Thursday, September 4, 2014

Inside the Mammoth Backlash to Common Core | Mother Jones

Inside the Mammoth Backlash to Common Core | Mother Jones:

Inside the Mammoth Backlash to Common Core

How a bipartisan education reform effort became the biggest conservative bogeyman since Obamacare.

common core
Illustration: Chris Buzelli
ONE NIGHT LAST SEPTEMBER, a 46-year-old Veterans Administration research manager named Robert Small showed up at a public meeting with state education officials in Ellicott City, a well-to-do Maryland suburb, with a pen, a notebook, and an ax to grind. Small had been doing some homework on the main topic of the event, a set of math and language arts standards called Common Core that had recently been introduced in schools across the country, including his kids'. Fresh from work in a crisp, checkered shirt, he stood up in an overflow crowd and channeled his inner Henry V. "I want to know how many parents here are aware that the goal of the Common Core standards isn't to prepare our children for world-class universities—it's to prepare them for community college!" An off-duty police officer approached, and Small began to shout. "You're sitting here like cattle!" Out came the handcuffs. "Hey, is this America?" Small bellowed, as he jostled with the officer. "Parents, you need to question these people! Do the research!"
The police department later dropped the charge of second-degree assault of a police officer; Small, for his part, said he held no grudge against the cops. But avideo of the incident, which racked up more than a million views on YouTube, set off a firestorm of right-wing outrage. On his radio show, Glenn Beck confessed he couldn't sleep after watching the clip. "This is the way it used to happen in Mother Russia, not America. It's Dictatorship 101."
The educational initiative that has inspired such a remarkable outpouring of fury began as a bipartisan endeavor so anodyne, nerdy even, that it proceeded for years with virtual consensus among policymakers of all stripes. Republican governors once enthusiastically signed on to the initiative—but now they (especially those contemplating presidential bids) are scrambling to distance themselves, and around the country state lawmakers are seeking to halt the implementation of the standards. Perhaps second only to Obamacare, Common Core has become a rallying cry on the right, evoking the kind of anguish and horror once reserved for the so-called death panels. And unlike health care reform, Common Core has tapped into a vein of outrage on the left as well.
Over the last two years, the bipartisan coalition that brought the standards into being has been supplanted by a growing movement of activists who variously claim that they are too tough, too easy, too liberal, too invasive, too extensive, or all of the above. What might have been the last realm of public policy in which bipartisan consensus still reigned has been riven by an opposition as eclectic as it is disjointed—what other issue unites the John Birch Society in common cause with a former member of the radical Weathermen?
One Florida lawmaker alleged that Common Core will "attract every one of your children to become as homosexual as they possibly can."

COMMON CORE EMERGED from the ashes of No Child Left Behind, the Bush-era education reform law that tied federal funding for the nation's schools to new, mandatory standardized tests. It was a time of sometimes-chaotic trial and error among educational reformers, who feared American students were falling further behind their counterparts in Finland or (gulp) China. But many teachers and parents were frustrated by an approach that seemed to punish Inside the Mammoth Backlash to Common Core | Mother Jones: