Common Core: Separating Wingnut Hysteria From The Facts

1182592Back in the 1990’s, during the Clinton years, there were conspiracy stories circulating in conservative homeschooling and religious groups that the Clintons, Donna Shalala, and the UN were going to force children to learn communism and be subjected to the “gay agenda.” As a child, I wasn’t even allowed to own a library card because child literacy campaigns were seen as attempts by Hillary Clinton to brainwash young minds with liberal propaganda. In fact, I was a sad victim of the conservative homeschooling movement spearheaded by the HSLDA in the late 1980’s and through part of the 1990’s. To this day, I still cannot do mathematics beyond entry level algebra as a result of the dysfunctional, religion before-everything-else education I received.

Not all of the people involved in the homeschooling movement were religious or anti-government fanatics. In the beginning, it was more secular but the wacko-bird demographic certainly gained pretty significant clout as the campaign rolled along.

The Christian home schoolers brought new legal problems to the home school movement, but they also brought some Christian attorneys who were willing to dedicate their time to protecting home schoolers. These included Michael P. Farris and J. Michael Smith, who founded the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) in 1983. Membership in HSLDA was open to any home schooler regardless of religious affiliation or lack thereof, but HSLDA employees were required to sign a Christian statement of faith. Home schooling had become legal for some families in some states; but HSLDA shouldered the task of making home education legal for every family in every state. By 1989, there were only three states (Michigan, North Dakota, and Iowa) that still outlawed home education. By 1993, home education was legal in all 50 states.

HSLDA was open to all home schoolers, but the rising tide of evangelical home schoolers began to change the face of home education. The original state home school organizations had always been willing to accept any home schooler, regardless of his reason for teaching a child at home. Christian parents who fled the public schools to escape secular humanism were understandably shocked by the lifestyles of some of their fellow home schoolers. As home education began to spread through local churches, explicitly Christian support groups began to spring up at the local level. (Source)

Once the Clinton administration got underway, the combination of fundamentalist Christianity and conspiracy stuff really got out of control. The stories of FEMA or reeducation camps circulated on Infowars and copycat sites are nothing more than the same old fears from the 1990’s dusted off and updated for the current Democratic administration. As the SPLC reports, much of the concerns with Common Core tie into the same old extremist delusions:

But to Christian Right, Tea Party and antigovernment activists, the state-driven effort to lift student achievement is actually “Obamacore,” a nefarious, left-wing plot to wrest control of education from local school systems and parents. Instead of the “death panels” of “Obamacare,” the fear is “government indoctrination camps.”

Many Christian Right activists claim the Common Core will indoctrinate young children into “the homosexual lifestyle” and instill anti-American, anti-Christian values. Their fight has been joined by radical antigovernment groups like the John Birch Society, which claims the standards are part of a global conspiracy to create a totalitarian “New World Order.” Glenn Beck, meanwhile, describes the Common Core as “evil” and “communism.” U.S. Sen. Rand Paul has called it “dangerous.”

What’s more, it’s clear that some of the opponents, including national groups associated with the billionaire Koch brothers, are exploiting the Common Core in their broader fight against the public education system in an effort to promote school privatization measures. (Source)


One legitimate criticism of Common Core is that it places too much emphasis on attaining certain test scores and not teaching children. That is a reasonable position to take, but haven’t we been conditioning our kids to succeed at tests ever since college placement tests came about? And do you think it would be any different under the private charter school systems that these national private education lobbyists are pushing? The Daily Beast presents this take on it:

Legitimate arguments against Common Core include the fact that the program is overwhelmingly funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; that the short timeline for implementation is unrealistic and amplifies the high-pressure testing culture of No Child Left Behind; and that, while the program is completely optional, only states that have adopted “internationally benchmarked standards and assessments that prepare students for success in college and the workplace” are eligible for the Obama Administration’s Race to the Top competitive grants—and states that adopted Common Core standards by August 2010 received extra points on their Race to the Top applications. (Source)

So let’s say that the implementation of Common Core and the standards are perhaps faulty. Yes, maybe this does put additional and undue emphasis on passing standardized tests and perhaps we do need to fix that. Like any national program from healthcare to education, or anything else, it’s going to have bumps in the rollout and there’s always going to be the few lunatics running about talking about mind control and communist reeducation camps. For me, the fact that the radical right types like Phyllis Schlafly (who I met back in those homeschooling days) and the most uninformed commenters on our local TV station’s Facebook page are the most vocal in their opposition to it leads me to think that Common Core is probably not as bad as everyone makes it out to be. It may be a flawed system and it may place too much emphasis on passing tests instead of learning. However, Common Core isn’t the “OMG, the gubbermint is trying to teach little Mary to be a lesbian in kindergarten” conspiracy drivel posted all over the internet and painted on protest signs. We can have a rational discussion on the issue, but first we need to remove the crazies from the conversation.


