So far only one Common Core conspiracy theory has panned out: conservative megadonors like the Koch brothers want to destroy the plan and eventually take down the Department of Education. But plenty others are floating around.
As Politico reported on Tuesday, conservatives are funding advocacy groups that want to use anger over the national education standards to get rid of teacher tenure, promote voucher programs and push the government out of education policy. As it turns out, they have a lot of anger to work with.
Wait. What exactly is Common Core and why are people upset over it?
The Common Core State Standards Initiative is an education initiative that sets math and language arts-focused education standards for public schools nationwide. Basically, it says, "This is what kids should learn and when they should learn it by." It's all available online. An example would be:
A lot of people are for the standards because they're better than most state standards. According to a 2010 report from the right-leaning, education-policy focused Thomas B. Fordham Institute, the standards "are clearly superior to those currently in use in 39 states in math and 37 states in English. For 33 states, the Common Core is superior in both math and reading." At the time, only California, Indiana and the District of Columbia had education standards that were "clearly superior" to the Common Core standards.
There are legitimate concerns. Conservative politicians in states like Utah and Alabama worry it will create a "de facto national curriculum that could at some point be extended into more controversial areas such as science," according to the Wall Street Journal in 2012. One minute it's "make sure kids understand sarcasm before they graduate" the next its, "evolution is real." There's also concern that the standards push Algebra back a year into 9th grade.
But mostly, this is about the government sticking its nose where it doesn't belong by... recommending a set of standards states were free to opt out of.
Conspiracy Theory: Common Core Will Make Your Kid Pee Their Pants
As The Daily Caller's Eric Owens pointed out on Tuesday, a school in Chicago has issued an insanely ridiculous bathroom policy, where classes get five minute bathroom breaks. The school tests extremely poorly and is at risk of closing, and the bathroom policy is likely a way to keep kids in their seats. The Caller headline — "Common Core Threatens Again to Make Kids Pee Their Pants" — makes it seem like this is a new normal, but it's one school. Also, it may have been a while since Owens was in school, but children are usually encouraged to use the restroom during lunch or recess.
Conspiracy Theory: Glenn Beck's Marxist Dictatorship
Technically this is a general conspiracy theory, but it has Common Core roots. In September, a Maryland parent was physically forced out of a public forum on Common Core for daring to speak against Common Core. In September, Beck argued that this was the sort of event that signaled we were on the "shoot" level of Obama's dictatorship. That's the worst level, as you can see at right. The levels are nudge (offering rewards), push (IRS intimidation) and shoot (internment camps).
Of course, if you actually watch the video, you'll realize that 1) parents were asked to write down their questions and the man clearly did not and 2) he refused to leave when a security guard approached him. Also, he complains about how Common Core is only preparing kids for community college. But Maryland is one of the many states with a education standard that is "clearly inferior" to Common Core. Just saying.
Conspiracy Theory: Common Core Teaches Kids to Hate the Constitution
In a Monday column, Terrence Moore of Town Hall writes, "there is a clear political agenda behind the façade of school reform," with the whole Common Core thing. Parts of the Constitution are recommended in middle school and parts recommended in high school under the Language Arts section of Common Core (which also covers history and social studies). This set off major red flags, but only Moore's words can do him justice:
Here the questions ought to begin. Why do “standards” ostensibly for English dictate what gets done in a history class? Why is only the First Amendment read in middle school? Why not the Second? Why not the Tenth? Will the Constitution ever be read in its entirety? Why would you ever read the Constitution (or parts of it) in an English class? Will not junior and senior English be taken up with really long novels, great plays, and maybe even an epic or two? How would there be time?
Emphasis added. This could also be called "The Common Core Plan to Never Teach Your Children the Second Amendment Conspiracy."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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