by Laurie H. Rogers
"To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize." – Voltaire
"The further a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those who speak it." – George Orwell
If I were to build a list of the worst systemic problems in public education, the Common Core State Standards would not be at the top of the list. The Common Core (CCSS) is a huge problem, to be sure. It's dictatorial, inadequate, experimental, expensive, developmentally inappropriate, politically infused – it's nearly everything critics have said it is. But it isn't the worst problem we face.
That dishonor goes to The Network, a moniker I've given to the conglomeration of corporate and government interests (and their allies) that have seized control of America's classrooms. The Network is huge – containing most of the K-12 education mob, plus its allies in the Department of Education; colleges of education; unions; media; government agencies, associations and legal teams; foundations; corporations; legislatures; fundraising groups; colleges and universities; business; and even the courts.
The Network prefers to operate quietly, promoting supposedly good intentions. Its hallmark phrase: "It's all about the kids." But try opposing The Network on behalf of a child – yours or anyone else's. If you can't be put off, persuaded, ignored, bullied or bought out, The Network has no problem getting nasty. The more honest and honorable you are, the nastier The Network becomes.
This isn't about left or right, Democrat or Republican. It's about "in" and "out"; money and power; agenda and ideology. The Network spends a lot of taxpayer money growing itself, feeding itself and shielding itself from accountability. The bigger it is, the more power it has. The more power it has, the more friends it gains. The more friends it gains, the more money it gets. The more money it gets, the bigger it grows – even as it completely fails our children. Allies of all stripes play along.
In Washington State, legislators and judges now tout the additional billions they'll rip from taxpayers for failed school districts. They don't say how much is spent currently or what it buys. They don't hold districts accountable. Education already is a bottomless pit of wasted dollars; they don't seem to care.
Parents must understand: The Network will never properly educate our children. A) It doesn't know how. Its power structure has lost any sense of how to teach academics sufficiently, efficiently and effectively. B) It doesn't care. The agenda is to gain money and power; push a particular political view onto the next generation; maintain position and income; and avoid accountability and transparency. Some allies work agreeably with The Network; others accept the benefits of looking the other way.
This is how we were stuck with the CCSS. They claim it will raise the bar and foster international competitiveness, but unless they mean to foster competitiveness IN our competitors, their claim is easily disproved by a comparison of what they've done versus what happens in the classrooms of our competitors. The CCSS is designed to deliver the agenda in such a way that it cannot be overcome.
The Network wants freedom, choices and privacy for itself, not for us. If it's successful, it will have replaced the light constraints of a free people with the ropes and chains of the subjugated. To have what it wants in education, The Network must have it all – K-12, secondary education, early learning, preschools, private and faith-based schools – and someday – mark my words – homeschooling. Dissenters spend time and energy fighting off the CCSS but almost none fighting off The Network. Thus, they can't defeat the agenda, and The Network knows it.
A few in The Network believe they're doing right by children, but most deceive themselves and us about their level of independence — as they accept money, votes or benefits or do The Network's bidding. You can establish who's "in" by: following the money; speaking up publicly; or asking for help in opposing the agenda. The players and sycophants will undermine your message or crush it.
The Network will not tell the truth about the CCSS, for example. It was destined to be authoritarian and politically useful – not academically excellent. Nationalizing systems can work well for widgets, but not for children, learning, individuality or freedom. Politically biased, uninformed by what works elsewhere, and academically counterproductive, the CCSS is a national experiment on children and dangerous to the nation. The people who control it and push it aren't accountable for it. It's a lesser product than what many states had. It was deceitful from its inception in its adoption, writing, content, promotion and implementation. This was a bipartisan deceit – Republicans are as guilty as Democrats.
The CCSS is a godsend for district leaders, however. Many lack the knowledge necessary to identify a solid curriculum. They habitually adopt programs that are unproved or proved to be failures. The failures of the CCSS won't be known for generations, so they'll have lots of time to retire in comfort.
In math, the CCSS is cementing processes proved over three decades to be failures. Nationalization of education is how extreme constructivists plan to ultimately win the "math wars" – by using the CCSS to mandate their stupid methods across the country. They will destroy more generations of students and further endanger the country.
In English, the CCSS is allowing districts to eliminate great literature, replacing it with "informational" (pro-government, pro-extremist) material. Much of the history, culture, context, and factual information that would help to inform a student's "critical thinking" has been or is being removed or minimized. Ray Bradbury, author of Fahrenheit 451, once presciently noted: "You don't have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them." The CCSS is doing that.
In history and civics, the new themes are content-light and opinion-heavy, pro-victimization, anti-Christian and anti-patriot. America is to be portrayed as bigoted, imperialistic, genocidal, misogynistic and anti-immigrant. Great historical figures and much daring and innovative history are to be eliminated, criticized or minimized. (This is what happens when those who view America with contempt are given free reign over academic standards.)
