Obamacore, Missing the Core Problem in American Education
This is a newer version of an article previously published by Family Security Matters
Author: Gamaliel Isaac
This article is about the travesty called the Common Core Standards. Its design began before Obama was elected but I and others refer to it as Obamacore because Obama played a major role in imposing it on the country, and like Obamacare it was passed without being read, and it involves centralized data collection of private information. States across the U.S. signed on to Obamacore because they were bribed with stimulus funds. Despite or perhaps because of widespread growing opposition to Common Core, President Obama’s education budget proposal proposes making federal funding conditional on the use of Common Core and to performance on Common Core tests. As parents became aware of the changes that were made to their children’s education many joined organizations to oppose it. Many insightful and alarming critiques have been written regarding the danger of Common Core. There are fears that Common Core is paving the way for indoctrination of American students by centralizing control of education, collecting massive amount of data on students, and telling teachers what they must and must not teach. There are reports that scores have dropped when the Common Core was adopted, that Common Core makes simple topics difficult, that it causes children to not want to attend school and that a curriculum designed to meet the Common Core standards would only prepare students for entry level courses in nonselective community colleges.
James Milgram, the only mathematician in the Common Core validation committee , refused to sign off on the math standards. He said that Common Core math standards would put students two years behind those of high-achieving countries. He told the Texas state legislature that Common Core standards are, “in large measure a political document that . . . is written at a very low level and does not adequately reflect our current understanding of why the math programs in the high-achieving countries give dramatically better results.”
“I had considerable influence on the mathematics standards in the document. However, as is often the case, there was input from many other sources -- including State Departments of Education -- that had to be incorporated into the standards… A number of these sources were mainly focused on things like making the standards as non-challenging as possible. Others were focused on making sure their favorite topics were present, and handled in the way they liked.”
Dr. Milgram added that it led to a number of “extremely serious failings” in the Common Core that made it premature for any state hoping to improve math scores to implement them and that the Core Math standards were designed to reflect very low expectations.
The Common Core standards are low compared to those of high achieving countries but a study by the Thomas Fordham Institute found that the Common Core English standards are higher than those of 37 states and the math standards are higher than those of 39 states. The reason for this is that states dumbed down their minimum standards so they could show they were meeting their standards and get No Child Left Behind money. Previously it was easy for a school to exceed the minimum state standards. Common Core imposes a low level curriculum on schools which dictate what to teach and what not to teach.
Defenders of Common Core argue that it’s just a set of standards and not a curriculum. The reality though is that Common Core standards define the curriculum and control what is being taught and how it is being taught. They impose huge costs on schools in regard to computer equipment and Common Core aligned software for each student that gets paid for by tax increases. There are Common Core approved texts that go along with the standards. Common Core standards mean that it is not sufficient that a student know how to solve a problem, they have to know how to solve it the Common Core way. In fact it’s less important that the student solve the problem than that they know the convoluted Common Core approach to solving it. The Common Core standards have eliminated important information that has been taught to children in the past and states are not allowed to add more than 15% to the standards.
Why are the standards of Common Core low when the ostensible purpose of Common Core is to raise the performance of American students? One can find the answer in a document by the American Federation of Teachers which states that one of the goals of Common Core is to “close the intolerable achievement gap between minority and non-minority students.” It’s much easier to close the gap by lowering standards than to raise the performance of poorly performing students and no teacher or school administrator wants to be in the position where their jobs depend on getting students to perform.
There are ideological reasons to lower standards as well. Common Core instructions tell teachers to “avoid giving any background context” to texts on the grounds that Common Core’s close reading strategy “forces students to rely exclusively on the text instead of privileging background knowledge, and levels the playing field for all.”
Translated this means that we can’t have some teachers giving information to students that other teachers might not give them because that would privilege the students who received the extra information and wouldn’t be fair to the students who didn’t. It’s not fair that some students have better teachers than others so we have to prevent that.
Removing context (privileging information) can be used to slant material to fit the bias of the curricula creators.
There may be another shocking reason those in control of our educational system may be motivated to prevent children from getting a good education. The following is a quote from a book called Educating for Sustainable Development.
“Generally, more highly educated people, who have higher incomes, consume more resources than poorly educated people, who tend to have lower incomes. In this case more education increase the threat to sustainability.”
Is Curriculum the Cause of America’s Poor Worldwide Education Rank?
