Rotten to the Core, Part III: Lessons from Texas and the Growing Grassroots Revolt
Texas is a right-minded red state, where patriotism is still a virtue and political correctness is out of vogue. So how on earth have left-wing educators in public classrooms been allowed to instruct Lone Star students to dress in Islamic garb, call the 9/11 jihadists "freedom fighters" and treat the Boston Tea Party participants as "terrorists"?
Here's the dirty little secret: Despite the best efforts of vigilant parents, teachers and administrators committed to academic excellence, progressive activists reign supreme in government schools.
That's because curriculum is king. The liberal monopoly on the modern textbook/curricular market remains unchallenged after a half-century. He who controls the textbooks, teaching guides and tests controls the academic agenda.
That is how the propagandistic outfitting of students in Islamic garb came to pass in the unlikely setting of the conservative Lumberton, Texas, school district. As Fox News reporter Todd Starnes noted this week, a 32-year veteran of the high school led a world geography lesson on Islam in which hijab-wrapped students were banned from using the words "suicide bomber" and "terrorist" to describe Muslim mass murderers in favor of the term "freedom fighter."
Madelyn LeBlanc, one of the students in the class, "told Fox News that it was clear her teacher was very uncomfortable lecturing the students. 'I do have a lot of sympathy for her. ... At the very beginning, she said she didn't want to teach it, but it was in the curriculum.'"
But the headline-grabbing injection of moral equivalence into social studies and American history is just the tip of the education iceberg.
Top-down federalized "Common Core" standards are now sweeping the country. It's important to remember that while teachers-union control freaks are on board with the Common Core regime, untold numbers of rank-and-file educators are just as angered and frustrated as parents about the Big Ed power grab. The program was concocted not at the grassroots level, but by a bipartisan cabal of nonprofits (led by lobbyists for the liberal Bill Gates Foundation), statist business groups and hoodwinked Republican governors. As I've reported previously, this scheme, enabled by the Obama administration's "Race to the Top" funding mechanism, usurps local autonomy in favor of lesson content and pedagogical methods.
One teacher described a thought-control training seminar in her school district titled "Making the Common Core Come Alive." A worksheet labeled "COMMON CORE MIND SHIFTS" included the following rhetorical muck:
—The goal of curriculum should not be the coverage of content, but rather the discovery of content.
... If done well, Common Core will elevate our teaching to new heights, and emphasize the construction of meaning, while deepening our understanding of our students."
—"In our classrooms, it is the students' voices, not the teachers', that are heard."
Blah, blah, blah. In practice, Common Core evades transparency by peddling shoddy curricular material authored by anonymous committees. It promotes faddish experiments masquerading as "world-class" math and reading goals. Instead of raising expectations, Common Core is a Trojan horse for lowering them. California, for example, is now citing Common Core as a rationale for abandoning algebra classes for 8th graders. Common Core's "constructivist" approach to reading is now the rationale for abandoning classic literature for "informational texts."
Claims that Common Core bubbled up from the states are bass-ackward. A shady nonprofit group called "Achieve Inc.," stocked with federal-standards advocates who've been around since the Clinton years, designed the materials. They were rubber-stamped by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and subsidized by the Gates Foundation.
In states like Texas, which rejected Common Core, similar secretive alliances prevail. The Texas Education Service Center Curriculum Collaborative, a nonprofit group led by government officials, designed the "CSCOPE" curriculum now used in 80 percent of the state's schools. The state Board of Education, local schools and parents were denied access to the online CSCOPE curriculum database — which was exempted from disclosure rules. In fact, dissemination of the lessons was considered a crime until earlier this month. Only after parents and teachers across the state blew the whistle on radical CSCOPE lesson plans (including designing a new flag for a socialist lesson) did the state take steps to rein in the CSCOPE zealots.
Grassroots activists in Indiana, Alabama, Utah and nearly a dozen other states are now educating themselves and their state legislatures about the centralized education racket, whether it's under the guise of Common Core or any other name. Last week, in response to a passionate parent-driven protest, the Indiana state Senate passed legislation to halt Common Core implementation. Anti-Common Core bills are moving through the Alabama state legislature, where lawmakers are especially concerned about how Common Core's intrusive database gathering would violate student privacy.
As Texas goes, so goes the nation. The fight against the federalization of academic standards is a national education Alamo.