Wednesday, March 5, 2014

US Schools Go Full-Bore Soviet

Give me the children until they are seven, and anyone may have them afterwards. – attrib. St. Francis Xavier.

Wendy McElroy
Activist Post

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

This article may be re-posted in full with attribution.


If you enjoy our work, please donate to keep our website going.


Hide Behind said...

Ms. Wendy MC Elroy has very heavy credentials and is an extremely intelligent and talented writer upon Feminen Issues from social and how politics interact upon womens Rights, and so Being intellectually inferior I tread lightly when I disagree with her Cato Libertarian Ideals.
Ms. Mc ELroy has a weekly column in Fox News and has published books and given many talks to what seems an at odds mishmash of political thoughts a decidedly politicly libertarian perspective for women while talking and moving within a very Macho or mysogynist group of Southern males.
Will not bear slight I hope that some of her aquaintences have Like Jeb Bush and Rupert Murdoch have hundreds of billions into privatizing schools and either of those two and around 50 more men of low sale honor that look at privatizing just the chosen ones gor avshare of 500 billion$ school funding.
Why she does not name Jeb Bush Koch Brothers and Rupert Murdoch and three billionaires of Romney backing fame as the beneficiary in the new education systemm is unknowable but I ask.
Jed and some 25 other investorsare into publishing the materials as is Koch Bros while Murdoch is into online digital education.
It is the material that they push, and the education for the student is "UTILITARIAN" .he indoctrination isblike a freKing hammer between the eyes to N educated person but what ability does a child have without an adults comparisons ?
They want readbthevmaterial learn it and immediately on to next subject matter.
Yes it treats creTion science but it is the wY they present those who believe otherwise and there is no discussion from stated lesson materials.
There realy is no choice involved between her friends owning education and the state owning it the end results will be the same. Abvery utilitarian education for over 70% of all school children Nd the so called educatex no more than trained lab rats who because of seprration from rest of population will be better rewarded.
sory but there is going to be very littpe educating within public education from now on and while Ms MCElroy talks of equality what the fuck isvso great about 70% of our nations children all equally dumb as rocks?

Unknown said...

Common core math standards are still inadequate, but aren't they better than what we have now? Or correct me if I am wrong about this. Currently, most students don't learn Algebra until 9th grade or even later, and Algebra is the highest math course required for HS graduation in any state I know of. If Common Core gives it to all non-disabled students by 9th grade, that will be an improvement.

We don't go faster in math, in my opinion, because we don't want anyone to have Calculus before 12th grade. This is because we have no teachers who can teach beyond the first course in Calculus. No teachers who can handle multivariable calculus or linear algebra. Therefore, we slow the best students down to that pace. The best students really should have Calculus in about 10th grade.

Anonymous said...

Obama-socialism is the levelling of playing fields by lowering ours to theirs instead of raising theirs to ours.

Anonymous said...

Not shure that socialism (which in US is called charity) has anything to do with this, cause parents would be involved__ Looks more like forcing parents to send their children to private schools awaiting privatization of all of them __ like will happen with health care- pharmaceuticals and already a fact with jails-prisons, neo-liberal economy oblige.

Anonymous said...

I am a second grade teacher. I have been using Scholastic News for many years. The "Star Citizen" edition isn't a government attempt to brainwash children. There is always a school/classroom citizenship themed edition at the start of the school year. Expecting students to be quiet in the hall and cafeteria, or walking in the hall/seated in the cafeteria is not brainwashing. It is necessary for management and safety. It has been that way long before common core or Obama. You're really reaching on that one. The other one, though, I agree with you to a point...very strange sentence choices.

Eileen K. said...

Wendy McElroy is totally right in stating that it's strictly illegal for the Federal gov't to impose a national curriculum on all children. It's also strictly illegal for any NGO to do the same. Each state and/or local community is the decider of school curricula for children, no matter what Obongo the Terrible may say otherwise; his word is NOT law, period.

Anonymous said...

The world needs to send in a peace keeping force to free these so called US Citizens! The children need to be protected and have the chance of a bright future.

