Public schools

Have Doubts About Common Core? Maybe You're a Right-Wing Extremist!


Common Core
Common Core

Pity the poor Southern Poverty Law Center. Over the years, it's gone from noble, to shrill, to…well…pathetic. These days, it seems to exist only to scare people with exaggerated figures about supposed swarms of Klansmen, skinheads, neo-nazis, whatever will get the mailing list rattled. But the guys in white hoods are getting a bit thin on the ground and long in the tooth. Yes, there's an occasional and unfortunate Glenn Miller, but a rare, homicidal racist in a nation of over 300 million people does not a national threat make.

Last year, the SPLC tried its hand at painting anarcho-capitalists as a rising new threat through a convoluted chain of logic that somehow sought to link voluntaryists to the Patriot movement. Uh huh. Since even the SPLC can't follow that line of reasoning (it keeps leading them to a dumpster behind a 7-11), now the scaremonger group cautions that some people who oppose Common Core education standards are right-wing extremists.

Oh yeah. And they're back to invoking the John Birch Society.

Now, it's true that some people with doubts about the new Common Core standards, developed by the National Governors Association and the Chief Council of State School Officers, but also favored by the feds, are right-wing extremists (do not forget the emphasis; very important). Of course, some people who brush their teeth are right-wing extremists.

And some people just get tagged as right-wing extremists when it's time for another SPLC mailing.

Then again, some opponents of Common Core are members of teachers unions who call the standards dangerous to personal privacy and educational autonomy. Some are advocates of child-directed education who oppose standardized testing. Some worry that the standards are developmentally inappropriate for children.

But, warns an SPLC report that sounds as if even its authors take it less than entirely seriously (PDF):

To the propaganda machine on the right, the Common Core—an effort driven by the states—is actually "Obamacore," a nefarious federal plot to wrest control of education from local school systems and parents. Instead of the "death panels" of "Obamacare," the fear is now "government indoctrination camps."

The disinformation campaign is being driven by the likes of Fox News, the John Birch Society, Tea Party factions, and the Christian Right. National think tanks and advocacy groups associated with the Koch brothers, whose father was a founding Birch member, have taken up the cause.

By raising the specter of "Obamacore," activists on the radical right hope to gain leverage against their real target—public education itself.

You can read the whole report, if you like, though I can't imagine why. It does acknowledge that there are "legitimate debates" over Common Core, but mostly it tosses together libertarian bloggers, fundamentalist preachers, nutjobs, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Tea Party members, the Koch brothers (obligatory disclaimer: David Koch sits on the Board of the Reason Foundation), and anybody else SPLC doesn't like who criticizes Common Core. And, yes, the John Birch Society, probably because the people on the SPLC's mailing list know who that is and find the group scary. It jogs even their memories, though, just in case: "Chief among the Patriot groups is the John Birch Society (JBS)—the ultra-right organization that once called President Dwight D. Eisenhower a communist agent."

Never mind that the various individuals and groups invoked often have very different criticisms to make of common core standards; it's time to throw them in the blender o' progressive nightmares. All of this is really a plot against public education.

And public education is good!

And never mind that the various individuals and groups invoked often have very different positions on the role government should play in schooling and what constitutes a good education.

To show just how incoherent this all is, the report closes by citing education historian Diane Ravitch on the value of public schools, while also noting her opposition to Common Core. That's right, the almost 40-page warning that Common Core opponents are out to kill public education ends by invoking an opponent who supports public education.

Err…So what's the point of all this?

Right-wing extremists! John Birch Society! BOO!

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  1. It’s not called the $PLC for nothing.

  2. You mean people on the left believe ad hominems are compelling arguments?

    1. Hmmm. That is a new development, is it not?

      1. Normally they make principled arguments using facts and logic instead of personal attacks and appeals to emotion, so this is very strange indeed.

  3. SPLC likes to smear people with guilt by association with the John Birch Society the way Joe McCarthy did with the CPUSA.

    1. Oh, good one.

  4. Math is a tool of right wing extremists bent on destroying the federal government.

    It should be expunged from the curriculum, and replaced with Native American drumming techniques.

