Monday, September 23, 2013

Common Core: Another Elite vs. Grassroots Fault Line

The major fault line in politics today is not Republican vs. Democrat. It is big government elite vs. the constitutional conservative grassroots, and few issues define that fault line better than the fight over “Common Core” education standards.

The elite promoters of Common Core, such as former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, dismiss the critics of Common Core as “comfortable with mediocrity.”

The parents, taxpayers and conservative educators who oppose Common Core ask if Common Core is so great why was there no public input before the standards were adopted and they are opposed to an approach to education that only looks at children “in terms of tracking, alignment, workforce and human capitol,” as activist Alyson Williams put it.

These local education activists, parents and taxpayers are also opposed to making their local schools part of the Obama surveillance state by contracting out to private companies a vast data mining operation on their children in the name of education.

Local Republican Party organizations and Tea Party groups have now begun to enter the fray and what was a lonely quest by a few concerned parents and conservative educators has begun to gather steam as a great grassroots movement to take back local control of schools from the federal government and their corporate cronies who not only wrote the Common Core standards, but stand to make billions of dollars from their adoption.

In Florida opposition to Common Core means opposition to former Governor Jeb Bush and his powerful allies still in government, but local Republican leaders are one-by-one choosing to oppose Common Core.

According to The Miami Herald, the Republican Party of Sarasota County launched an anti-Common Core petition last month, and individual party leaders, including Leon County GOP Chairman Bradley Maxwell, have added their names to a sharply written letter urging state leaders to dump the national benchmarks.

Now the Miami-Dade Republican Party has just passed a resolution opposing Common Core as an unconstitutional “inappropriate overreach” by the federal government.  Even though that means opposing former Miami-Dade GOP Chairman Jeb Bush.

Activist Pam Evans, who helped propose the resolution (download the resolution here courtesy of The Miami Herald), appealed to Republicans to vote their conscience and buck their party leaders if need be.

“Is party more important than the education of the children of the state of Florida?” she asked. “Is loyalty to its lead promoters – Jeb Bush and the rest of the Republican leadership -- so cemented that we will be whipped into one mindset and put party over principal?”

Emphasizing reading and math are fine, but we don’t think that creating an army of drones for big business is what American education should be all about.

We agree with Common Core opponents, such as Alyson Williams of Utah and Pam Evans of Florida in their opposition to the State Common Core Standards.

“Obamacore” is a socialist approach to education, and it is outrageous that the federal government would demand that in order for states to qualify for federal grants they have to comply with standards created without public input by an unelected third party.

We believe that equipping students with the knowledge necessary to become engaged citizens should be the top goal of our education system. Local school authorities setting standards and responding to voter demands for student competence in subjects such as citizenship and American history, as well as reading and math, are the best ways to accomplish that goal.


A thorough education in mediocrity

Success can pertain to personal satisfaction, an intangible, or outside validation (whether via spoken word, wealth, or popularity). Personal satisfaction may spring from accomplishing a task at a pre-set standard, thus prompting outside validation and so qualifying it as a success.

Dissatisfaction with the status quo can drive success, when tasks are accomplished only through the motivation to change a current reality. Even if the only goal is attaining wealth, the drive stems from dissatisfaction with one’s current fiscal situation. Yet turning dissatisfaction with the status quo into real world action requires a clear worldview and engagement with one’s surroundings.

Education serves to prime youth for such engagement—or at least, it should. The public education system often disillusions students, indirectly encouraging them to tune out a world that is presented as uninteresting, static, or irrelevant to them. Why engage cookie cutter curricula when you’re likely to gain more from skipping school to read Pynchon/eat fruit/smoke cigarettes/stare blankly at a computer screen/do virtually anything besides run on the hamster wheel that is public education?

I attended a private elementary school and a public high school, with two years of self-directed homeschooling in between. The private school (though oppressively small and even more oppressively religious) provided me with a stellar humanities background, due mainly to passionate teachers and a fluid curriculum. A wave of intellectual excitement and a love of reading—the most important gift of a good education—carried me through middle school, when I had to stay independently motivated to complete the self-directed curriculum.