You can have the best standards in the world but if there is no discipline you can’t teach your students to meet any standards. A school staffer at Overbrook High School in Philadelphia told CBS that:
"It's mayhem. Students are in the halls, they're smoking in the bathroom; cigarettes, marijuana," said a worker at the school, who asked not to be identified. "We can't contain them and it's really hazardous for us working and these kids are not being educated at all."
"It's a zoo in here. Parents really need to come up here and see what's going on in this school because it's ridiculous,"
Asian students who want to study are assaulted by blacks. In 2010, a federal judge found that black students at South Philadelphia High School had assaulted and harassed Asian students daily -- for years but the principal said she did not call police because she did not want to "criminalize" the black students. White teachers are often assaulted by black students and when they complain they are blamed.
Laws prevent public schools from taking effective action to stop the violence. John Hood in an article for the Foundation of Economic Education wrote:
“A host of administrative decisions, court rulings, and legislative actions have created such a maze of regulations that school principals and teachers are often unable to exercise meaningful control over their schools. Furthermore, the prevailing “ethos” in the education establishment—made up of researchers, administrators, and bureaucrats—is suspicious of many forms of punishment, and exhibits a fixation with “sensitivity training” and building self-esteem among students.”
One would think that if the Obama administration was serious about improving education they would remove the regulations that interfere with classroom discipline. Instead in response to higher number of blacks being suspended than whites, President Obama issued an “executive order” which effectively placed “quotas” on school discipline based on race. If you’re a principal of a school where Black students attack Chinese students and you suspend more Blacks than Chinese you could face civil rights violation charges.
Gloria Foth, worked near the Irving school in Manhattan. A friend of hers who worked at the school warned her “Don't walk near the school, because they throw things out the window.” Unfortunately no one warned 29 year old pregnant Rosaura Beristani who was hit on the head by a chair thrown out of a sixth floor window of the school. A teacher at Washington Irving, who did not want to be named for fear of retribution at work, said there were not enough security guards to control students who constantly roam the halls during classes.
''Two months ago teachers were saying, 'It's only a matter of time before someone gets killed,' '' the teacher said. ''The public would be actually astounded if they knew what went on at our school.''
Chief Gerald Nelson, head of the Police Department's school safety division said the school was not considered particularly troublesome. ''Washington Irving does not blow off the radar screen,'' he said, adding, ''Yes, there are some issues.''
What does this statement of Chief Nelson tell us about discipline in New York City Schools?
The performance of the pupils in the Irving school was low even by New York City standards; in fact it was so low that the Bloomberg administration decided to give the school an ultimatum. They were told to make curriculum changes and that if the scores of the school didn’t go up they’d be closed. The teachers made the curriculum changes, the students continued to fail and the school was closed. The school might have had a chance if instead of changing the curriculum more security guards had been stationed in the hallways and in the classrooms.
The building that housed the Irving School now houses one of the Success Academy Charter schools. That school outperforms most New York City schools. One of the reasons it does is discipline. According to Insideschools.org, Success Academy schools are famous for a no-nonsense attitude toward bad behavior. Defiant kids who don't obey the conspicuously posted school rules quickly earn punishments ranging from brief timeouts to school suspensions.
Charter schools are a way to escape poorly performing schools. On Tuesday, June 10, 2014 a six year old girl bought heroine to Barry elementary school in Philadelphia. "This school is crazy," said Ayana Hales, a parent of students at Barry Elementary. "My kids, I want them out of here." How does Common Core address the problems that prevent children from being educated in that school? Ayana Hales has the right idea, and charters schools may be the answer for her children.
Discipline correlates with performance. African American and Hispanic students have more discipline problems than white students and score a lot lower. American students of Asian ancestry outperform students in Korea, Singapore, Japan and Hong Kong. U.S. whites test scores exceed those in every European nation except Finland. It is the low scores of African Americans and Hispanics that bring the American average down to the point where there are calls for education reform.
The Common Core curriculum is likely to reduce discipline. The Common Core Curriculum requires that teachers teach boring informational texts such as long passages in EPA handbooks about insulation levels. Jeremiah Chaffee, a high school English teacher in upstate New York wrote that he was struck by how out of sync the Common Core is with what he considers to be good teaching and that “Such pedagogy makes school wildly boring.” One alarmed high-school English teacher, reporting on a Common Core training session that used the Gettysburg Address as an example, noted that teachers were instructed to read the speech aloud to the class not as Lincoln would have spoken it, with power and emotion, but rather without inflection. A past president of the National Council of Teachers of English declared herself “aghast at the vision of the dreariness and harshness of the classrooms [the standards-writers] attempt to create.”
