not what it is. This is a one-size-fits-all approach from D.C.. We have never allowed the federal government to make curriculum decisions in our local schools and we will continue to fight against this.

That was Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal explaining to Chris Wallace, host of Fox News Sunday, the reason he changed his mind about supporting the Common Core State Standards. Jindal initially agreed that his state would submit to the standards, a list of what children should know in each grade from kindergarten to graduation in English language arts and mathematics, but later changed his mind, citing concerns about increased federal control over state and local education decisions.

Like many other governors across the country, Jindal was lured into agreeing to the standards with the promise of federal dollars from grants through a program called Race to the Top, part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Cash-strapped states were encouraged to compete for grants by submitting applications that would be judged, in part, on whether or not they agreed to adopt the Common Core standards. States were told that their applications would be more competitive if they agreed to adopt the new standards.

Forty states applied for the first phase of funding, many of them enthusiastically agreeing to adopt the common standards that would eventually come to be called the Common Core State Standards.

States that didn’t get on board with Common Core during the Race to the Top competition found that the federal government had another incentive — or perhaps threat is a better word. The No Child Left Behind Act had an absurd 100% proficiency requirement that was looming in 2014. No state was on schedule to achieve 100% proficiency and states faced federally mandated sanctions in 2014 if that unrealistic benchmark wasn’t met.  The Obama administration offered states waivers that would allow them to avoid the consequences of NCLB — as long as they agreed to jump on the Common Core bandwagon.

The idea of national standards wasn’t invented in President Obama’s Department of Education. The 1983 “A Nation at Risk” report (which some experts considered to be rhetorically too pessimistic and not evidenced-based) urged schools to adopt standards that were “more rigorous and measurable.” President George H.W. Bush embraced a “defined set of national education goals” at a 1989 summit and in 1996 the National Governors Association created Achieve, Inc., a non-profit group devoted to higher education standards. Funded by groups like the Business Roundtable, the Chamber of Commerce, and the National Alliance of Business, Achieve, Inc. was an effort to “set tough academic standards that apply to every student in every school.”

In 2008 Achieve, Inc., the Council of Chief State School Officers, and the National Governors Association issued “Benchmarking for Success,” a report that called for national standards and federal incentives to achieve that goal. That same year the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation gave $22 million to the Hunt Institute to work with governors to promote national standards after being approached by Gene Wilhoit, director of a national group of state school chiefs, and David Coleman, who would go on to become the architect of the Common Core standards. The Gates Foundation would eventually spend $200 million to promote the idea of national standards to state education departments, think tanks, unions, non-profit organizations, and education companies.

The infusion of Gates cash was a game changer and suddenly, without much debate or controversy, the nation was on the verge of adopting national standards, a development education secretary Arne Duncan called “the single greatest thing to happen to public education in America since Brown v. Board of Education.”

Rep. Nancy Pelosi, discussing the Affordable Care Act, famously said, “We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it.”

In much the same way, the Common Core initiative was rushed onto the scene and states agreed to abide by the common standards before the public had time to comprehend the dramatic transformation that had just occurred. Americans, distracted with the housing crash, the recession, and the healthcare debate, were not focused on these complex educational issues at the time and so the discussions were mostly left to education bureaucrats. Before the final draft of the Common Core standards was released in June of 2010, dozens of states were onboard, which left little time for public review or debate. There was also no time for input from state legislatures. By the end of 2010, 39 states and the District of Columbia were on board with the initiative.

States that agreed to abide by the standards defended the decision, saying that federal law prohibits the federal government from meddling in state and local education decisions. Ohio Governor John Kasich recently insisted that control of education remains with local school boards. ”Barack Obama doesn’t set [the curriculum]; the state of Ohio doesn’t set it. It is local school boards driving better education, higher standards, created by local school boards,” Kasich told Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday.

In theory (and on paper) that’s true. The reality is quite different.

