Give me the children until they are seven, and anyone may have them afterwards. – attrib. St. Francis Xavier.
Obama is cementing his redefinition of America by federalizing the minds of its future: children. The federal Common Core program seeks to “align” the curriculum and standards of public school systems that have been under state jurisdiction. The program is said to be voluntary but then, so are taxes.
The incentives to adopt Common Core are huge; for example, adoption is required for any state that wants a bite out of an allocated $4.35-billion. Moreover, adoption offers a state exemption from the widely despised No Child Left Behind Act by which states are required to assess the basic skills of students. No wonder 45 states signed on in 2011, far before the program was finalized.
The federal rollout has been so disastrous that Common Core is being dubbed ObamaCore because it does to education what ObamaCare is doing to health care. Both teachers and parents are protesting, and for much the same reason. Teachers are virtually relegated to reading from a national script in the classroom, with little personal input being allowed. Parents and local authorities are effectively shut out of influencing their children’s education. And the quality of education has hit a new low.
Advocates of Common Core argue that the program is a set of standardized tests, not a curriculum. The argument is disingenuous. The Common Core standards determine the content of the tests which determine the content of the curriculum, which is provided by publishers who can claim their material is “Common Core-aligned.” That is, the material conforms to the national standards and will facilitate the goal of “testing well.” And every student must pass the tests to receive a high school diploma and a chance to enter college.
Glyn Wright of the D.C. Watchdog group The Eagle Forum explained, “The standards were created by private organizations in Washington, D.C., without input from teachers or parents and absent any kind of study or pilot test to prove its effectiveness.” She added, “the only mathematician…on the validation committee refused to sign off on the standards because they are inadequate.” The mathematician was Professor R. James Milgram of Stanford University. He refused to sign off because the standard would make many students fall two years behind their counterparts in high-scoring nations. As an example, Milgram pointed out that many students would be taught Algebra in 9th grade rather than in 8th. “Yet,”as Wright observed, “the standards have been copyrighted and cannot be changed.” The one-size-fits-all standards and curriculum will also apply to private schools and children who are home schooled.
(Note: it is explicitly illegal for the federal government to impose a national curriculum on all children. To sidestep this difficulty, the standards were copyrighted by non-government organizations. Thus, Common Core can ‘encourage’ a uniform national standards while maintaining a guise of legally clean hands.)
What does “Common Core-aligned” material look like? Some of it appears to be incomprehensible. On October 31, 2013, the Washington Post ran a commentary by Valerie Strauss entitled “A ridiculous Common Core test for first graders.” (First graders are usually five or six years old.) The article offered examples of standard math questions published by New Jersey-based Pearson Education. Strauss explained, “[Q]uestion No. 1… shows students five pennies, under which it says ‘part I know’, and then a full coffee cup labeled with a ‘6’ and, under it, the word, ‘Whole’.Students are asked to find ‘the missing part’ from a list of four numbers. My assistant principal for mathematics was not sure what the question was asking. How could pennies be a part of a cup?”
Unfortunately, other material is comprehensible and it has a highly pro-statist slant. The “Hold The Flag High” student worksheet, also published by Pearson, is an example. One page presents a series of sentences that are to be edited to make them more concise.
The sentence-compression exercise is not merely pro-statist bias, it also factually false. For example, it is not the job of a president to ensure the fairness of the country’s laws; that is the Constitutionally established and clearly-stated role of the judiciary, not the executive branch. In addition, the exercise contradicts not merely the Constitution but also the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights by placing the well-being of the nation above that of the individual.
PJ Media posted 10 homework questions handed out to Rhode Island first graders. Question #1 instructs children to draw two pictures of “Star Citizens” after circling the words that best describe them.
A Star Citizen at lunch is quiet, sitting and neat. In the second picture, the Star Citizen in the hallway walks rather than runs, is quiet and keeps his hands to himself.
After reviewing this assignment, one mother stated, “I went to elementary school in Poland during communism. This is exactly what I was forced to learn.”
The foregoing is not meant to defend the jurisdiction of states over education. It is meant as recognition that the indoctrination of American children is accelerating at a Soviet-style pace. When confronted with a choice between federal- or state-controlled education, the best response is “a curse on both your houses.”
The real solution is to tear down the houses. Government wants to sell itself as being necessary to educate children. Nonsense. Literacy is the only thing necessary, and government obstructs that goal. Before the state grabbed a near-monopoly on schooling, U.S. literacy rates were surprisingly high.
Lawrence A. Cremin’s American Education: The Colonial Experience is frequently cited on this point. He found literacy among adult white males to be 70 to 100 percent, depending on the specific period and the region; the reading level was generally sufficient to comprehend a Bible. At the same time, England’s rate was 48 to 74 percent. (On a global basis, females were not as routinely schooled.)
The colonial literacy resulted from private education rather than the years of mandated schooling for which Americans now pay an estimated $600 billion in taxes each year. In 2013, the U.S. Department of Education and the National Institute of Literacy issued a study that found 14 percent of Americans could not read, Including 19 percent of high school graduates; 21 percent read below a 5th grade level.
Education in America is dismally poor, and growing rapidly worse. Dozens of nations took part in the 2012 Program for International Student Assessment. 34 of them were members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, which makes them plausible candidates for comparison with the United States. Of these nations, America ranked 26th in math, behind Slovakia and Portugal. American high school students ranked 21st in science.
As well as being quiet, sitting and neat, Star Citizens are apparently uneducated and sans prospects.
[TDV Editor’s Note: For solutions to the centralization of education in the US, click here]
Wendy McElroy is a regular contributor to the Dollar Vigilante, and a renowned individualist anarchist and individualist feminist. She was a co-founder along with Carl Watner and George H. Smith of The Voluntaryist in 1982, and is the author/editor of twelve books, the latest of which is “The Art of Being Free”. Follow her work at www.wendymcelroy.com.