Not long ago, nearly every state and the District of Columbia had adopted Common Core, the tough new math and reading standards for elementary-through-high-school students that have been favored by the Obama administration. But in recent months, as more states are considering whether to opt in or out of the initiative, folks have gone Common Core crazy.
Former supporters are wavering, a chorus of critics is getting louder, and the louder the criticism, the more outlandish some of the fears over the new guidelines have become. Republicans and members of the tea party have gone as far as to liken the implementation of the new standards to totalitarian government tactics, with a secret agenda to twist the sexuality of America’s children.
Republican Florida State Rep. Charles Van Zant, said the government’s goal with Common Core is to “attract every one of your children to become as homosexual as they possibly can.”
“I really hate to bring you that news,” he said, “but you need to know.”
The new standards promote “acceptance of homosexuality, alternate lifestyles, radical feminism, abortion, illegal immigration and the redistribution of wealth,” said Terry Batton, an Alabama tea party leader.
“We don’t want our children to be taught to be anti-Christian, anti-Catholic and anti-American,” Batton said. “We don’t want our children to lose their innocence, beginning in preschool or kindergarten, told that homosexuality is okay and should be experienced at an early age and that same-sex marriages are okay.”
While a connection between Common Core and homosexuality is a common theme among some conservative detractors of one of the Obama administration’s favored policies, critics have also likened it to totalitarianism and slavery.
Lightening rod conservative radio host Glenn Beck said, “They are breeding an entire new generation of slaves” via Common Core. But Louisiana’s Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal took the craze over Common Core a step further, comparing it to centralized planning in Russia.
“The feds are taking over and rushing this,” Jindal said in a recent statement. “Let’s face it: Centralized planning didn’t work in Russia, it’s not working with our health care system and it won’t work in education,” he said. “Education is best left to local control.”
Even popular comedians Louis C.K. and Stephen Colbert have gotten in on the action, lampooning the Core on Twitter and prime time TV. There’s even a Facebook page dedicated to “Common Core Crazy Homework.”
But the growing divide over the standards is anything but a laughing matter. Common Core, which is a broad set of learning objectives rather than a mandate, was developed by governors and education officials from across the country. Now, that’s exactly where much of the push-back is coming from. As states have attempted to implement the standards, with varying degrees of success and cooperation, the more divisive and charged the issue has become.
Three state legislatures— Oklahoma, Missouri and South Carolina— have recently passed legislation to withdraw from the standards. Now it’s up to the governors of those states to pass or veto the bills. The repeal of the standards could signal an exodus of other states. Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, a Republican, had in the past been a supporter of higher education standards, but like many other officials, seems to be wavering as the issue grows increasingly radioactive.
Indiana, among the first of 45 states to adopt the Common Core standards, recently became the first state to formally ditch them. Indiana adopted the standards in 2010 but in a 10-1 vote in April, the state’s Board of Education voted to ditch them.
Support and opposition remains a mixed bag as state Democrats and Republicans have loved and loathed the new standards in equal measure. Even in blood-red Louisiana, Gov. Bobby Jindal’s view of the Common Core has created a rift in his own administration, as his appointed education leader has taken a more pragmatic view of implementing the new standards.
There’s also been dissent among typically loyal Democratic voting blocks, including some of the most powerful teachers’ unions in the country. Dennis Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association, the nation’s largest labor union, has said the standards will only improve the nation’s flailing education system with major “course correction.”
Just last month, the Chicago Teachers union approved a resolution opposing Common Core. The Tennessee teachers’ union recently strong-armed legislators into holding off on its implementation. Oregon’s teachers’ union joined them, saying the new Core-aligned exams were too tough and unproven. The union has asked state officials to cancel next spring’s tests. And in Nevada, which adopted the standards three years ago, legislators, school officials and parents are in the midst of a heated debate over Common Core’s efficacy in the state.
American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, who has supported tougher education standards, recently called the rebuke of Common Core by states and teachers’ unions a cautionary tale: “[P]olicymakers, listen to the voices of those closest to the classroom. Enable educators, with the proper resources and supports, to make the transition to focusing on the critical-thinking skills that underlie these standards,” Weingarten told msnbc.