One of the fairy tales central-planning lovers spin about Common Core K-12 curriculum and testing mandates is that they will “reinvigorate[e] the democratic purpose of public education.”
“The Common Core identifies three texts—and only three texts—that every American student must read: the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution (Preamble and Bill of Rights), and Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address,” Ross Wiener, a vice president at the liberal Aspen Institute, gushes further in The Atlantic.
He lauds the “commitment in the Common Core to the democratic mission of public schools.” When liberals are suddenly super-excited about teaching the Constitution, it’s time to raise the suspicious flag, especially from someone who doesn’t seem to realize that it deliberately restrains our country from operating as a democracy. (For the record, Wiener describes the United States as a democracy 12 times and never anything else. He must have never read about ancient Athens—and neither will kids at Common Core’s behest.)
Should conservatives get equally giddy over Common Core’s “once-in-a-generation opportunity to redefine and reprioritize the special role that schools play in preparing students for active civic participation”? Not unless we like perpetuating public schools as recruitment centers for leftist ground troops.
To borrow a metaphor that my farmer father used when we kids were trying to convince him to let us watch a movie or read a book he thought was destructive to our minds and morals: “If I made delicious brownies and just put a bit of manure in it, would you eat it?” In this case, it’s more like serving kids a steaming pile of manure with brownie inside somewhere—Common Core, of course, being the poo and our founding documents being the brownies. We can get kids to read things they should in school without also forcing them to endure the mediocre-quality education Common Core perpetuates, which will not prepare students for a four-year college or a STEM career. If we agree that people make better citizens with a good education, we have to insist kids get the best we can offer them, which even according to Common Core supporters are the standards of California, Indiana, and Massachusetts, which academically trump Common Core.
Further, Wiener either in ignorance or deliberately he does not mention in what context Common Core would have children read our founding documents. Fortunately for informed debate, Hillsdale College history professor Dr. Terrence Moore has thoroughly examined Common Core’s mandates in this regard, and they are shocking. “The texts have been artfully selected to convey a particular bias against the Founding Fathers,” the former Marine lieutenant writes in his recent book, The Story-Killers. He notes that the first mention of the Constitution is in middle school, and Common Core only recommends that students read the Preamble and First Amendment. From the chapter entitled “Superficiality and Bias”:
The Common Core authors apparently do not think that middle school students, even eighth graders, can handle the Constitution as a whole. So they recommend the Preamble, which, of course, could have already been memorized by fourth graders….As a point of comparison, the Core Knowledge Sequence, a well-known K-8 curriculum put out by the Core Knowledge Foundation, requires eighth graders to study the entire Constitution…the entire Bill of Rights and Amendments 13 and 19, and the Marbury v. Madison decision.
While the Preamble and First Amendment are listed at the top of [Common Core’s] list of 6th-8th informational texts, a modern book called Words We Live By: Your Annotated Guide to the Constitution by Linda R. Monk is listed below…On page 95 of Appendix B, where a selection is given from Monk’s guide, we find what the Common Core authors want students to think about the Constitution: ‘…For a sense of the evolving nature of the Constitution, we need look no further than the first three words of the document’s preamble: “We the People.” When the Founding Fathers used this phrase in 1787, they did not have in mind the majority of America’s citizens…’ [The quotation continues in this fashion.] So there you have it—from the Supreme Court’s ‘first African American’ justice. The Founding Fathers were misogynists and racists. Thus, the nature of the Constitution must be ‘evolving.’
Moore goes on to show how Monk’s work is a biased liberal hatchet job against history and how Common Core repeats this exercise later when recommending another similar work to interpret the Bill of Rights for students, which essentially rips into the founders for “hypocrisy, deception, and racism.” See more here. No contrary interpretation of these founding documents is recommended by Common Core, not even the careful vindication of Abraham Lincoln some decades later. So, yes, Common Core requires kids to read the Constitution et al, but in a manner that will predispose impressionable children against it. So that’s why “conservatives” like Jeb Bush and Mike Huckabee support Common Core, right? Like other folks, they continue to project their curricular fantasies onto Common Core rather than reading what it actually says.
The Constitution-hating inside Common Core makes Wiener’s suggestion that “citizenship should be part of how students are tested on the standards” rather frightening, especially since many of the same people and groups that wrote the standards are now writing its tests. Indeed, his sudden concern for highlighting the “good” in Common Core looks especially self-serving when you notice that Aspen is a long-time recipient of money from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the latter has essentially bankrolled Common Core from the get-go, including a fancy-pantsy, hush-hush, millions-of-dollars communications push this spring. Those well-paid, well-connected op-ed placers are working overtime.
Wiener also makes a number of high-minded, conservative-sounding but empty statements about “educating young people for citizenship” and “studying seminal documents of our democracy,” but no matter how you dress it up, poop is still poop and my kids ain’t eating it.
Joy Pullmann is an education research fellow at The Heartland Institute and a 2013 Robert Novak journalism fellow for in-depth reporting on Common Core.