Ironically, although Common Core does not prepare children for college, its tests are difficult to pass. Common Core makes simple material difficult as demonstrated by these Common Core math questions. Here is a video about subtraction with Common Core. Some Common Core math questions are too difficult for adults with strong mathematical abilities to solve. Pressuring children to solve impossible math questions leads to high amounts of stress and is likely to lead to mental illness. Eight prominent principals in New York wrote a letter to parents stating that: “We know that many children cried during or after testing, and others vomited or lost control of their bowels or bladders,” the letter reads. “Others simply gave up. One teacher reported that a student kept banging his head on the desk, and wrote, ‘This is too hard,’ and ‘I can’t do this,’ throughout his test booklet.” The result of this difficulty is children losing their love of learning. Michelle Malkin wrote “All it takes is one photo to sum up the heartbreaking impact of Common Core.”
Centralized computer testing is a way to monitor and control student beliefs. If a student believes something not approved of by the government they will get the answer wrong. This opens the door to children having to be indoctrinated until they come up with the “right” answer. In addition questions might be raised regarding the responsibility of the parents for their child getting the “wrong” answer.
Susan Kimball is a Kindergarten teacher who despite intimidation spoke up against Common Core. Click here for a video of her testimony.
The irony of all of this is math related stress is that students aren’t learning to be better at math. In the book Getting to Know Connected Mathematics students learn that mathematics is man-made, that it is arbitrary, and good solutions are arrived at by consensus among those who are considered expert. In the teachers guide in the back it states that because the curriculum does not emphasize arithmetic computations done by hand, some CMP students may not do as well on tests assessing computational skills.
Why would a book spout such nonsense? The goal of equality comes to mind. In the brave new world of this new math people without computational skills can do as well or better than people with those skills.
In a phone interview with The New American, New York State Assemblyman Al Graf, a member of the Assembly Education Committee, said “Explain to me why a first grader has to point out ancient Mesopotamia on a globe or explain their contributions to modern civilization — they’re six.” Graf said: “I have parents pouring their hearts out telling me how their kids are coming home and don’t want to go to school anymore. I have kids that loved math and now hate math.” Some teachers who testified, knowing that they could be putting their careers in jeopardy, told lawmakers that they just “couldn’t sit there and let them do this to these children.” “This is state-sponsored child abuse,” Graf said. Ironically despite all this difficulty Common Core doesn’t even prepare children for college!
If the creators of Common Core want children to learn they should be designing a curriculum that instills a love of learning instead of making learning a frightening chore. If they want disciplined classrooms they should make the material exciting. If the U.S. government wants Americans to be more competitive on the world stage, instead of creating boring curricula, its primary focus should be repealing laws that prevent administrators from bringing discipline to the classroom.
Supposing a science teacher decided that the way to make curricula more exciting is to teach how people came to discover facts instead of just teaching facts. Lets say he had the idea that instead of just teaching children that the world is round one could teach them the clues that led scientists to conclude that the world is round so that science becomes a fascinating detective story instead of rote memorization. Similarly a history teacher might might have ideas about how to make history come alive in class so that students would feel they are living in the time they are learning about and understand why decisions were made and what the consequences of those decisions were. Perhaps such a curriculum would create a love of learning and teach children to think more effectively than the curriculum currently taught at his school. With Government control they can’t try out his ideas. Common Core does not allow privileging background information. From the perspective of Common Core’s creators it’s not fair that some students should be privileged with better teachers than others.
Could the Goals of Leveling the Playing Field be Hurting American Competitiveness?
Dr. Milgram’s statement regarding how State Department of Educations lowered the standards of Common Core may be surprising, after all one would think that the goal of Department of Educations is to see to it that students are well educated. The degree that other goals can take priority is illustrated by the story of the Shuang Wen School and the New York Department of Education.
Shuang Wen is located in district 1, a district with many progressive schools with lower standards. I have included a table of ratings by insideschools.org of the performance of school in the same district as Shuang Wen in 2011 to show just how much Shuang Wen outperformed its peer schools.
Shuang Wen was a shining light in a mediocre school district. One would think that the city would have done everything it could to support that school. Instead the principal of that school was investigated more than a dozen times.
I think that the high proportion of Chinese students in the Shuang Wen School and their vastly superior performance compared to schools with other minority populations sent a message the DOE did not want heard. It made the DOE look bad for the poor performance of other schools. It also sent a message that Chinese outperform other minorities and that didn’t fit the ideologies of DOE bureaucrats. Since the DOE could not raise the performance of the other schools they leveled the playing field by bringing down the Shuang Wen School. Rather than admit that Chinese students as a whole were more hard working and respectful of their teachers and more devoted to education than large percentages of other minority groups, the DOE blamed Shuang Wen’s principal for the inferior performance of the other schools of District 1. They looked for reasons to get rid of her and found ridiculous excuses such as her reporting students attending school when they left early in the day to celebrate the Chinese New Year.
