Ever vigilant, Florida's Tea Party stalwarts have (metaphor alert) a new target in their crosshairs: Common Core. Depending on whom you believe, Common Core is either 1) "a set of standards that stops the regurgitation of facts and starts the critical analysis and problem solving in our classrooms" or 2) a "United Nations Takeover of K12 Education in America!" that's "communist in origin and Progressive in its ideology and implementation."
Option one is the language of state Education Commissioner Tony Bennett. Option two is that of Jim Kelly, of Global Governance Watch, and Diane Kepus, of Floridians Against Common Core Education. Firmly on the side of the latter two, the Palm Beach County Tea Party is rallying the troops for a June 19 meeting of the PBC school board, to speak on behalf of Freedom !
Common Core originated in 2009 with a group called Achieve, a collaboration of state governors and Fortune 500 CEOs. Arguing that America's high school graduates lacked "adequate preparation for the intellectual demands of adult life," Achieve set out to "identify the 'must-have' knowledge and skills most demanded by higher education and employers."
Within a year the group had devised a set of standards for math and English. Achieve states that "the federal government was NOT involved in the development of the standards. Local teachers, principals, and superintendents lead the implementation of the Common Core."
Forty-five states, including Florida, have adopted the standards. (Adoption earned points towards a share in the federal Department of Education's $3.4 billion "Race to the Top." The Tea Party calls that "bribery.")
To assess progress towards the standards, a subgroup of 22 states, including Florida, with the help of $186 million from the federal Department of Education, joined to devise a battery of tests. Those tests are to be implemented in the 2014-15 school year.
Support for Common Core spans the mainstream spectrum. Those wonky liberals at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have put $150 million into it. Economic royalist Jeb! is fervent about it, praising the standards' key architect.
Right-wing critics of the program like to describe it as a federally-imposed, top-down, one-size-fits-all trampling on state's rights. Supporters respond that "standards do not dictate curriculum (e.g., textbooks and reading lists) or prescribe a method of instruction."
Anything alleged to come from Washington, D.C., pushes Tea Party buttons, however, and this spring professional paranoid Glenn Beck was on the case, stirring up the tinfoil hat brigades. Here in Florida, they're going to "protect our children" from "progressive liberal socialist Marxist ideologies."
But opposition to the new standards includes strange bedfellows. Others of a less paranoid stripe see problems with Common Core, not because of some imaginary socialist/globalist conspiracy, but because it represents the normal, broad-daylight activity of corporate capitalism -- the actually existing "free enterprise" system the Tea Party faithful so fervently worship.
Fire Ant's personal gold standard for the analysis of education policy is NYU prof Diane Ravitch, whose blog provides links to well-thought criticism of Common Core: about the Gates Foundation's role, about student privacy issues, about the program's speed of implementation, and about hyper-reliance on testing.
We're not aware of any local liberal critics' plans to attend the Palm Beach County School Board's June 19 meeting, but with the Tea Party facing off against the bureaucrats, it's going to be...an education.
Fire Ant -- an invasive species, tinged bright red, with an annoying, sometimes-fatal sting -- covers Palm Beach County. Got feedback or a tip? Contact Fire.Ant@BrowardPalmBeach.com.
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