Controversy is brewing over new Common Core State Standards in English that call on public schools to emphasize the reading of “information text” instead of fictional literature. According to the Washington Post, English teachers across the country are upset by what they consider the government’s effort “to drive literature out of the classroom.”
English teachers are right to be upset, but they shouldn’t take it personally. The government has nothing much against literature, per se. Rather, this initiative is driven in large part by the desire to promote political propaganda in the classroom. The study of literature is being downgraded in the process, but for a good cause.
Consider that one of the “informational texts” recommended as a replacement for, say, Great Expectations is “Executive Order 13423: Strengthening Federal Environmental, Energy, and Transportation Management.” Students would thus study government propaganda in English class (this Executive Order was issued under President Bush, but it is still propaganda — a political sop to the environmental left, as Stanley Kurtz shows).
Another Common Core’s non-fiction exemplar is an excerpt from a 2009 New Yorker essay by Atul Gawande on health care. This too is propaganda – an effort to show that Obamacare is wise policy.
Proponents of downgrading the teaching of literature claim that their goal is to make sure U.S. students can read and understand complicated texts. But there are plenty of complicated texts that don’t amount to political propaganda, much less propaganda relating to current hot-button policy issues in which the Obama administration is heavily invested. If teaching students how to read such texts were the only goal here, the list of exemplar tests wouldn’t include one-sided political tracts about health care and the environment.
Consider also where the Common Core comes from? The Washington Post tries to make it appear that the new curriculum percolated up from the states. But at the back end of its story we find that “the Obama administration kicked the notion into high gear when it required states to adopt the common standards — or an equivalent — in order to compete for Race to the Top grant funds.” (emphasis added).
The Common Core, then, should be viewed, at least in part, as an attempt by the Obama administration to gain control of what is taught in public schools for the purpose of indoctrination. As Stanley Kurtz puts it, “Obama has managed to press direct support for his most cherished and controversial policy initiative onto your local school district.”
Kurtz warned about this move in Spreading The Wealth: How Obama Is Robbing The Suburbs To Pay For the Cites. And he documented the central role in the development of the Common Core being played by Linda Darling-Hammond.
A long-time proponent of a politicized curriculum, Darling-Hammod was Obama’s education adviser during the 2008 campaign. She was on track to be nominated Secretary of Education until her leftism alienated many Democrats. Bill Ayers — domestic terrorist and former Obama associate on educational matters — expressed disappointment that Darling-Hammond was not nominated, adding that he would also have picked Noam Chomsky for Secretary of State, fellow terrorist Bernadine Dohrn for Attorney General, and Paul Krugman for Secretary of Treasury.
But, as Kurtz explains, Darling-Hammond may be more useful in her role as the leading presence at the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, one of the two private groups involved in designing the Common Core. And Darling-Hammond isn’t just a prime force behind the common curriculum; she’s also working on standardized testing. Kurtz shows that Darling-Hammond is actually opposed to such testing and that her mission is to dumb testing down.
The shrewdest aspect of Obama’s education power play is the relative absence of his fingerprints. As noted, Common Core is being presented as having been adopted in 46 states and the District of Columbia. In reality, though, most of them hadn’t even seen the new standards. They were induced to agree to adopt whatever curriculum leftists like Darling-Hammond came up with as a condition of receiving federal funds.
As I said in my review of Kurtz’s book the modern left is cleverer than the rest of us.
The rest of us can fight back, though. Indiana and Utah already have popular rebellions in progress against the Common Core. If you want help with this fight in your area, contact the American Principles Project.