On July 1, 2011 DOE marched into the school with the police to remove the principal. Trinh Eng, one of the parents at the school told a reporter what happened next.
"One girl, entering her 8th grade year at Shuang Wen, was completely devastated. Teachers held each other and cried," she said. "[When] Principal Ling Ling Chou came out of the building, a thundering, spontaneous round of applause erupted amidst of shouts of “Thank you.”
The DOE’s hostility to Ling Ling Chou was so great that after parents put up a memorial poster in her honor on a wall in the school the DOE ordered it taken down.
The principal the DOE hated so much had an extraordinary work ethic and devotion to her school. She knew every student by name and came in on Saturdays to tutor children who needed help. Students and teachers knew she cared about them and that motivated them.
Two years later Shuang Wen is still a good school but it is not the great school it was when Ling Ling Chou was the principal.
Perhaps Common Core could have been a great curriculum but because of the influence of DOEs and other groups whose primary goals are not the education of our children it is a very bad curriculum.
Is Common Core Data Collection Dangerous?
1. Political affiliations or beliefs of the student or parent;
2. Mental and psychological problems of the student or the student’s family;
3. Sex behavior or attitudes;
4. Illegal, anti-social, self-incriminating, and demeaning behavior;
5. Critical appraisals of other individuals with whom respondents have close family relationships;
6. Legally recognized privileged or analogous relationships, such as those of lawyers, physicians, and ministers;
7. Religious practices, affiliations, or beliefs of the student or the student’s parent
Shocked parents in Illinois were asked to complete a Common Core survey about their political beliefs and told the Illinois review that they feared retribution against their children if they didn’t complete the survey.
The answers to these questions are stored in a central database. The fact that Common Core collects a lot more information than could possibly be helpful for improving the curriculum is raising concerns that attitude modification plans of the Common Core creators are not limited to motivating students and extend to indoctrinating students to promote their concept of “social justice”. Dr. Shirley McCune in a lecture to the National Governor’s Association Conference on Education explained the agenda.
Common Core Literature and Writing books by Zaner-Bloser teach social activism to 6 year old children in first grade. Children are taught how to manipulate others by getting them angry with emotional words. Reading about this I can’t help but think how the Obama administration manipulates Americans with emotional words to get them angry at Republicans. An example that comes to mind is Obama’s accusation against Republicans that they were holding the government hostage when they blocked funding for Obamacare. A similar example of public manipulation was when the Obama administration blocked access to veteran memorials in order to make the public angry at the Republicans.
The Common Core approved book Barack Obama by Jane Sutcliffe indoctrinates children that whites mistreat black people and are racist and therefore didn't want to vote for 'Barack', and only Barack can make the country better. The Common Core approved book, Barack Obama, Son of Promise, Child of Hope, shows Barack glowing with a heavenly aura.
A Common Core lesson plan blames Islamic terrorism on low self esteem. The Common Core approved text book World History devotes an entire chapter to promoting the virtues of Islam and has anti-Israel propaganda spread throughout the book. State Rep. Ritch Workman told Fox News that “kids are going to take this book as gospel and believe that Christians and Jews were murderous barbarians and thank God the Muslims came along and the world is great.” Pearson the largest company producing Common Core aligned textbooks has extensive business relationships with wealthy Islamist financial institutions. One of the publishers owned by Pearson, Prentice Hall, puts out a world history textbook that has a 36-page chapter on Islam but no chapters on Christianity or Judaism. Neil Bush (George and Jeb’s younger brother) raised $23 million from U.S. investors and at least $3 million from Saudi interests to set up Ignite a company that produces Common Core aligned textbooks.
William Korach, said in regard to Common Core that:
“This is the end of American exceptionalism. You will not see Alexis de Tocqueville anywhere in these materials,” Korach said. “There’s nothing about the Pilgrims coming to America for religious freedom – it’s not discussed. … All they say is the British colonies ‘established racial rigid hierarchy.’
“There’s hardly anything at all about the Declaration of Independence, one sentence on it and no explanation. There’s one phrase on Washington,” he continued. “There’s none of the ideals motivating the Revolution … no discussion that we believe our rights come from God and not the Crown … no mention at all of Thomas Jefferson, Adams, Franklin, Madison or Patrick Henry. … ‘Give me liberty or give me death’ – it’s not there.
