Through the fall and early winter of 2013, New York State Education Commissioner John King held twenty “forums” in various parts of the state to discuss and explain both the mysteries and the miraculous qualities of the Common Core States Standards. With two exceptions, in each and every “forum” King was met with fury and disgust from an outraged citizenry that included both parents and teachers. These encounters with actual people affected by the Common Core were, in fact, so universally negative and hostile that King initially attempted to cancel the entire project — essentially a public relations campaign designed to alternately sweet talk or buffalo the rubes into acquiescence — and skedaddle back to the safety of his cosy office in Albany where untested experiments on other people’s children are far better received. King’s reaction to the anger at the imposition of the Common Core only served to reveal how far removed he is from the policies he imposes. After one such event in Poughkeepsie where the crowd grew raucous after King’s interminable lecture on the Common Core, the commissioner made the astounding statement that the rebellion had been orchestrated by “special interests”, presumably parents.
The two exceptions to unmitigated hostility and rejection were the “forums” that were held in Brooklyn and lower Manhattan respectively, the former was allowed to be commandeered by Michelle Rhees’ StudentsFirstNewYork.org, who were let in early and signed up for 44 of the 45 speaking slots; the latter was attended by many of the same paid advocates of SFNY, allied with the Gates-funded Educators 4 Excellence. Both groups did their best to turn the events into creepy cult like love fests for the Common Core and who, for good measure, at times equated the experimental idea with nothing less than a civil right. In short, these two “forums” were a cynical farce bearing no relation whatsoever to the people’s reaction to the Common Core imposition and all that goes with it.
So what did King learn from his eighteen encounters with a furious public whom he ostensibly works for and who pays his considerable salary?
Judging from his December 30 epistle, after “reflecting and evaluating,” what King has learned is a whole lot of nothing at all. Not from us, in any case if, arguably a great deal from his fans in SFNY and E4E.
As has been the practice of its devotees from before the Common Core was even completed, King, employing the pronoun “we”, continues to speak of the untested experiment as if mountains of evidence supported its miraculous powers and the only bump in the road to a “college and career ready” army of youngsters is a faulty implementation, due in part to limited resources.
“We understand, writes King, ” that implementation of the Common Core and teacher/principal evaluation in a time of limited resources has come with significant challenges.”
As if speaking of the incontrovertible flatness of the earth or the inevitability of death, King pronounces with utter certainty the “ essential” importance of the CC only to go on mixing
corporate speak (“moving forward”) with the outright, if often repeated, lie that the CCSS is the work of teachers and education experts, and not education entrepreneurs such as David Coleman and testing companies backed by and propagated by the Gates Foundation. ( For information on who really is responsible for the Common Core see the excellent work of Mercedes Schneider. )
Declares the King : “We know that moving forward with the Common Core is essential: study after study shows that our students lag behind in the knowledge and skills required for their future. The Common Core standards, designed by teachers and education experts from across the country – and shaped by many New York State educators – will help us do better.”
The humble King does concede that the Core (as we like to affectionately call it ) “didn’t invent good teaching, ” only to then boast that the “ CC is the first set of learning standards back-mapped grade by grade from what students need to know and be able to do in college and the workforce,” weaseling past the fact that, as Carol Burris has noted, kids don’t learn backwards, and as others have noted, other than menial jobs, we have no idea what the “workforce” of the future requires or will even look like.
But “we” know, somehow, that said workforce needs the Common Core.
King goes on and on and on about said need using the usual language about “rigor” and challenge, ” his way to saying, let the public be damned, “we” are doing what we will. One might conclude from King’s letter following his recent experience that John King, a highly educated and intelligent man, is incapable of learning. But to reach that conclusion one would first have to believe that John King was appointed to his position so that, against all evidence, he might serve the people of New York State; that King as commissioner would genuinely listen to and humanely react to the pained complaints of millions of parents and thousands of teachers so harshly affected by the policies he, himself, has championed. Like many others, I have reached a different conclusion: that the powers that put King in the position he now holds have no intention whatsoever of changing anything at all about the Common Core and King will serve them, not us, until he can do so no more.
Let the heavens fall but they will get their way.
And that is the real meaning of King’s end of the year message.
We need to prepare ourselves.
This struggle has yet to even begin.