BEN WEINGARTEN

Reader. Writer. Thinker. Commentator. Truth Seeker.

Tag: Common Core

My Interview with Joy Pullman on ‘The Education Invasion’, Common Core and the Administrative State

On behalf of Encounter Books, recently I had the chance to interview Joy Pullman on her new book, The Education Invasion: How Common Core Fights Parents for Control of American Kids

One particularly interesting portion of our conversation comes in the form of Joy’s argument about Common Core serving as in effect an extension of the administrative state:

Ben Weingarten: And you, early on in your book, describe Common Core, and a bone that you have to pick with Common Core about consent of governed issues. You write, and I quote, that “Common Core is as big a change in education as Obamacare is in health care, but unlike Obamacare it needed no votes in Congress to become national policy. It garnered practically no notice from the media before the Obama administration, in concert with largely unelected state bureaucrats and a shadow bureaucracy of private organizations, locked it in nationwide. That meant no public debate before the scheme was imposed upon a country supposedly run with the consent of the governed.” And in reading that, is it fair to think of Common Core as, in essence, an extension of the administrative state?

Joy Pullmann: Absolutely. Absolutely…You hit on one of my favorite topics — I should say, my most hated topics, therefore about which I like to rant the most. But absolutely. Common Core, I think, is basically an expression of the administrative state. And what the administrative state is is a vast, unaccountable, unelected bureaucracy that, because it isn’t accountable, Americans who pay the salaries of all these people cannot fire them, cannot tell them what to do, so on and so forth. And they unite all the faculties of the three branches, the executive, the legislative, and the judicial, very often. So it’s a very un-American system of government that has grown up in this country and that we are now governed by, and Common Core is a representation of that.

Ben Weingarten: How did a curriculum that was euphemistically described as state-led actually become advanced through a combination of big business and big government to essentially nationalize education in America?

Joy Pullmann: Basically through the administrative state.

Let me just hit a couple of the major milestones. In my book, I go through a history of what is called the “standards movement” in education because American education has actually been notably declining since the 1950s. And there have been lots of different measures that people have objectively shown to be the case.

And so, ever since then, Americans have been…Politicians, interest groups, and the like have been proposing ways to remedy this problem. And basically, what we keep doing is…The title of another book by American Enterprise Institute scholar, Frederick Hess, The Same Thing Over and Over. So we keep basically enacting the same principles since the 1950s, and expecting a different result. And then we’re shocked when the result of increased centralization is worse inefficiency, higher costs, and stupider children.

Anyway, if we’re gonna talk about “How did all of this happen?”…I talk in my book, there’s documentation to show that enacting Common Core was deliberately facilitated through non-elected, private, special interest groups in order to give it the appearance of being state-led because in previous attempts at nationalizing American education directly through Congress, the American people rejected it soundly. They just failed.

And so the people for whom that is a policy priority said…And I quote, and I cite these folks in my book, they said, “Well, Americans, basically they’re too dumb to know what’s good for them. They don’t like the idea of Washington running their local schools. And in fact, Americans still don’t like the idea of Washington running their local schools. National polls continue to show that.”

“So, since Americans are so parochial and not really informed of their best interest to have an education czar running their local schools from Washington, we’re going to do it on their behalf and in their name through a coalition of private interest groups.”

And that’s exactly how Common Core went into place.

There’s three organizations that came together to create Common Core, and they are creatures of the administrative state. They are technically nonprofit organizations, but in the book, I go through their tax returns. They receive a very large amount of money from federal and state taxpayers through both dues and government contracts. They’re quasi-government — they’re basically government sponges. And so these organizations, which have no legal authority — nobody elected them — no Constitution, no law says that they are in charge of education policy anywhere, nevertheless, they took it upon themselves to get together and create Common Core.

And they did this with funding from the Gates Foundation, which, I’ve just been re-running the numbers again, updating them since the book came out, and I think in the book we have a quarter of a billion dollars that Gates spent on enacting and pushing Common Core, and that has increased to a third of a billion dollars, more than $300 million.