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  • Shannon Moss

    I am just a regular mom with a kid in public schools. I hate common core because it is an asinine way to learn math. It is confusing and very backwards.

    • Stephen Barlow

      Please explain how arithmetic in the Common Core and arithmetic @ your kitchen table are different?

    • R Vogel

      I don’t know what a ‘regular mom’ means, but I would ask how far did you progress in the study of mathematics in your education? The general horrible state of basic number awareness, to say nothing of advanced mathematics, in the US population is appalling. Ever wonder why cashier can no longer count back change? Hint: it has something to do with math education.

  • Seth Williams

    Common Core is horrible because the only thing it does is teach to the slowest student. Stop holding everyone back! Bring back the special ed classes and those that need special attention can get it. That way those that DON’T need it can actually excel and move forward!!!

    • Stephen Barlow

      The Montressori Method let’s each kid grow as his interest take him. Those like Me who were curious about everything did VERY WELL. I learned the math and science necessary to grow a garden and build a playhouse. I turned it into a store when i was 9 and learned the business skills of accounting before Jr High.

      But the BASIC SKILLS (Common Skills hence COMMON CORE) were mandetory. Spelling, composition and grammar, arithmetic and algebra, chemistry and physics and geology, geography and social studies… I could spell Mozambeque AND point to it on a map AND tell you it’s main industry, style of government and population.

      Most kids today can NOT find their neighboring states on a map. I doubt they could spell them either. I KNOW of NO homeschooled kid who understands Socialism or Communism, but they Heil Jesus at the drop of a hat.

      • Seth Williams

        I agree, religion for some reason is held higher than general education and it’s destroying our youth…..

      • Stephen Barlow

        it’s the limitation of ONE TRUE RELIGION that id hammering the minds of children into mush.

      • SLP

        *Montessori, *lets, *interests, *Mozambique, *hail

      • Stephen Barlow

        Typos are not errors because I am not turning this in for a grade. I think I am doing fairly well considering 4 of My fingers and a thumb have rotted under some rock in Afghanistan thank you very much.

        When how I type is more important than what I type, then i know I am NOT talking to an educated baboon, just a simple baboon.

      • SLP

        If you are going to rant and brag about your higher intelligence in spelling, composition and grammar, then insult someone who corrects you regarding the very words you use to brag and rant, you are the baboon, dear. Please, let us worship you and intuit your disability from your written hysteria. Perhaps you could post a disclaimer in all your comments? I forgot *mandatory.

      • Stephen Barlow

        If you are going to exist at all, someone needs to acknowledge your presence.

        I AM sorry I made you feel SO undignified and insignificant. How did you use spell check without opposable thumbs?

      • SLP

        I don’t need spell check, you do, or did you miss that part? What an angry asshole.

      • Brian

        Did you seriously just say we should let you brag about education while you misspell words because you’re a veteran?

      • Brian

        You spelled Mozambique wrong.

    • Stephen Barlow

      So you are actually wanting public schools to be refunded to meet the needs of the students? THANKS!!! We welcome you.

      • Seth Williams

        Yes schools should be required to meet the needs of the student. Not JUST meet the need of the slowest student.

      • Stephen Barlow

        IN public schools, I found Myself hunting for knowledge. Most of My teachers were flexible and could handle a range of abilities in their students. But A) SOME minimum standard must be a had as a baseline
        B) the Average kid should have to reach to get a B
        C) the perpetual A student should have Advanced Classes to go to.
        D) the ‘B’ students should sTILL be able to be challenged with the regular curricula.

        NOW, I see the Common Core as the median standard, the average, a level the poor students can achieve with desire and work and maybe a little extra help. But NOWHERE, in all the propaganda bought and paid for by the Evangelical/right/TP wing to terrify parents with DEATH PANEL SYNDROME, have I seen a SINGLE WORD that limits the teachers from taking the bright kids far beyond the National Standard that Common Core is designed to become.

        Ask yourself this: “As a parent, do I want the TEXAS SCHOOL CURRICULA for My child?”

        A) NO critical thinking skills allowed.
        B) Mandatory Religious indoctrination
        C) ZERO ethnic diversity in history, art, literature or even in the library catalog
        D) A state citizen ID card
        E) 40% of the budget spent on competitive sports. (Not just gym class) Most of which is football. the other half of the budget is all other sports.

        Google Hitler Youth and tell Me if the Texas model doesn’t scare the crap out of you.

