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This is an open letter to my colleagues and peers on the State Committee of the Republican Party of Florida.
2 January 2014
To my fellow RPOF Committee members:
In advance of our Annual meeting I want to lend the following for your consideration.
Common Core and the Republic
Let me start with the most basic of definitions that are accepted in practice by all. They come from the dictionary. That way we can establish a “common ground” on which to begin this discussion. Let’s look at the two definitions and then extrapolate their meaning when combined.
- belonging to or shared by two or more people or groups
Noun, often attributive \ˈkȯr\
- a central and often foundational part usually distinct from the enveloping part by a difference in nature
- an arrangement of a course of studies that combines under basic topics material from subjects conventionally separated and aims to provide a common background for all students
- the inmost or most intimate part
We could safely say that Common Core is a shared prearrangement of course studies. Or, we could say, that Common Core is an inmost or intimate collective foundation of teaching guidelines. Or we could just look at the definition above and accept that it is an arrangement of a course of studies that combines under basic topics material from subjects conventionally separated and aims to provide a common background for all students
In other words, “common core” is a centralized regulatory bureaucracy of fundamental teaching requirements. “Common core” is much like the “Affordable Care Act”; both are federally centralized programs that create regulatory conditions the rest of us have to meet.
While proponents will say it is not a federal program, it is. The Common Core testing consortia funded by the US Department of Education (by “shovel ready” stimulus money) are developing the assessments for Common Core, which will drive classroom instruction.
We all know teachers are forced to teach to the test because assessments are intended to reflect their performance. States would be wise to withdraw from the Smarter Balanced and PARCC testing consortium if they don’t want to incur huge expense and if they want to protect personal student level data. The consortia’s contract with the feds requires them to provide student level data to the federal government. It is to the credit of our Governor that we have done so in Florida. This is a good first step.
Here in lies the dilemma
Today we find ourselves in a place that opponents continue to argue against the theme of a “common core” as a dangerous ideological machine that has potential for indoctrination.
Proponents continue to argue that it is not a centralized or collective way of teaching all of the children in this country the same things in the same way.
So who is correct?
If these are to be the foundations of the argument then, to this end, there will be no resolve. It is not possible to argue the lack of merit of “common core” when proponents use emotion and subjective speech to explain it. Proponents do not have an honest foundation for their arguments and base their positions on semantics.
They attempt to decry the centralization by suggesting that testing standards do not equate to curriculum. Yet in order for a curriculum to achieve testing standards the curriculum must be tied back to the standard in order to succeed. For example, if a common or centralized standard mandates that “2+2 = 5”, then in order for my curriculum to be correct, I must teach the same.
Proponents will tell you that it is the nation’s governors and education commissioners, through their representative organizations the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) that led the development of the Common Core State Standards and continue to lead the initiative.
When in reality they are a smoke screen or cover. The Common Core testing consortia funded by the US Department of Education are developing the assessments for Common Core, which will drive classroom instruction.
It seems that reality has been turned upside down and inside out. When we as free thinking rational American adults cannot look at this for what it is and express concern without being chided and labeled as extremists we have a problem.
The problem my friend is apparent. It is philosophic. It is ideological. It is Liberty vs. Progressivism.
When discussing “common core” forget about the techniques and intimate delivery of the collectivist goal of “common core”. You will be lost in an esoteric battle of words. It is a battle that has been well designed and thought out by the progressive movement. What is at stake is the core philosophy of centralized education and its conflict with the American way of life and governance. That is the issue.
The argument to be made against this ideological monster is the Constitution. First, I would challenge any proponent to show me where there is Constitutional authority for this draconian mandate. What Amendment to the Constitution expresses given authority to the Federal Government for the management of our children’s education? This is not a rhetorical question. It is a foundational one. The same foundation we declared to be sovereign. The same that many of us swore to uphold.
Constitutional authority is not the same as “Regulatory Over-reach”. It is that those powers not granted the Federal Government by the Constitution of the United States are then relegated to the States themselves. Not an agency or panel of experts.
