Strange Political Bedfellows Join Forces Against the Common Core

Progressives and conservatives are not big fans of the new Common Core State Standards. Here’s why.
Glenn Beck does not like the Common Core Standards—and he is not alone. (Photo: Getty Images)
May 14, 2013· 2 MIN READ
Suzi Parker is a regular contributor to TakePart. Her work also appears in The Christian Science Monitor and Reuters.

In our current politically divided environment, it seems unlikely that progressives and conservatives would create an alliance on a hot-button issue.

However, when it comes to the implementation of the Common Core State Standards, many members of these polar opposite groups are on the same page.

“I checked my Democrat card at the door of this movement and am now a full-blown Independent,” Kris Nielsen, a parent of four who lives in Syracuse, New York, told TakePart. “Party politics serves no purpose here, other than to provide the distractions so desperately needed by the creators of this education takeover.”

Neilsen said that once the shift to Common Core started, he saw the environment in schools become toxic.

“Instead of a community, we started to become distrustful of each other and wary of our colleagues, our parents, and our administrators,” he said. “Schools are no longer safe or nurturing for children. And that’s no accident.”

Common Core State Standards aim to implement more clear and measurable standards for all students. In doing this, it could also bring something else to the table that many parents and teachers do not like—more testing.

As reporter Peg Tyre wrote in a previous TakePart series about the standards, “We are—in good and bad ways—obsessed with testing.”

Tyre went on to explain how this could be the Common Core’s fatal flaw.

“For some students, especially ones in test-happy states, the new generation of testing might actually reduce the hours per school year spent taking tests,” she wrote. “But if the Common Core tests are introduced along with special state or district-devised ‘tests to prepare you for the tests,’ our kids could be in serious trouble. More testing means less learning.”

As it stands now, third graders will take eight hours of testing for the Common Core; eighth graders will take 9.5 hours.

Critics have said that while the standards have been pushed by officials in Washington, including the Obama Administation, the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center), and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), big, private money lies at the heart of these standards. That’s why progressives, some from the Occupy movement, and Tea Party conservatives have aligned.

This week, The Washington Post reported that Bill and Melinda Gates gave $150 million in grants for the Common Core Standards. The article notes that the “grants were given for a range of reasons, including developing materials aligned to the standards and building support for the standards.”

Oil giant ExxonMobil is also an ardent supporter of the standards and has a page dedicated to them on its website. The mammoth company has run commercials throughout the country touting its support. Conservative, and Common Core critic, Glenn Beck questioned why an oil company would support the standards since it doesn’t have any connection to education.

Critics of the Common Core typically resent what they see as a federal intrusion into education.

“I think some conservatives are very critical of the marriage of big corporations and big government and the coalition behind Common Core is a classic case of this, erasing any pretense of local initiative and local control,” Mark Naison, a Fordham University professor of African-American studies and history, and a critic of excessive school testing, told TakePart.

Jerusha Conner, a professor of education at Villanova University, agrees.

“Critics of the Common Core typically resent what they see as a federal intrusion into education, increasing standardization (a “one-size-fits-all” approach), and policymakers’ continued preoccupation with aligning learning objectives with discreet test items that can be measured with ease and efficiency.” Conner told TakePart.

She said that to critics, the standards “perpetuate No Child Left Behind’s emphasis on high-stakes testing, and it layers on additional mandates without matching capacity-building.”

Eric Mihelbergel has joined the push against Common Core Standards and is associated with the Opt-out movement in which students, parents, and educators boycott standardized testing. He aligns with the GOP and calls himself a “liberal Republican.” But when it comes to his children’s education, politics ends.

“The main party I belong to is called Common Sense,” he said in an interview. “There are many things in this country that work very well when run in a capitalistic manner. Education for American children is not one of those things.”