        Secondly, critics should ALWAYS be held accountable for having a solution to the problem they claim exists. So tell us all EXACTLY how you would design a curricula for students.

        If you can’t, then just answer the question I asked and then shut up. Bill & Melinda INVESTED non-profit personal wealth into a plan that would work, if it were a crime to broadcast lies, manufactured facts and manipulated data.

        And don’t get Me started on how “All children left behind” sabotaged an already weak and underfunded education system. I we took HALF the DOD/Intel budget and invested half on education and half on healthcare when Clinton was president…

        This would have been a non issue. We would be 1st in the world in education, not 37th AND have the cheapest medical care available to every American still breathing, cradle to grave.

  • Jorge

    I’m very liberal, but the rationale that the Common Core is better than we think because the Tea Party is against it is as crazy as the Tea Party being against Common Core because the Democratic Party is in favor of it. Common Core is just as bad as the people who think privatizing education is the way to go. In fact, Common Core is just short of it. Do people actually think Common Core is not just another way for some rich folk (the Gates) to get richer?!

    • Stephen Barlow

      REALLY? You are THAT ignorant!!! A non profit organization the Bill & melinda FUNDED out of kindness…

      DOESN’T MAKE A PROFIT!!!

      If you had a decent education (or weren’t skipping English to score some weed) your paragraph may have actually made sense. YOU should try a few remedial Common Core English classes jorgie.

      (BTW, remedial means taking a class over because you need some serious catch-up)

  • Lyd

    Have you actually had a look at any common core problems? they dont make any sense and they make much more difficult problems that have very simple answers. No parent can help their kid with their homework because common core is a bunch of gibberish.

    • FD Brian

      they don’t make any sense to you because you were taught rote memorization, just the same as I was. What the problems do is teach you to THINK about how you arrive at such an answer. If I gave you the math question…What number times itself is equal to twice itself? That’s easy, but show me equation that explains the answer. That I think is the difference. It’s really teaching thinking at a much early age than waiting until 6th or 7th grade.

      • Stephen Barlow

        I can see how THAT might be confusing when thrust upon a 5 year old. but ultimately, math THINKING SKILLS train you to answer EXACTLY those kinds of questions.

        if 1.5 squirrels eat 1.5 nuts in 1.5 days, How many nuts do 9 squirrels eat in 9 days? (Hints, it’s not about the numerals, it’s about the ratios)

        And NO!, I’ll NEVER tell you the answer.

    • Stephen Barlow

      Please give Me an example? maybe it has something to do with your kids reading abilities after being homeschooled by you.

    • R Vogel

      Given the general state of math skills in the U.S. the fact that the average parent cannot understand the problems is hardly surprising. If we want to continue to have the same lousy results and continue to fall further behind the rest of the world then we should definitely continue to do what we have been doing….

    • Kristina Anderson

      So let’s make homework really easy, just in case the parents don’t understand the math problems… or can only read at a certain level, or never even read that piece of literature… I would rather help my child figure out solutions, or find answers together, than have schoolwork dumbed down to the lowest common denominator…

  • strayaway

    Education is largely a state and local matter. A teacher stands in front of a classroom in a local community. Every state has its own department of education. The federal Department of Education is largely redundant beyond teaching children in the District of Columbia or maybe on military bases. If common core was such a good idea, states and local school districts would not have to be threatened with funding cuts to implement its adoption.

    • Stephen Barlow

      That’s why a National Standard is a necessity and should have been created and adjusted over time in the 60’s. Local districts are run by petty, short sighted bureaucrats. ANY change is going to shock them into outrage, just as it has done within you.

      PPACA isn’t any of the Republican lies. It is a NATIONAL STANDARD for minimum health insurance. That’s all. Levels the playing field for everybody.

      NOTHING keeps any doctor from participating, but if YOUR doctor CHOSE to EXEMPT himself, then you blame him, not the PPACA. If your insurance Carrier DECIDES to NOT update your policy to MEET MINIMUM STANDARDS, then you should A) know the quality of the Scamacare you have paid for and B) be GRATEFUL healthcare costs have leveled out. Imagine the 30% rise over 5 years that the old Republicare would have GUARANTEED you.

      THAT is what Common Core is designed to do for Education. it Does what the GOP have disallowed the Dept of Ed to do since Nixon.

      It is so sad to see how little you and your felloe REDS actually know about the Dept of Ed. If you were an honest person, you would look at the website and search through it for at least 15 minutes before you speak about it again. But ou get all you need to say from Fox and Glenn Beck, right?

      But that’s WHY we have ‘issues’ betwixt us. if I don’t know something, I go out there an LEARN ABOUT it.