  5. Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice.

  6. I’m uncomfortable with national standards, because I don’t think they can work. I also suspect they’re in place in large part to make it harder to homeschool or even run a private school. Ve vill have urder!

    1. This has been a stupid idea from day one. Having too few rules and standards is not the problem with schools. Common core does nothing to fix lackluster student engagement, declining teacher competency, bloated administrative staffs, or any of the other problems of public schools. Never mind that the standards it does set are woefully inadequate and politically rather than empirically motivated.

      1. Focusing on one method to the exclusion of all others means that a kid who might be able to achieve the same results using a method that works better for him is not only going to fail, he’s going to keep on failing. What a lovely idea. I thought these people valued diversity.

        1. Arguing about common core is like arguing over what step four should be in the five year plan.

          Only people who believe in five-year plans should give a shit.

        2. They value diversity in everything except ideas.

        3. Diversity means people with different colors of skin and/or sexual preferences and nothing else.

          1. and even then only if they have the right political views.

      2. It’s a mundane manifestation of the malfunctioning system we have. As long as we’re going to have public schools, and they’re going to be controlled by a federal bureaucracy, the federal bureaucracy is going to come up with bureaucratic plans, because that’s just what bureaucrats do.

        Common core won’t make much different either way. It’s just yet another meaningless restructuring of a failing system.

  7. No worries, the SPLC and I are both on each other’s “Better Dead” list. Of course, I don’t have people using mine as a list to kill people.

    1. Yet. You’ve got to dream, Brett.

  8. Uh, we (us, here) have been calling the schools government indoctrination facilities for as long as I can remember.

  9. I can’t imagine how one can get very emotionally worked up about common core in the first place. Much less get worked up about how other people are worked up about it.

    What is SPLC afraid of? The horrorific racism of insufficient standardized testing of black children?

    1. It’s TEAM BS, Haze. If those tea-ratting bag-fuckers are agin’ it, then all right-thinking people must be fer it.

      1. Maybe they think that some right-wing Tea Party militias are going to stage a paramilitary raid against a public school.

    2. What is SPLC afraid of?

      Honest debate.

      1. Nah. They know they can just ignore honest debate and the true believers will still send them money. I think Dances has it right, below.

    3. What is SPLC afraid of?

      Losing their $$.

    4. Here’s why we are against it: our school district is interpreting Common Core to mean no more honors or accelerated math classes.

      Our son, who is in sixth grade, has a very high aptitude in math — so for the current school year he was advanced in to “7th grade honors” math (pre-algebra). Next year, as they move toward eliminating honors math classes all together, they decided it wouldn’t make sense to place him in 7th grade Common Core, with the subject matter he essentially did in fifth grade, so they want him to go to 8th Grade Common Core, which is a repeat of pre-algebra, but this time he’ll be taking the class with the slower performing half of the 8th grade. So he will get to take this year’s math all over again (although he currently is getting an “A” in it), and will have to do these repeat lessons alongside children who have difficulty with math.

      What could possibly go wrong? Hopefully nothing more than boredom, but as we all know, boredom sometimes leads to acting out and other discipline problems. Imagine that — a child ending up with discipline issues on his record because the school forced him to dumb down.

      Common Core, or Lowest Common Core as we’ve started calling it, is all about having kids be part of the pack and average performers. Something about smart kids, individuality, and success scares these people.

  10. I’m probably pretty unique on this site, but I’m not against standardized testing. If we are going to be forced to pay for public schools, there is a lot of value in being able to rank your school to the others in the nation. That being said we are doing it stupidly.

    Standardized testing shouldn’t cover a set number of topics depending on your age. To use it as a real metric it needs to be more along the lines of a placement test. In mathematics, for example, have a test that starts at simple addition and works it’s way through at least one problem in every math subject all the way up to calculus, and it can’t be a bubble test (online would be ideal, but graded by a teacher a school district over would work in a pinch). That stops the teaching to the test crap and lets people track students progress from year to year.