So with that money, these three organizations got together, again, a bunch of unelected people to basically write Common Core. They farmed out little pieces of it to committees. They had a long, complicated, drawn-out process.

But the important thing to me, like you mentioned earlier, is the consent part of it. Because this was done in private organizations instead of a state house, instead of Congress, the American people have no right of transparency. Even though we paid for Common Core to be created in part, and even though we have to live under its regime in our public schools, we still don’t know who paid for what, who wrote what words of Common Core, what their credentials are, who vetted it. All of this is opaque. It’s not subject to Freedom of Information, Sunshine Law sorts of requirements.

This is actually really common in public policy nowadays, as you mentioned, because government has gotten so big that it’s very, very difficult, if not impossible, for anyone to watchdog it. You would have to have investigative reporters who cared more about uncovering what government is doing in the name and with the money of the people, than they do about running flippy stories about the Kardashian family or whatever.

Anyway, so they created it, and then they went directly to the Obama administration which Congress had, in all its wisdom, given basically a strings-free pot of money for the education department. And Gates Foundation officials had phone calls, regular check-up phone calls with Obama administration officials, and they put into place this scheme by which they would bribe all the states into it. It was called Race to the Top.

So the Obama administration, during the panic years of 2008 and 2009, when we were having an economic crisis, went to the states and said, “Hey, you might be able to win a couple of hundred thousand, maybe a million dollars from the federal government for education projects, as long as you do all these things to make us happy for a shot at it.” Mind you, a couple hundred thousand dollars or a million dollars sounds like a lot to you and me, we could be set for life if we had that money, but in terms of education funding, it’s a drop in the bucket.

So states were coming to the federal government, hat in hand, to get less than one percent of their annual education funding for a one-time-only program that committed them to much more spending than they got out of it. And only a handful of states ended up being winners anyway.

One of the criteria for just applying for this program included adopting standards that are common to a majority of states, standards being mandates for what tests and curriculum have to contain. And of course the only thing that fit that definition was Common Core. And in fact, Common Core itself was in the original draft regulations that the Obama administration wanted to put out, but at the last minute they changed it to a definition that only fit Common Core, without mentioning it because they were afraid of the political backlash.

Obviously it’s long and complicated, and there’s lots of other things, but those are basically the milestones. The milestones are created under the auspices of private organizations that nobody can see what they’re doing, even though taxpayers pay for their activities. And then second, the Obama administration comes to states, holds a carrot in front of their little noses and says, “Come get it, little donkeys,” and they all came running.

The kicker to me is that the state signed contracts with the federal government, promising that they would do a complete overhaul of all their curriculum and testing, and this was all before even a draft of Common Core was available. They had no idea what they were going to have kids learning in schools. They had no idea what the tests would look like. And they still said, “Sure, sounds good to me. We believe that whatever you promise is gonna come through.” To me that’s unconscionable. It’s completely an abdication of the responsibility of public officials.

You can read the transcript in full here.

A scathing interview with a 5th grade teacher who was in the room when Common Core was being created

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.

For more content like this, be sure to give Blaze Books a follow on Facebook and Twitter.

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).

Read more at TheBlaze…

The Michigan teacher and union member who is fighting back against Common Core

The below represents the first 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 Wendy Day, a teacher, teachers union member, and former homeschooling parent, who joined her school board to improve education and ultimately returned her children to public school. Ms. Day, who helped organize the first Tea Party rally in Michigan back in 2009, is now running for the Michigan House of Representatives in the state’s 47th district, in part to apply market-based principles to education in direct opposition to Common Core.

Blaze Books [FacebookTwitter] conducted its interview with Ms. Day via email, with some slight modifications for grammar and links.

Speak to your background and why you took an interest in Common Core specifically and public education more broadly?

Day: As a mother of four children, from ages 7-17, my highest priority is the well being and future prospects of my kids and the stability of my community. These concerns are what compelled me to homeschool my children for four years, and to serve on the school board when I noticed that our school district was not only secretive, but unresponsive to the people they were supposed to be serving. Currently my children attend our local public schools, and Common Core is already being implemented in their classrooms. I am gravely concerned about the fact that Common Core will leave no child untouched as it seeks to fundamentally transform education.

