Last week, the Republican National Committee hosted its spring meeting, and approved a series of resolutions, including one reiterating the party’s staunch opposition to marriage equality – how’s that rebranding going, Reince? – and another condemning something called “Common Core.”
If you’re familiar with Glenn Beck’s broadcasts, you’ve no doubt heard about his unhinged crusade against Common Core, including his declaration last week that he will no longer send his kids to college – Common Core will only indoctrinate them and make them part of “the system that is coming.”
Republicans are taking this all very seriously, with lawmakers in 18 states considering legislation to block Common Core, and Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) denouncing it on Beck’s radio show.
What in the world are talking about? Curriculum standards.
On the most basic level, the fight over Common Core is same fight parents and policymakers have been waging over public education for the last century, centering on two basic questions: What is the appropriate level of federal involvement in local schooling? And if we did settle on an umbrella curriculum, what should it actually look like? […]
The core itself is what it sounds like – a broad curriculum standard. States that choose to accept Common Core gain access to a pot of billions of federal dollars…. According to its critics, the most nefarious consequence of Common Core is a data collection program that’s part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (the stimulus). The idea is to better track student demographic and achievement data to figure out what’s working and what’s not, and respond accordingly.
Some of the biggest names in American politics and business support the idea. In 2011, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation teamed up with the Carnegie Foundation and an educational subsidiary of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. to develop a database of student data that states can access for free until 2015. (After that it will charge an annual fee.) At a speech at the White House last November, Shawn T. Bay, CEO of the education data company eScholar, called Common Core “the glue that actually ties everything together” in the Department of Education’s Big Data push.
The pushback from the right only seems to be intensifying.
It’s important to clarify that there are some Common Core critics who aren’t part of a paranoid Beck-esque fringe, and are educators and reformers who’ve raised substantive criticisms. I don’t want to characterize this as a strictly a fight between kooky conservatives and the education mainstream, because that’s not the case.
But as Tim Murphy’s report makes clear, much of the opposition is motivated by the politics of paranoia.
[T]he Obama administration is wary of Common Core taking on a life of its own in the conservative fever swamps. Last February, when South Carolina Republican Gov. Nikki Haley suggested she might block the implementation of Common Core in her state, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan released a statement punching back.
Citing the endorsements of Republican governors like Mitch Daniels of Indiana, Bill Haslam of Tennessee, and Chris Christie of New Jersey, Duncan dismissed Haley’s concerns as little more than tinfoil-hat trolling: “The idea that the Common Core standards are nationally-imposed is a conspiracy theory in search of a conspiracy.”
That apparently hasn’t stopped Republican National Committee members from responding favorably to Glenn Beck’s rants.