The claim that the Common Core standards will not determine what is taught in classrooms — that states are still free to develop their own curriculum and local schools and teachers will still make decisions about individual lessons — should be rated as “half true” at best.

Let’s begin with the standards themselves. Schools do retain some measure of local control, but only to the extent that local schools stay within the confines of the mandated standards. For example, the math standards mandate that students “count to 100 by ones and by tens” by the end of kindergarten. There are no requirements for which textbooks must be used or how teachers should explain the concept to students, only that children need to know how to do this by the end of kindergarten. Teachers still have flexibility, but only within the limits of the common requirements.

One immediate result of the (nearly) national standards is that publishers, seeing an opportunity to make a profit, quickly jumped on board. Textbooks and curriculum guides nationwide began to sport “Common Core Aligned” stickers — even homeschool curriculum did not escape Common Core branding. In some cases, publishers found that books they currently had in print already aligned in some way with a standard here or there, so they felt justified in slapping Common Core stickers on them. In other cases, new curriculum and textbooks were (and continue to be) developed to align specifically with the new standards, which are being used to write tables of contents for math and English textbooks that will be used in classrooms across the country. The materials are so pervasive that reportedly 100 of 176 Catholic dioceses have adopted the Common Core standards, citing increased difficulty finding classroom materials and professional development programs for teachers that are not influenced by the Common Core.

Supporters say this is a great development; they cite greater efficiency in textbook publishing and an increased ability for teachers to share innovative ideas and lesson plans across the country. This might not have been the worst development in the history of education reform except that the federal government went on to increase its control — and the controversy — over the standards exponentially by spending $350 million in federal education dollars to fund consortiums to develop tests to ensure compliance with Common Core standards. Two testing companies — Smarter Balanced and Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) — agreed to create the tests and most Common Core states signed agreements to use one or the other. Some 40 million students nationwide will be subject to these two tests created with federal funding and under the influence of the federal government. According to Education Week, the U.S. Department of Education is providing guidance on the peer-review process for the standards and tests and “could exert a powerful influence on how states set academic expectations.”

Critics say this will result in “teaching to the test” on steroids. The tests will most certainly drive what is taught in classrooms, even though the standards do not have specific curricular requirements. The PARCC Assessment Blueprint and Test Specifications FAQ encourages teachers to use their materials to “guide thinking about classroom rubric use and design.” According to PARCC, “The ELA/literacy passage selection guidelines and worksheets should also be helpful tools to guide text selection for classroom instruction and assessments.”

In other words: if teachers want their students to succeed on the tests, they should use the PARCC-recommended materials in the classroom.

And students will find no respite from Common Core in the ACT and SAT college entrance exams, both of which are being aligned to the new standards. College Board president David Coleman (the architect of the Common Core who first approached Bill Gates about national standards in 2008) has vowed to radically redesign the SAT. Education reformer Diane Ravitch called Coleman the “de facto controller of American education.”

Ultimately, the buck stops at the tests. Testing drives everything from publishing, to local hiring decisions, to the way math is taught in kindergarten. Advocates of the Common Core standards claim there will be no erosion of local control and deny there will be any federal influence on state and local decision-making. But it won’t be local teachers and school board members — or even states — deciding what will be on the high-stakes tests, and within a few years those tests will be the primary driver of what is taught in most of the classrooms across the country.

The Common Core standards will eventually lead to a one-size-fits all, top-down education with little opportunity for individual choice or state innovation because all children will have to pass the same tests. As Common Core takes root in local districts and classrooms nationwide, local control and state innovation will be abandoned as schools move increasingly toward a nationally directed approach to education with decisions overseen by officials at the Department of Education.

See Part I of this series devoted to making sense of the “tangled web of unanswered questions and competing interests” behind Common Core. Have a question you want to see explored in a future installment? Reach out to @PBolyard on Twitter. Also check out this collection presenting 150 of Paula Bolyard’s top articles over the years.