Finding a way to establish an unconstitutional mandate through piecing together bait and switch facades does not make it proper or right.
Proponents will argue that a States acceptance of the program is proof that the tenth amendment is not being violated. They will say that the Governors and their people are driving it. However, it is important to understand the “common core” is a fiduciary requirement and outcome from previous Federal carrots eaten whole by the States. These are TARP and Race to the Top. The full extent of the contract known as “common core” was not available at the time of signature on these two agreements.
If the outcomes from previous federal dollar acceptance are not met then there is a financial penalty to the State. It is so great that most States are not willing or even able to take the step to reject it. So, the tenth Amendment argument to me is a thin one and was foreseen and manipulated by gamesmanship and near extortion by the proponents. “Common core” did not just fall off of a book shelf or spawn itself in whole from a conclave of Governors. It was designed and war boarded with extreme precision and progressive intent. The players have been lead down a path to ruin by deceit and greed.
“Race to the Top marks a historic moment in American education. This initiative offers bold incentives to states willing to spur systemic reform to improve teaching and learning in America’s schools. Race to the Top has ushered in significant change in our education system, particularly in raising standards and aligning policies and structures to the goal of college and career readiness. Race to the Top has helped drive states nationwide to pursue higher standards, improve teacher effectiveness, use data effectively in the classroom, and adopt new strategies to help struggling schools. “
The movement essentially bribed states into implementation via ‘Race to the Top,’ offering $4.35 billion taxpayer dollars to participating states. And much like No Child Left Behind, the program promises national testing and a one-size-fits-all education, because hey, it worked so well the first time.
If nothing else, these standards are a glowing conflict of capital interest and they lack the research they allegedly received.
If we cede this over-reach to the Progressive idealists we have just set new precedent that will allow for a less progressive and more accelerated implementation of federally centralized programs and it will continue to consume your very freedom.
No, I say to you that the argument for this great body known as the Republican Party of Florida needs to be based on “Common Sense” and not on “Common Core”. Let the proponents explain to our great body how federally mandated centralized testing, measuring and outside corporate involvement in our children’s education is anything that resembles our principles as Republicans and Americans.
One of the top cheerleaders for “common core” is Florida’s former Governor Jeb Bush. It cannot be denied honestly that Mr. Bush was also the top cheerleader and architect for FCAT. FCAT is a system that evidently failed. In Mr. Bush’s own words;
“The Common Core State Standards are higher; they’re fewer; they require more critical thinking skills,” Bush said, “and they will, unfortunately, at the beginning, they will probably show that close to two-thirds of our children are not college and career ready.”
Mr. Bush isn’t worried that Common Core hasn’t been field tested, and he trusts experts who say Common Core more closely resembles international standards.
So am I to then surmise that the architect and proponent for FCAT is saying it was a failure therefore we should trust him on the new standards. If he was unable to orchestrate a successful State level centralized educational system to effectively train and teach our children, what makes you think he has the answer for a national approach?
Further, am I to understand we are now measuring ourselves on International Standards instead of being exceptional at home? Since when do we as Americans not have the rest of the world’s nation’s measuring against our achievement? Why should we bring ourselves down to their standards? We are America. We should be working towards better than International standards for ourselves. We are exceptional when we try.
We were asked as good Republicans to cover Mr. Bush’s back on FCAT and support him while he was Governor. I for one have learned my lesson. I will not cover your six on this one sir. What is wrong for America is wrong, regardless of party affiliation.
The answer to all of this is simple. Scrap “common core” and return the teaching to the local level. But, do we as an institution and government have the will to do what is right? Do we have a structure and a system of which we are a part that is honest enough to take a stand for what is right?
The question should not be on the merit of the detail of “common core”. The question should be asked as to the health of our political systems and the state of our Republic that would allow for this idea to permeate our society and corrupt our culture. It should be asked if we have the will to defend our way of life.
There is a time to say NO and the time to do so is before your ability to say so is gone. Are we here to lead or are we here to be useful pawns in orchestrating the will of but a few that think they know better on how to serve the many?
What say you?
Eric D. Miller
Martin County State Committeeman RPOF