    1. It is definitely possible to have competent technocratic management. The problem is that it requires people to understand the premises under which they have been granted power and to use that power with discretion and a sense of responsibility.

      1. I still remember my mom’s fury after she was told by my little sister’s math teacher that it was OK the teacher didn’t understand the math she was trying to teach, because she had an education degree and that meant she could teach anything.

  11. Boy, is Louis CK ever going to be surprised to discover that he’s a rabid right-wing racist.

    1. A local columnist here in the Bay Area went to a community-held Common Core discussion, and because one of the speakers mentioned Glenn Beck, the columnist immediately dismissed anyone against Common Core as a right-wing nutcase. This same columnist always speaks power to truth, the main subjects of his columns tends to be “who are these lunatic concerned citizens to protest this government policy? The politicians are smarter than they are, and mean only the best. They need to sit down and shut up.” (You’ll see this as well in the last part of the linked article, where since a politician was once a schoolteacher, he automatically knows more about education than anyone against Common Core).

  12. Here’s my beef with CC. The tests, I could care less about – except how much emphasis that are placed on them. After all, the teachers do teach to the test – incentives and all that.

    But my biggest gripe is that CC changes what and more importantly how the students learn. In 4th and 5th grade math for instance, you would not believe how they are fucking teaching kids to compute a simple concept like area of a rectangle. I get so infuriated with CC methods, that my wife has practically banned me from helping my kid with homework. The same is true with all the other engineers that I work with. All the ridicule that CC gets is deserved and more so. I almost can’t believe that Top Men produced such garbage, and that our dear leaders bought this load of crap. I’m beginning to think, that this is all a secret ploy to dumb the middle class down. Teachers (at least the good ones) hate it because CC turns them into robots – all teachers follow the same guide with the same methods.

    1. Now I want to know. How do they teach calculating the area of a rectangle?

      1. They start from the assumption that all rectangles are squares with sides of equal length, otherwise they’d be teaching kids that inequality is acceptable.

        1. It must be really rough when they get to teaching inequalities.

      2. Take an example of:
        Width = 12 1/2
        Height = 5 1/4

        They would have you do it like this:
        12 * 5 = 60
        12 * 1/4 = 3
        5 * 1/2 = 2 1/2
        1/2 * 1/4 = 1/8

        Add it all up to get 65 5/8.

        I kid you not.

        1. Isn’t that just a slightly complicated version of doing multiplication with pen and paper? I was imagining much worse.

          But I now imagine that they make them do it exactly like that or they don’t get full credit. Which is dumb.

          I had a great math teacher in 8th grade (this was for the special smart math class) who told us that if we come up with a technique to solve a problem that works and we can demonstrate that it works, then that’s what we should do.

          1. I had a great math teacher in 8th grade (this was for the special smart math class) who told us that if we come up with a technique to solve a problem that works and we can demonstrate that it works, then that’s what we should do.

            –Figure out the right answer
            –Show your work

            It’s not a complicated concept, but for bureaucrats it’s like discovering fission for the first time.

    2. True. There is a big controvery over these new methods of teaching math.
      But I don’t know enough about these to comment.

      Supposedly they eliminate multiplication tables and algebra and teach abstract number theory, or something to that effect.

      Perhaps you could fill us in?

    3. Okay.

      I don’t see what’s supposed to be so shockingly, unbelievably wrong about the Standard there?

      Maybe the problem is not – as usual – the Core Standard, but whatever hack-job your District picked as the implementation curriculum?

      (I’ve looked at a LOT of the Standards since they started being debated on the Internet, and I haven’t yet found one that seemed plainly inappropriate or wrongheaded or daft.)

      (Likewise, “same methods”? CC doesn’t require any specific methods for most things – and if, in this case, a teacher can’t stand “teach volume calculation by counting unit squares”, well… tough shit, teach.

      Welcome to the job.)

    4. Except Common Core is teaching more difficult math than the average kid can handle. Dumb down?!

  13. And public education is good!

    But private education is eleventy billion times better.

  14. Aren’t a lot of right-wing extremists POOR and SOUTHERN? Why is SPLC against these people?

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