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An Adult Conversation About Common Core: Part 1

Thursday, February 12th, 2015 - by Paula Bolyard

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Over the next several weeks I plan to devote some space here to unraveling the tangled web of Common Core, the educational standards for math and English adopted by 43 states, the District of Columbia, four territories, and the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA). The attempt to blanket the country in national standards as a way to improve educational achievement has become one of the great political and philosophical debates of our time and it deserves a serious and substantive discussion apart from the hyperbole and the talking points on both sides of the issue.

Should there be common standards so student achievement can be compared across state lines? If so, who should decide what the standards are and how should achievement be measured? Should the federal government have a say in the process? How about the states? If not, what should be done instead? How should taxpayer-funded schools be held accountable and how will parents know if their local schools can provide a quality education for their children? How can parents be assured that the teachers are skilled at teaching and imparting knowledge to children?

About the only thing that nearly everyone agrees on is that U.S. standards and student achievement have been heading in the wrong direction for decades. Beneath the surface of these debates we are faced with more important philosophical questions. What is the purpose of education in the first place? What does it mean to be an educated person? Does the meaning change as technology (and society) evolves or is there a static definition for what we consider to be an educated American? Is it based on some set of measurable, testable skills and something education reformers like to call “college and career readiness” or should career preparation be secondary to more intangible qualities like morality, love of country, and preparation for self-government?

Even if Americans could agree on what a good education should include and which standards to use, there is a separate discussion related to Common Core about accountability. Should teachers be held accountable when students fail to learn or progress and should tests be the way we determine a student’s success or failure? Should the federal government, which contributes 7-8% to most state education budgets, hold states accountable for how those dollars are spent through testing or should they just let the states determine how to spend the money, free from federal oversight?

These are all important questions that deserve more than soundbite answers and random examples of incomprehensible classroom lessons. Moreover, it is important to examine the history of American education — and education reform — so that we can move forward instead of repeating the same mistakes and failing another generation of children.

Just for the sake of comparison, let us consider the nation’s first comprehensive education law. The Massachusetts School Law of 1789 (passed just two years after the U.S. Constitution was ratified) gives us some insight into what the Founders thought the purpose of education was and explained why education was important to the success of the state and the nation. The law noted the duty the Commonwealth of Massachusetts had (as expressed in the state constitution, penned by John Adams in 1780) to provide for the education of youth because “a general dissemination of knowledge and virtue is necessary to the prosperity of every State, and the very existence of a Commonwealth.” The law declared that school masters of good morals should be appointed to teach children “to read and write, and to instruct them in the English language, as well as in arithmetic, orthography, and decent behavior.”

Teachers were admonished to “take diligent care” to instruct students in,

the principles of piety, justice, and a sacred regard to truth, love to their county, humanity, and universal benevolence, sobriety, industry and frugality, chastity, moderation and temperance, and those other virtues which are the ornament of human society, and the basis upon which the Republican [Massachusetts] Constitution is structured.

You’d be hard-pressed to find students in any public school in America today being instructed with “diligent care” in even one of the listed virtues, many of which are considered outdated by progressive education reformers, the relics a bygone (and oppressive) society.

Compare the Founders’ view of education to the less lofty goals of the Common Core State Standards, which seek to “ensure that students make progress each year and graduate from high school prepared to succeed in college, career, and life” and to “lay out a vision of what it means to be a literate person who is prepared for success in the 21st century.”

Success in “life” isn’t really defined in the Common Core standards, but seems to be related to ”the expectations of colleges, workforce training programs, and employers” and the ability to “compete with their peers in the United States and abroad.”

Over the last 225 years, education — at least the purpose of education — has evolved into something our Founding Fathers would likely not recognize. “College and career readiness” and preparation for a “21st century global economy” (hallmarks of the Common Core philosophy of education) have replaced the virtues that the authors of the Massachusetts School Law of 1789 believed were essential for the fledgling Commonwealth’s very existence — virtues they said were necessary “to secure the blessings of liberty, as well as to promote their future happiness; and the tendency of the opposite vices to slavery and ruin.”

Whether this philosophical change to an emphasis on college and career readiness will be an improvement in education has been the subject of much debate. Many supporters say that virtually anything would be better than the current scheme under No Child Left Behind (NCLB), where states were required to test students and hold schools accountable for student achievement. Because it left the determination of cut (passing) scores on achievement tests up to the states, critics of NCLB say it led to a “race to the bottom” and a lowering of standards as states set scores intentionally low to avoid the perception of failing grades and the resulting NCLB penalties.

Common Core opponents counter that the new standards will make things worse. They say a one-size-fits-all program of educational standards will crush innovation and creativity in the classroom and will drive all schools to teach to tests which are heavily influenced by a dubiously motivated federal government and corporate interests. They also point to an increased reliance on informational texts and a reduction in the amount of literature in the standards and say there is a strong progressive political bent to the standards.

Through it all, Common Core has become a monstrous, unwieldy political football. Lawmakers are encouraged by lobbyists and supporters of the new standards to ride out the storm and see the project through, assured that the untested education reforms will work and improve student achievement. At the same time they face the ire of teachers (and their unions) who despise testing-related accountability and forced compliance with standards their local districts do not control. Along with these competing interests, elected officials face a daily barrage of criticism from parents, some of whom have legitimate and substantive concerns and others who have made the standards a scapegoat for everything they don’t like about their child’s school.

Amid the shouting and debate and political tussling, the majority of the nation’s public school children learn in an atmosphere of uncertainty as schools continue in the direction of Common Core implementation, which has been anything but smooth. While politicians and parents debate whether or not the standards should be repealed (and even if they’re outright harmful to students), teachers are also left in limbo, not knowing if they’ll be held accountable for the (nearly) national standards and wondering if they’ll need to retool their classrooms (yet again) if Common Core is repealed in their state.

Untangling the complicated Common Core web — politically and philosophically — will take leadership and political courage, qualities that are often severely lacking in our modern political discourse. The shouting must give way to reasoned debate and genuine legislative solutions, lest Americans settle for the status quo and miss this unique opportunity to do the hard work of real education reform and lest we fail yet another generation of children.

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Editor’s Note: See some of Paula’s previous blog posts and articles about Common Core and stay tuned as she explores the subject further. Have any questions you’d like to see Paula address in the series? Please leave your comments below or reach out on Twitter: @PBolyard

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How Common Core is Coming to Homeschoolers

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How Can Students Fight Back Against Oppressive Schools?

Monday, February 9th, 2015 - by Helen Smith

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I was happy and pleased to see at NetGalley that a new book focusing on how to fight back at school had been released called The Student Resistance Handbook. I was intrigued and ordered it after taking a look at the Amazon description:

The Student Resistance Handbook provides children with information on how they can effectively fight back against their school and work towards abolishing this abusive and oppressive institution. Legal non-violent tactics are presented that are designed to: disrupt the operation of school, substantially increase the costs involved in its operation, and make those who work for and support schools as miserable as they make the students who are forced to attend. The text was conceived to empower youth to struggle against the helplessness, passivity, and despair that schools were designed to instill. John F. Kennedy accurately claimed that “learning without liberty is always in vain.” This Handbook provides students with tools to fight for their liberty in order to attain a real education.

There was also an excerpt that looked good:

If you are looking to be warehoused in a more comfortable prison, this book is not for you. If you think getting a longer break for lunch or recess is a meaningful concession, this book is not for you. If you think better food in the lunchroom, more respectful teachers, and the end of standardized testing is what victory looks like, this book is not for you. There are no demands that can be issued or met short of ending the tyranny of compulsory schooling. If teachers or administrators want to reach out and negotiate with you, it will be based on a lie.They will only want to negotiate the terms of your surrender. Victory is when no one has to go to school and there are no consequences to not going. Given the rise of viable alternatives to school, this endgame is not completely far-fetched.

The book definitely looks worth a read, I look forward to getting my copy!

*****
Cross-posted from Dr. Helen

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