      • strayaway

        Must I repeat myself? The federal Dept. of Ed. is redundant. States all have their own DOE’s. If the state DOE has low standards, it is becuse the peopl of that state, whether Mississippi or California, elect the wrong people to run their DOE. Your solution: have people of those states elect federal officials to make the rules for those of us in better run states to obey. No thanks.

        You’re right about a lot of doctors choosing not to participate in this farce. You support freedom of choice don’t you? Then extend it to doctors. Obama promised huge savings to be in effect by now but insurance rates continue to wildly rise.

        You must be trying to be funny about ” Does what the GOP have disallowed the Dept of Ed to do since Nixon(?)” The FOE was made into a cabinet department during the Carter Administration.

        Your mention of Fox and Beck is lame, presumptuous, and wrong like most of everything else you post. You even forgot to mention the Koch Brothers and the Tea Party. have some coffee.

  • Jbh Jbh

    I’ve looked at common core math… and I have no idea how those children are going to do any kind of higher math later.

    • R Vogel

      Because the current system has been so good at promoting higher scholarship in math……

      • Jbh Jbh

        it is if you aren’t in a public school that doesn’t give a care about anything but test scores. I was doing algebra in grade 6.

      • R Vogel

        I attended 3 different private schools on 2 coasts and that is absolutely not true. Although base scholarship may have been slightly better, due mainly to adverse selection in public schools, overall achievement and number sense was no better. Even if it were true it is totally irrelevant to a discussion about public school math curricula.

  • Matthew Reece

    Common Core or not, the forcible indoctrination of children in public schools is child abuse.

    • Sara Boudreaux

      Forcible indoctrination? Take off the tinfoil.

      • Matthew Reece

        Are you saying that there are no laws requiring children to get a government-approved education, which will logically have a pro-state bias? You would be wrong.

      • Stephen Barlow

        There are laws criminalizing the child abuse of DENYING a child an education in the name of mass hallucination.

        This isn’t Hitler Youth or Catholic School. There is no Pledge, but prayer is beginning to be forced on children in some states…

        Maybe if you elaborated in detail about all your complaints, someone would actually have an adult conversation with you Matthew.

      • Matthew Reece

        First, you are strawmanning my argument. I am not advocating for children to be denied an education. I am advocating against children being forced into a state-approved curriculum. Children are fully capable of learning on their own through independent study and life experience, and this is how they should learn.

        I have no idea what you mean by mass hallucination, but perhaps you mean to accuse me of opposing public schools for religious reasons. This is not the case; I support unschooling because as an anarchist, I do not want children to be indoctrinated with statism before they are intellectually capable of repelling its sophistry.

        Next, you are assuming that it is necessary to use the guns of government to ensure that every child gets educated. This is a positive claim, which carries a burden of proof. As you have not fulfilled it, I will reject your assumption out of hand until you fulfill the burden of proof.

        The difference between today’s public schools and Hitler Youth or Catholic School is one of degree, not of kind. In all cases, sophistic concepts are being taught to children as if they were proven, unassailable truth.

        I remember the Pledge being recited every day. While it was not forced, there were bullies who would pick on those who did not do it, and no one seemed to care too much. I did so out of peer pressure and a childish understanding of its meaning and purpose, but always sensed that something was amiss.

    • Stephen Barlow

      Please explain what is in that bald head.

      • Matthew Reece

        A healthy brain, unlike what I assume must be in yours, given your admission of defeat and ignorance through ad hominem.

  • Stephen Barlow

    yOu just can’t fix STUPID! But you can perpetuate it with homeschooling by stupid parents.

  • Steph

    As a homeschooling atheist, I’ve watched bemusedly as some members of our local homeschooling group have been hysterically reacting to news about the Common Core, even when they knew nothing about it. You know the type: “You’re not going to tell ME what I’m going to teach my child!” “They’re trying to take away MY rights!” Um, no, they’re trying to make sure every child, even YOURS, gets a decent education. I am concerned with how quickly they are pushing it through, and the fact that only one company is going to be responsible for all the testing materials. But I have met many children, public-schooled and home-schooled, who would benefit from a better curriculum.

    By the way, did you solve Stephen’s math problem without Common Core? I’ll give it to you as a multiple choice problem:

    “If 1.5 squirrels eat 1.5 nuts in 1.5 days, How many nuts do 9 squirrels eat in 9 days? (Hints, it’s not about the numerals, it’s about the ratios)”

    a. 9
    b. 81
    c. 54
    d. 121.5

    If you can’t solve it, then I think that’s an argument FOR Common Core.

  • Katherine

    Why are people insisting that we should deny our children the opportunity to learn skills? Common Core is about skills.