Anonymous said...

Well I work in a school system and prior to children sitting quietly at lunch it was chaotic, children running around the cafeteria and food all over the floor! Now that children are being taught some valuable manners like sitting down, eating lunch and talking quietly amongst peers the atmosphere is much nicer for all! Also the cafeteria no longer looks like an episode of hoarders where food was all over the floor! Children walking in a line to get to class? Gee whats wrong with that? Children keeping hands to themselves? It's about time! I've seen children in line where they are chocking the life out of other students simply because there were no rules! When I went to school in the 60's I had to BEHAVE! Guess what? I learned to read and write AND I graduated from college! I have a bright future! I am employed and have had the same job for the past 30 plus years! Discipline goes a long way in creating adults who are responsible! An anything goes attitude really doesn't work. The fact that children are now being trained to be responsible for their behavior and actions is something we have needed for a long time! As far as the Core Curriculum goes this is something that I grew up with and it didn't hurt me at all. Instead it made me think about my own future and focus on what I wanted to be without taking away my childhood. I still did many things that children did back them like play outside, Girls Scouts, Church Choir, School Chorus and other activities. The problem is that discipline was taken out of the school system and the students were allowed to run a muck! Now we might finally get more children to settle down and actually learn something!

Anonymous said...

I had trouble understanding the difference of the compression exercise and I'm a native English speaker from the UK with Dyslexia. It wasn't until I read the article again that I realised both the question and answers are wrong. In any case isn't the exercise pointless under the National Defence Authorization Act 2011 and 2014?

Brittany said...

I teach AP government and macroeconomics to public high school seniors. Recently, a group of my students received recognition for their CSPAN documentary concerning the need to promote free markets:

I am a bit disgusted at the fellow education professionals who have commented that these developments are a good thing. Learning is not always a clean and neat exercise. Learning requires mistakes and it can be a loud, messy, and creative endeavor to learn something worthwhile. I am often mortified at the schools desire to control every aspect of human behavior which fails to allow kids to self-reflect.

Nothing bothers me more than an 18 year old students asking me for written permission (AKA a hall pass) to use the bathroom. No wonder citizens fail to question our government; they must ask permission to exist during their formative years. While I understand the need for some degree of order ( and as I type this on the chaotic Friday before spring break) any teacher who supports this kind of curriculum is a brainwashed traitor who cannot be trusted to educate our nations children.

I dream of the day parents remove their children from this system and allow their children to learn what they want in their own way, at their own pace. Technology and the free market will eventually destroy this broken system and I cannot wait to see a less fascist, more humane education paradigm emerge.

Anonymous said...

How many of the disobedient children of which you speak, Anonymous, are behaving as they do because they are drugged, or hungry, or tired, or stressed out, or reacting to chemicals in their food, GMOs, or the harmful WIFI that so many US schools seem happy to have, or because they are tired, or they are BORED and tired of being demeaned and spoken down to and taught lies and drivel??????
One suggestion to all:
and kudos to you, Britney. If we had more teachers like you, instead of the over paid and hateful drones that keep trying to go along with a completely broken and irrelevant paradigm, school would be a joy.

Anonymous said...

Not sure what state Unknown is talking about, but in every school I am aware of, Algebra is the LOWEST math course required for graduation, not the highest. Common Core standards are beyond inadequate. It won't matter what grade Algebra is introduced. If you have elementary children being taught that it doesn't matter that they got the incorrect answer to a problem, since they justified how they arrived at that answer, it is correct. If they get the correct answer, but cannot justify it, it is wrong. How then are they to even learn Algebra if they aren't learning basic math? I'm currently going to school to become a teacher, and the methods we are being taught are reprehensible, so much so that I am discontinuing the program to do something else. I cannot in good conscience go into a classroom and "teach" in this ridiculous manner.

Stefano Hatari said...

Silliness. None of the material posted here has anything to do with CCSS. If Ms McElroy can't distinguish between standards and curriculum, then she has no authority to be speaking on education.

Anonymous said...

Telling students to walk in the hallway is Communism? Geesh

Post a Comment