If the CCSS was ever about helping students academically, its promoters would have had proof of its efficacy – a track record of success. They don't have it. The CCSS is an unproved product. Unfortunately, as bad as it is, the CCSS is just one tentacle of the monster. The Network remains largely hidden as its agenda oozes out around us, like a nasty sludge. It's difficult to confront and defeat what we can't see. It's an ongoing challenge to explain this to people who would rather not believe it.
Another tentacle is the privacy-destroying longitudinal data systems. Another is the flawed testing, all online. Another is teacher evaluations, based on the faulty premise that good teachers can overcome bad curriculum, policy and administration. Another is the de facto federal takeover, now seeping into private schools, preschools, daycares and colleges. Another is the creepy technology: emails for children (that disallow parental access); scanning of driver's licenses; and biometric intrusions on children.
We try to put all of this under the umbrella of the CCSS, and we can't, because the CCSS is not the umbrella. We struggle because we're missing the point. These are tentacles of the same monster. They're separate – related but independent. It's fascist, it's corporatist, it's dictatorial, selfish, larcenousâ¦ Call it what you like, but The Network is in charge and not accountable to anyone.
This is how national tyrannies are born.
The Network's strengths are in its size, money, and near-sociopathic ability and willingness to lie on a daily basis and with impunity. It benefits from our ignorance and passivity. It's easy, safe and pleasant for us to believe that government/corporate "partnerships" are benevolent and that the government is still on our side. We are failing to recognize our new reality.
It's almost too late. The Network now determines problems, makes decisions and provides solutions. It essentially has oversight over itself, and it's rapidly gaining power over the rest of us. It cares less about the children or our rights than it does about protecting its interests. The finer details of the content of the CCSS were always immaterial – a distraction. The CCSS will be whatever The Network wants it to be. The goal was that we lose our power as individuals. Graduates won't know they've been manipulated. The Network wants to be the decider; we are to be the obeyers. Hop to it.
It's risky to draw this picture for the public. Network allies will kick into gear to mock and undermine the message. Since 2009, I've watched this come to fruition, hearing lie after lie about it, even as the dark truth blossomed right there in front of our face. We asked for help from legislators, board directors, government watchdogs, and the media — only to find out that most are part of The Network.
Sometimes a conspiracy "theory" isn't a theory.
Fighting it off requires a certain mindset about freedom, knowledge, the law, the Constitution, and individuality – hence The Network's attacks on those things. The Network is self-regenerating, with a long institutional memory. If it loses a tentacle to a determined group of dissenters, it grows another and renames it. In math, it can be Outcome-Based Education; New Math; Reform Math; inquiry-based math; student-centered learning; or constructivism. If a state rejects the CCSS, The Network can keep it in place under a different name. The Network isn't worried. It intends to win. For the kiddoes, of course.
This is grim, so I hate to leave it here. This is America, and in America, it's never over. But we're now in a battle for our freedom, and most of us appear to not know it. It isn't going to be a walk in the daffodils. The battle cannot be won by a few of us while the rest wait to hear how it went.
More citizens must become motivated, questioning, informed and involved. We must learn, vote, dissent, and inform others (including the few in The Network who will listen). We must stop supporting powerful people who demand that we acquiesce to The Network. We must vote against legislators who vote for The Network. We must walk away from schools run by well-heeled administrators and board directors who express solemn concern over students they never actually help. The Network prefers that we remain uninformed and obedient. As we wait in vain for it to do the right thing for our children, it advances the agenda. It's symbiotic to itself but parasitic to the rest of us.
Americans have been asleep for too long. This battle is necessary to our children's future as free Americans. If we don't save them now from The Network, we risk losing them to it forever.
Laurie H. Rogers has a bachelor's degree in mass communication and a master's in interpersonal communication, emphasizing the evaluation of argumentation and logic. In 2001, she founded Safer Child, Inc., a nonprofit child advocacy information resource. In 2007, she narrowed her advocacy to public education, and in 2010, she founded Focus on the Squareâ¢, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving American K-12 education.
Laurie is the author of the blog "Betrayed," located at http://betrayed-whyeducationisfailing.blogspot.com/. Her book Betrayed: How the Education Establishment Has Betrayed America and What You Can Do about It (Rowman & Littlefield Education, 2011) is now available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
Besides serving on the executive committee for Where's the Math?, Laurie has a background in finance, journalism and child advocacy. She has volunteered in schools – tutoring children in literacy and math, and teaching chess, argumentation and knitting. She lives in Spokane with her husband, daughter and two cats.
Contact Laurie Rogers at [email protected].