“Instead of [portraying] Manifest Destiny as the idea of to taking the blessings of liberty to all peoples,” he continued, the new History Framework claims the move West was “‘built on the ideas of white racial and cultural superiority.’”
“There’s no discussion of free market, world-changing inventions – no Edison, no Vanderbilt, no Carnegie, no Rockefeller. No benefit in this history from electricity, railroads, steel or energy,” Korach discovered, “but there is [mandated] discussion of the Sierra Club, the Department of the Interior and [labor and community organizer] Mother Jones.”
Terrence O. Moore author of “The Story Killers: A Common Sense Case Against the Common Core” wrote that the standards take away the “great stories” of the heritage of Western civilization and Christianity and replace them with post-modern cynicism and political correctness. Moore wrote:
“The Common Core is a design to smear the Western and American tradition with the brush of sexism, racism and all the other charges we have come to expect from the political left against this country’s long history of freedom. The Common Core is a program that directs people to be preoccupied with only the functional aspects of human existence and to have almost no interest in the higher aims of life.”
Terrence Moore also wrote an article titled Hating the Constitution 101: The Common Core on the Nation’s Founding which shows how the texts recommended by Common Core attack the constitution.
David Coleman wrote a 98 page framework for Common Core history lessons. Jane Robbins wrote: The new Framework inculcates a consistently negative view of American culture.
The Common Core Science Curriculum teaches children that humans are dangerous to the planet, that man made global warming is an accepted incontrovertible fact even though it is not and that government action is required to fix global warming even though the taxes the Obama administration would like to impose on carbon dioxide producers would have a negligible effect on the climate but would have a devastating effect on a crumbling economy.
There are sexually inappropriate materials in the exemplars recommended by Common Core State Standards (CCSS). One shocked parent noted that one such book Dreaming in Cuban, if filmed, would be rated R-17.
According to a September Associated Press story, Barbara Hansen, a former Sierra Vista elementary school teacher, described the book to the school officials as “child pornography.” “We’re bludgeoning their souls with this kind of material. It’s debauchery, and it’s just not worthy of our students,” Hansen said.
There is homosexual indoctrination in Common Core materials. Patricia Nell Warren, writing in America’s largest homosexual magazine, The Advocate, put it succinctly: “Whoever captures the kids owns the future.”
A February 2013 USDOE report that discusses measuring student attitudes, beliefs, and behavior lists desired competencies or improvement of attitudes such as “appreciation of diversity” and “recognizing bias in sources.” From the perspective of the left wing originators of Common Core conservative view points are biased and of course this is what children will be taught.
The Obama administration has already used the IRS to harass conservative groups, which raises the concern that parents of children who lack sufficient appreciation of diversity might be harassed as well. One can imagine a scenario where a child, who has some reservations about Islam, is labeled racist and his parents are determined to be the source of his racism. Perhaps separation of the child from the negative influence of his parents might be seen as a solution to the problem. There is a precedent for this in England where the mayor of London has called for children to be taken away from their parents based on their political beliefs.
One of the reasons given for collecting data on student attitudes is to help improve their motivation. Studies have shown that students from fatherless parent families are less likely to be motivated to stay in school than those from two parent families. If the government wants to motivate students they are more likely to accomplish their goal if instead of collecting personal data on students, they reconsider welfare policies that have been shown to lead to the proliferation of single parent families and antisocial behavior.
Is a Single Curriculum better than Multiple Curricula?
The final question I will consider here is whether one single common curriculum is a good idea. Students have different abilities. Some thrive in challenging environments while others perform better in more laid back environments.
Problems of a universal curriculum become problems for everyone. Another problem of a single common curriculum is that it enables indoctrination by the Federal government on a massive scale as discussed previously. The focus of a good curriculum should be to teach critical thinking which is the opposite of indoctrination.
How to Really Improve Education
The first and most important step for improving education in the U.S. is reversing legislation that prevents discipline in the classroom. Attempts to level the playing field by bringing down performance of high achievers must be stopped. Legislators should not impose a common curriculum that makes all schools the same. Legislators should not interfere with school choice so that parents can use school vouchers to send children to the best schools for their children. Legislators should reconsider welfare policies that lead to badly behaved youth. Our government should step back and allow the free market of education to work without imposing restrictions on what teachers can teach and without passing laws that make it impossible for teachers and principals to bring peace to the classroom.