The below represents the second in a series of interviews with everyday Americans who are fighting back against Common Core, released in connection with Glenn Beck’s new book, “Conform: Exposing the Truth About Common Core and Public Education.”
We spoke with Brad McQueen, a 5th grade teacher from Arizona who after working on the development/review of rubrics and questions on the PARCC/Common Core test grew disgusted with what he was seeing and decided to speak out about it, ultimately self-publishing a book titled “The Cult of Common Core.”
Our interview was conducted via email, with slight alterations for grammar and brevity.
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Speak to your background and why you took an interest in Common Core specifically and public education more broadly?
McQueen: I’ve been a 5th grade teacher in public schools for the last ten years. I’ve always worked in schools that give teachers a great deal of autonomy in the classroom to use whatever teaching methods they feel are useful to teach their students over and above the minimum state standards. I have also experienced schools where they prescribe how and what teachers teach in the classroom and it was pure agony to witness.
I first heard of the Common Core standards, when they were adopted here in AZ back in 2010, when I was at our State Department of Education working our state’s standardized test, the AIMS test. I’ve worked on every facet of the AIMS test for the last 5 years. The attitude amongst my fellow teachers and the state employees that summer was that they were the same-old-thing-with-another-name programs that we would have to implement at some point…we were still too busy teaching the old state standards, and creating tests based on them, that we just put off dealing with them until we had to. The scuttlebutt (I’ve always wanted to use that word and now I have) at the AZ Dept of Ed was that the standards were an Obama administration program, and with the elections coming up in 2012 there was a chance that the Common Core standards would go away should Obama lose the election.
A year ago (3/2013), the AZ Dept of Ed asked me to go to Chicago for a week to work on evaluating the writing/reading rubrics for the Common Core/PARCC test. I didn’t have an opinion on Common Core either way. I was curious and I wanted to see what the standards would look like in test form and how that might inform my classroom teaching, so I went. Most teachers were waiting for the Common Core test to come out for the same reason.
Teachers in AZ have a great deal of input into the state test. Teachers create the test and we had the ability to change or tweak test questions if we detected a bias or if we thought the questions or reading passages weren’t truly assessing our students’ learning.
Working on the CCore test was a very different experience and had 50 more shades of bureaucracy. My Common Core handlers weren’t interested in my questions about where the standards came from, who wrote them, who wrote the test questions, etc. If they did attempt an answer they usually parroted the phrase “Teachers were involved.” Something didn’t feel right.
My turning point came when in answer to questions I had about a student writing sample, my Common Core handler blurted out, “We don’t ever care what the kids’ opinions are. If they write what they think or put forth their opinion then they will fail the test.”
I have always taught my students to think for themselves. They are to study multiple views on a given topic, then take their own position and support it with evidence. “That is the old way of writing,” my Common Core handler sighed. “We want students to repeat the opinions of the ‘experts’ that we expose them to on the test. This is the ‘new’ way of writing with the Common Core.”
I discovered later that this was not just some irritated, rogue Common Core handler, rather this was a philosophy I heard repeated again and again. I pointed out that this was not the way that teachers teach in the classroom. She retorted that, “We expect that when the test comes out the teachers in the classroom will imitate the skills emphasized on the test (teach to the test) and employ this new way of writing and thinking.” This was a complete kick in the stomach moment for me.
After that I started to do research on the Common Core and read everything I could get my hands on for the year or so. The more I read the more disgusted I became about the Common Core and the governors who brought it into our lives.
I went back to Chicago again in November 2013 to review reading/writing questions for the Common Core/PARCC test. Again, I wanted to see the test questions and I also wanted to experience the Common Core with all the new knowledge I’d gained. After a week of work I was convinced of the correctness of my feelings and my research about the Common Core. During this visit I worked with Pearson and ETS on the questions they created for the test. Again we were just window dressing so that they could check the box that “teachers were involved.”
I didn’t know it at the time, but I shook the hand of Common Core royalty on this visit. I met Doug Sovde, one of the original writers of the Common Core standards, when I was having problems with an expense report.
I also began seeing moms on the news going up against boards of education and governors with the same concerns that I had about the Common Core. They were dismissed as “ill-informed” and maligned as “white suburban housewives” who discovered their kids aren’t as brilliant as they thought they were, by US Sec of Ed Arne Duncan.
Oddly enough at the same time I was reading “Miracles and Massacres” by Glenn Beck. One powerful message I got from that book was that everyone has a time where they must stand up for what is right and leave the consequences to God. I wrote an op-ed in the paper the next day. Then I spent 3 weeks writing my book. I’ve been leaving the consequences up to God ever since.
What is the one thing that all Americans need to know about Common Core? What is the one aspect of Common Core that Americans should most fear?
McQueen: The Common Core is much bigger than just a set of standards, a test, or a data gathering machine. Like a virus, the Common Core tricks its victims into lowering their guard by pretending to be something it is not. But the Common Core isn’t just a mindless infection of our society; rather it is an intentional takeover of our education delivery system and therefore a takeover of our children’s minds. It is a one-size-fits-all, homogenized, centrally controlled education delivery system steeped in Progressive ideology. It is antithetical to everything that makes our country exceptional. This cult is relentlessly pulling our children under its control, with a seemingly endless supply of money, and uses intimidation to silence its opponents.
By taking over how our kids think the Common Core will be used to shape future generations of citizens and their relationship with their own true history and their government. Sovereignty over education was always too decentralized into the states to do this in the past.
Many people are focusing on the incompetent implementation of the Common Core tests or the need to rework the standards. The reality is that the entire Common Core beast, including the never-before-tested-standards that were created in secret, the tests which were based on those standards, and the data suctioning systems which were put in place to track our children’s personal information and monitor teacher compliance with Common Core Central, should be slayed and buried in total. States’ Governors and Superintendents of Education were elected to protect the interests of our children, yet they let this Common Core beast through the gates. There should be a call for them to resign and/or not seek re-election in light of their educational malpractice.
Having said all this, the one concrete thing that Americans should fear most is the NSA-like data suctioning systems set in place by the Common Core groups to gather all manner of data about our children and their families starting in preschool and going up through college and career. (More on that in the later question on SLDS).