Fear and Loathing and the Common Core

April 18, 2013

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This morning, like yesterday morning and the morning before that, I was complicit in the wholesale corporatization of American public school education, playing my small but essential role in a corporate experiment of unprecedented proportions and titanic intent.     This morning and yesterday morning and the morning before that, I, like thousands of my fellow teachers, administered to my students the first of a promised endless battery of New York State standardized tests.

It is hard not to feel demoralized if not utterly invisible administering such things, that much the more when you know that few in your profession had any say at all  in the production  of such things, that such tests are incapable of measuring and therefore subtly  dismiss the most sublime human gifts such as creativity,   and that they are designed, in large part, to strip teachers of our  autonomy.

And more than that:  you know that under the current data crazed evaluation systems, the outcomes of such these tests threaten your very livelihood.

It is harder still to believe that such emotions are not part of the design of the entire project.  After all, a cowed, terrified workforce is a compliant workforce and no word is more operative in today’s “new normal” school system than “compliance.”

The Pearson produced tests are all aligned to what are deceitfully  called the  Common Core State Standards, the first of countless tests to be so,  and as such are designed to insure the ten year olds in my charge were on track to be “college and career ready”, the better to help them succeed in the global economy and “win the future.”

And who can argue with that ?

I can.

I can because not only is such a notion of education limited and limiting to the point of vulgarity, but because everything about the Common Core State Standards Initiative, beginning with its name, stinks to high heaven. Everything about this privately funded, privately owned, secretly created scheme, sponsored by the un-elected National Governors Association and given pseudo academic legitimacy by the equally unelected but lofty sounding Council Of Chief State School Officers, is meant to obscure or hide altogether what the Common Core is, why it exists and how it came — ready or not —  to be rammed down the throat of almost every school kid in America  — including the ten year olds I saw pointlessly suffer through  it the  past three days.

Search the New York State Education website and you will find nothing about the Core’s (as it is now called) main funders, Bill and Melinda Gates, nothing about its fantastically lucrative connection to Pearson Publishing, who have already made millions and stand to reap billions of tax payer bucks creating more tests for our kids — beginning in kindergarten — than have ever been seen before in human history, nothing about the multi million dollar Common Core paraphernalia industry.

Lord of American Education

Lord of American Education

Seek and you will find nothing to indicate the “Core”, in Common Core is, in fact, nothing less than the arbitrary selections of educational entrepreneur and non teacher, David Coleman, pal of Michelle Rhee; he , who gets to pretty much single handedly decide what is and what is not important in our children’s education.

The Divine Decider

The Divine Decider

And this, does he , from sea to shining sea.

Seek and you will find nothing about the grossly coercive manner in which the Obama administration forced the Common Core upon cash starved states in exchange for their autonomy and enough strings attached to slowly strangle their teacher unions who insanely went along with it;  nothing about  the totalitarian ethic inherent in the Core that mandates that once “adopted “ ( what a disgracefully manipulative use of our language !) by a state not a single comma of the holy document could be altered.

Seek and you will find nothing to indicate the fact the “initiative” in the Common Core State Standard Initiative is the initiative not of states, teachers, or parents  but only that of its  super rich sponsors and   corporations. Seek and you will find nothing about the incredible fact that the vast experiment called the Common Core has never even been field-tested — even as it is utterly remaking the American public  school system as we breathe.

What kind of  people would do this ?

Nothing I can  think of  in the current political landscape more clearly illuminates the insidious transformation of the United States from a problematic democracy into an outright oligarchy and corporate fiefdom than the remarkable series of outrageous experiments currently  being performed on American public school children at the behest of a handful of unelected, wholly unaccountable,  madly narcissistic billionaires and their  corporate allies via the  machinations of their hirelings in elected office.  As yet, the most outrageous of these experiments is the Common Core and its concomitant testing frenzy than comes with it.  As many have pointed out,  the children of the  proponents of the Common Core go to schools that hold such stuff in outright disdain.

We should do as well. Those intrepid parents in the Opt Out movement are showing the way.  The testing industry is the central nervous system of the entire corporate education reform campaign.  If enough refuse to  feed it,  it will die.  If we continue to accept it,  our already deeply enfeebled democracy will.

Next year my child will enter  “a testing grade” and is therefore meant to share in the glories of the Common Core Initiative.  Let me rephrase that:  She will be forced to share in the glories of the Common Core Initiative.

Note:  as they are expanding their empire to kindergarten, next year just about everyone’s child is meant to share in the glories of the Common Core State Standard Initiative.

I do not know what will happen from now till then but I know this: My child will partake in this ruthless, rapacious corporate hustle over my dead body.


9 Responses to “Fear and Loathing and the Common Core”

  1. Bill Cala Says:

    Brilliant Patrick. I have been fighting High Stakes Testing since 1997 (as a former superintendent of Fairport, NY and Rochester City Schools. Parent resistance is our only hope. Every other organization designed to protect students and teachers have sold out

    • Karen Says:

      Thank you Mr. Cala. I have great admiration for you and those you work with.
      Karen Palmer
      Rochester, NY

    • teddiu Says:

      As a teacher in Rochester, I agree. It is parents who will make the difference. They have to stand up to the bullying of the districts and the state and refuse to to allow their children to take the tests. This is the only way that the message will be heard. Sadly, teachers and educators are not being listened to in this debate.

    • patrickwalsh Says:

      Thank you for your kind words and much more for your long term efforts fighting this cynical nonsense. You are right. At this moment the parents are the best hope — but they need to awaken en masse. And the unions need to remember their roots and why they too are fighting for. We must continue to fight the good fight. We have no choice.

      My very best to you,


  2. Sean Ahern Says:

    Will k-12 educators be the ideological police for the corporate state? Let us not “go quietly into that goodnight.” Rage on Raging Horse! “Rage, rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

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