Educating children is not like making cookies. Each child has individual needs, talents, potential, and abilities that don’t easily fit into rigid molds. Our public school teachers are heroes when they exert the effort to creatively tailor their classrooms to meet the needs of all

the students. I am in awe of these hard working teachers who manage, week in and week out, to produce great results. Common Core, instead of encouraging great teaching tailored to individual needs, requires teachers to march in lock step to arbitrary standards and cookbook curricula. While consistency sounds like a fine goal, it comes at a high cost.

We should all be concerned for our communities, whether we have children or not. Ever since the federal government began to intrude on community control of education, we have seen nothing but the slow decay of standards in education. Common Core promises to take our teachers and children to a regimented system that has more in common with producing drones than the creative entrepreneurs and inventors that make America great.

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?

Day: Common Core is the “Obamacare” of education. It is a huge government program designed to fundamentally transform a core section of our society. It is expensive, complicated, and secretive. We are told we need to implement it to see exactly how it works. Where have we heard all this before?

The beauty of America is that if you don’t like what is happening in your community or state, you can move. If one state tries a program and it fails, they can look to see what other states are doing and copy their success. Common Core takes away that choice. The goal of Common Core Standards appears to be the homogenization of education; every teacher saying the same thing to students across America according to instructions issued from a federal curriculum. A robot can do that. Is that what we want for our kids?

We can all agree that education needs an overhaul. But instead of a top-down government solution, why don’t we let the free market work? The time has come for real educational freedom in America. Parents deserve choices in the form of tuition tax credits or vouchers. Children deserve the chance to pursue a quality education at a safe school that fits their needs.

As a teachers’ union member, speak a little bit to the union mentality — is there a split in your experience between teachers and senior officials in their unions? Why do unions have such a vested interest in Common Core?

The unions cannot survive unless parents are convinced that education is a complicated challenge that can only be undertaken by “professionals.” It is advantageous to tell parents they will ruin their kids if they attempt to teach them to read outside of the approved methods.

Once school choice is dead, the unions will have more power. Not all teachers agree with the unions of course, and the experience in Michigan after the passage of right to work proves that. But union leaders are clinging with their fingernails to power, and right now, Common Core offers a lifeline. I am currently a member of the HEA – Michigan Education Association, but plan to leave as soon as my contract allows.

Read more at TheBlaze…

Mark Steyn speaks with TheBlaze on his new book, and everything from global warming to Common Core to the First Amendment

We spoke with best-selling author and columnist Mark Steyn in connection with the release of a newly updated version of his entertaining and insightful book of obituaries and appreciations, “Mark Steyn’s Passing Parade.”

In a wide-ranging interview, Steyn spoke with TheBlaze Books on his newly updated book, the fate of America, and issues ranging from gay marriage to global warming to free speech to education and Common Core. The interview, which we conducted in-person, is transcribed below with edits for clarity and links.

If you appreciate this interview, be sure to follow Blaze Books on Facebook and Twitter.

Give us a brief synopsis of your newly updated book, “Passing Parade: Obituaries & Appreciations.“

Steyn: Well my big books in recent years have been on the big geopolitical, socio-economic picture. A lot of statistics, lot of numbers, lot of big picture stuff. “America Alone” is essentially a book about demography – I mean I got a best-selling book about demography which doesn’t happen very often, but it’s about fertility rates, really. “After America” in some ways is about debt – it’s about multi-trillion dollar numbers. And they’re all big picture things, but for me the real pleasure is writing about people, and reminding yourself…that it’s not all fertility rates and debt/GDP ratios, but that at the right moment of history, one individual can make a difference. And the people in this book are people who made a difference. That can be in the sense of winning the Cold War like Ronald Reagan did, or it can be in the sense of William Mitchell, who’s the guy who invented Cool Whip…I like writing obituaries. The only thing I would say is that it’s hard to write about people you…you can’t be entirely negative or hateful about people. There’s gotta be something in there [within the person] that you respond to.