Entering public high school in ninth grade, I immediately sensed a stale intellectual atmosphere. The teachers, despite earning significantly more than my elementary school teachers, grumbled about being overworked and underpaid. For remedial classes, the focus was discipline. For advanced classes, presentations ridden with typos and dry reading material were standard. This from the top ranked public high school in Minnesota!

How does a student not get weighed down from the exhaustive drivel? America’s current system of public education deafens the exciting roar of a world that applauds intellectual pursuits and innovation and counteracts a drive to succeed. So what is to be done?

Unfortunately, a complete overhaul of the nation’s public education system would sacrifice a generation of students caught in the lag period. But much can still be done.

In too many school districts, teacher evaluation and classroom accountability are essentially moot, because the evaluation process gives unskilled or apathetic teachers dozens of opportunities to redeem themselves. In the long process before an incompetent teacher finally gets fired, students continue to suffer from poor classroom leadership. Until a total overhaul of the education system becomes a reality, parents and elected officials would do well to work together to tighten this evaluation process to become truly stringent, not simply a drawn-out job protection charade.


The Labour Party MPs who hate free schools... unless they're in their own constituencies

Labour frontbenchers were branded hypocrites last night after denouncing the Government’s free schools while backing them in their own constituencies.

At least 21 Labour MPs are supporting free schools in their local areas – including four members of the Shadow Cabinet and another six Labour frontbenchers.

Teaching unions have opposed free schools, which are set up by teachers and parents, because they are not subject to many local authority controls. And Labour MPs have largely fallen into line behind the union position.

Earlier this month at the TUC, Ed Miliband attacked Education Secretary Michael Gove’s free school ‘experiment’, saying: ‘We have been absolutely clear that we are not going to have new free schools under a Labour government.’

And education spokesman Stephen Twigg, who will address the Labour conference tomorrow, has confirmed he would prevent any more being set up if his party wins the 2015 election.

Referring to free schools in June, he dismissed them with the remark: ‘We don’t like them.’ But Mr Twigg sang a different tune when he hailed the Everton Free School in his own Liverpool constituency as ‘inspiring’.

Similarly, Labour’s health spokesman Andy Burnham attended the ‘founders’ ceremony’ for the Atherton Community free school in his Leigh constituency near Manchester – despite calling such schools ‘freaky’.

The party’s justice spokesman Sadiq Khan has also enthusiastically supported a free school in Tooting, south London.

And Labour’s deputy leader Harriet Harman proudly advertised the ‘new facilities’ of such a school in her London constituency on her website.

Ed Miliband’s opposition to free schools did not stop his personal aide Karen Buck, the MP for Westminster North, praising the ARK Atwood Free School in her seat as ‘welcome’.  She said it will make ‘an important contribution to the continuing improvement of standards’.

As well as this, Sharon Hodgson, one of the party’s education spokesmen, said she was ‘pleased that parents and children are now able to take up places at Grindon Hall’ – a free school in her Washington and Sunderland West constituency.

Labour’s most influential backbencher Margaret Hodge, who runs the Commons Public Accounts Committee – the Westminster spending watchdog – has previously attacked free schools as ‘vanity projects’.  But Mrs Hodge led a campaign for a free school in Barking, east London, demanding £25million of funding to give the children in her constituency ‘the best possible education’.

Keith Vaz, chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, joined Mr Gove at the opening of the Krishna Avanti free school in Leicester.  And frontbencher Stephen Timms has welcomed not one but two new free schools in East Ham – the Oasis Academy Silvertown and the London Academy of Excellence.

A source close to Mr Gove, who championed the free schools programme, said: ‘This sort of shameless hypocrisy is exactly why people hate politicians.

'Miliband and Twigg should drop their official opposition to free schools and tell their union paymasters that raising school standards is now their priority.’


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