Common Core: Mental Junk Food? - Part 1

    Posted on Wednesday, June 21, 2017 at 5:18 PM

    Posted by Mike McPartlin on Jun 21, 2017 5:18:55 PM

    The Debate on Common Core Rages On

    by Mike McPartlin, Headmaster, Bridgedale Academy


    Few education topics are debated more heatedly these days than the Common Core State Standards (“CCSS”). Whether it has to do with CCSS's creation, passage into law, implementation or results, nowhere will you find a more wide-ranging array of alleged “truths” about a single subject.

    Bridgedale Academy uses a classical school curriculum, i.e. that of Hillsdale (MI) Academy, and so does not subscribe to Common Core, as most other schools in Illinois now do.

    Because Common Core continues to be such a political hot potato, with the arguments for and against it so diametrically opposed, I decided to dig deeper.

    Common Core Truths versus MythsTruths or Myths?

    Proponents make certain claims about the virtues of CCSS, while opponents argue these claims are more mythical than anything else, i.e. myths propagated and maintained by a well-financed propaganda machine. 

    After spending more time than I care to admit reading books and online articles about Common Core, I have come down solidly on the side of CCSS’s opponents.

    In find myself in agreement with Joy Pullman, author of "The Education Invasion: How common core fights parents for control of American kids," when she refers to much of what is force-fed to kids in CCSS schools today as "mental junk food."

    In other words, I find the main arguments in favor of CCSS to be deceptive ... to be myths.

    • Myth #1: CCSS was a “state-led” initiative
    • Myth #2: CCSS is aligned and conforms with federal statutes
    • Myth #3: CCSS is academically ambitious
    • Myth #4: CCSS conforms with and/or promotes school choice
    • Myth #5: CCSS will not be expensive

    Backroom Deals for Common CoreMyth #1: CCSS was a “state-led” initiative

    Truth: The states had virtually nothing to do with the creation of the CCSS. Rather these standards were drawn up, in private, by non-governmental entities (primarily through the financial support of The Gates Foundation).

    Ever heard of the Council of Chief State School Officers? What about Achieve, Inc.? These two private organizations, funded in part by your tax dollars, are apparently responsible for creating Common Core. I say "apparently" because the entire process is shrouded in mystery, and no one seems willing to claim "credit" for it.

    It is clear that at some point these efforts were "guided" by the National Governors Association (also funded in large part by your tax dollars), and perhaps this explains the "state-led" argument. But it is a false argument.

    When states purport to act in the public interest, they are constrained by the US Constitution as well as their own state's constitution, and also by their own laws, rules, policies and procedures. And in America, where we are granted by law and tradition the right to govern our own affairs, this means a state's citizens get to "have a say" concerning tax-funded state actions that have such a profound impact on their and on their children's lives.

    In a nutshell this means something along the lines of "notice and a right to be heard." But Common Core was created, adopted and implemented entirely without public hearings or public debate. No pre-enactment public feedback was requested or allowed. Teachers, parents and school districts had zero input. 

    Considering the truly profound impact the public education system has on our children today, and including the fact that our public education system is a $620 billion per year industry, mostly financed by taxes, this is astonishing.

    Myth #2: CCSS is aligned and conforms with federal statutes

    Truth: All three of the federal statutes upon which CCSS relies for its “legality” expressly forbid the federal government from creating either school curricula or instructional practice guides. Even the US Department of Education’s own lawyers have acknowledged that because CCSS does involve the creation of both school curricula and instructional practice guides, it likely violates these laws (laws that themselves arguably go beyond the scope of the powers delegated to the federal government by the US Constitution).

    Myth #3: CCSS is academically ambitious

    Mediocre Standards of Common CoreTruth: By virtually any objective standard, the CCSS is a set of “mediocre” standards. The English language arts component of CCSS was not “internationally benchmarked” before implementation and one of the professors who sat on the CCSS validation committee now claims it puts American students far behind those of other English-speaking nations.

    The math component was rejected by the only academic mathematician to sit on the validation committee. And he refused to sign off on the standards, claiming that by the 7th grade American students will be “two years behind our international competitors.” And today, some eight years after its implementation, American students continue to lag behind.

    Myth #4: CCSS conforms with and/or promotes school choice

    School Choice versus Common CoreTruth: Unless “school choice” means something other than “parental choice,” CCSS very much erodes the notion of school choice.

    This is the reality because all funding of education by the federal government is tied to conditions and requirements, especially with regard to administering “state tests,” which de facto means: follow CCSS or no money. And these CCSS tests are specifically designed to “drive” curricular choice. What is the choice if all roads lead back to CCSS?

    Myth #5: CCSS will not be expensive

    Truth: Prior to passing the legislation to “enact” CCSS, no cost estimate was ever conducted (by Congress or anyone else) with respect to it. The first such “cost estimate” was conducted in 2012 by a private entity (Pioneer Institute), was based on the empirical evidence, and was intended only to cover “basic implementation” by states of CCSS. And this study found a minimum of $15.8 Billion in unfunded mandates, for which states and localities will obviously be on the hook.


    Don’t take my word on any of this. Do your own research.

    But while doing your research, please make sure you go beyond a simple online google search. Because the forces aligned in support of the CCSS are extremely well-funded (again think Gates Foundation), and therefore positive portrayals of CCSS dominate a basic online search.

    And so, before you even do that google search, and so that you may investigate with a critical eye, I recommend you first check out the following resources:

    YouTube Videos:

    Pioneer Institute and Common CorePioneer Institute Video “Setting the Record Straight on Common Core: Part 1” 

    Pioneer Institute Video “Setting the Record Straight on Common Core: Part 2” 


    The Education Invasion by Joy PullmannThe Education Invasion “How Common Core Fights Parents for Control of American Kids” by Joy Pullmann

    “The Story Killers: A Common Sense case against Common Core” by Dr. Terrence Moore


    Other Bridgedale Blogs about Common Core:

    Is Common Core a Good Thing?

    Common Core: Mental Junk Food - Part 2

    Common Core: Mental Junk Food - Part 3

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                                                                                                               Mike McPartlin, Headmaster, Bridgedale Academy


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