And it’s interesting – even someone like Romano Mussolini, who is the Mussolini’s son – Il Duche – the big-time fascist dictator of Italy…Romano Mussolini was a jazz pianist of all things, and I met him once when he came to play in London. His group was called the “Romano Mussolini All Stars.” And after the war in Italy, his dad had been hung from a lamppost, the bottom had dropped out of the dictating business, but Romano got to be the jazz pianist that he’d always wanted to be. But he thought the Mussolini name wouldn’t go well, so he changed his name to the equivalent of “Romano Smith and His Trio.” And nobody came to see him. And then he discovered that actually, the Romano Mussolini All Stars, that that was actually quite a draw with the jazz crowd. But there’s even in that – as I said, Mussolini wound up hanging from a lamppost when they caught up with him with his mistress, but even…the final anecdote about that is that the last time Romano saw his dad, when his time had almost run out, and everybody was catching up with him, and his dad came in effectively to say “Goodbye…” he didn’t know it would be the last time he saw him and he asked him to play some music from Franz Lehár, from The Merry Widow. And just that, even in the…just that little vignette is like a very poignant, human moment, in the life of someone who a couple weeks later was hanging from that lamppost.

I think you always have to if you’re writing – even if you’re writing about – whoever it is, there’s gotta be some little way into the story that makes them human.

And you know as bad as things are – when I think back to that time for example, and I think when Neville Chamberlain was forced out of the prime ministership in the spring of 1940, if the Tory party had picked Lord Halifax instead of Winston Churchill, the entire history of the 20th century would have been different. And so the lesson you draw…we’re in New York City…Winston Churchill was almost hit by a car crossing 5th Avenue in 1932 or whatever it was – if that taxicab had actually left the tread marks over Winston Churchill — again the entire history of the second half of the 20th century would have been different. And so the lesson you draw from that is that yes the debt numbers are bad, yes the demographic numbers are bad, yes all the big picture stuff, the trends, the macroeconomic stuff is all bad, but even so, one man, the right man at the right moment can make all the difference…extraordinary people can make all the difference.

One of the obituaries that I thought interesting was Strom Thurmond’s. Give some readers insight into the story in which you were stuck in an elevator between Barbara Boxer and Strom Thurmond.

Steyn: I was covering the impeachment trial of President Clinton, which was the first time I’d been exposed close up to the United States Senate, which is not a lovely site. And one of the few interesting things as that trial wore on was actually Strom Thurmond because he – Clinton had the sort of two sexpot lady lawyers – and Strom Thurmond used to bring candy for them each day, and then press them with his 112-year old lizard-like hands into their fingers. And you could see the women were like, fatally taken aback by this, but at a certain level they understood that this was what it was gonna take to prevent their guy from being removed from office. And in the end, Strom did not vote to remove Clinton from office, in part I do believe because he had the hots for those lawyers.

But yea, there was one moment at the end of the day where we were sort of pressed in a crush – me, Barbara Boxer, Strom Thurmond, and a ton of other people. And I suddenly noticed what I thought was this like incredible-sized lizard on the sleeve of my coat. And I was listening to – I think Barbara Boxer was talking – so you look down in horror as this thing is moving down your arm, and then I realize that as it then reached down and began to stroke my hand that it was the incredibly wizened fingers of Strom Thurmond who I think had been meaning to reach over and stroke Barbara Boxer’s hand, but had fallen a little short, and ended up stroking mine.

What can you do? It’s not often…people are always saying your editors always want you to get up close and personal with these political figures, and I felt, if nothing else, I’d done some serious heavy petting with Strom Thurmond.

But, you know, we live in hyper-partisan times, and that’s fair enough. My view basically of the American situation — Mark Levin and I were actually talking about this one time, and Mark put it very well: it’s a 50/50 nation and one side has to win, and the other side has to lose. And I tend to agree with that. All that said though, when you’re being groped by Strom Thurmond, it’s important to be able to recognize the comedy in your own side too. I like to think I could always do that.

Read more at TheBlaze…

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