It’s crucial you don’t see a free 40-minute documentary film out today or you might get concerned about an effort to control and dramatically reshape every American child’s education. Building the Machine has Common Core right: It’s the biggest reform you know nothing about.
The movie’s ominous background music is a tip-off to its generally negative take on the national curriculum and testing mandates, but that is mostly the fault of Common Core itself and its proponents. Of the many proponents the documentary’s director contacted for an interview, only two agreed to appear in the film.
That’s not a fluke. In my own reporting on the subject, it typically takes months of email and voicemail nagging to get some PR flack to finally refuse to answer my questions, if I get any response at all. And it’s not just me. Last month, a public relations guy for a national schools organization called me to ask if I knew how to get ahold of any of the key Common Core players so he could help them promote it. They wouldn’t answer any of his calls, either.
“‘You are really going to have to work on this Common Core thing if you think that it’s going to be accepted around the country,’” Jim Dunn said he wanted to tell Bill Gates’s foundation. Gates essentially bankrolled Common Core, as the documentary notes. “Calling people names and trivializing their concerns is shooting themselves in the foot.”
Too bad they’re not listening, because he’s right. In response to this movie, the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSS) and U.S. Chamber of Commerce (which received big bucks from Gates to, respectively, create and promote common Core) have decided to again call people names and trivialize their concerns. Oh, and release a counter-documentary and “fact sheets” spinning what they clearly view as a devastating film.
A bunch of Missouri moms came across an email from CCSSO (more at Breitbart) complaining that “The film implies that the Common Core was created through politics, misinformation and corruption.” That’s because this is essentially true. If CCSSO wants to dispute that, it should stop releasing content-less talking points and instead release all the documents, emails, and deliberations related to creating these national mandates to prove that they really did run an open process like, you know, public bodies such as school boards must when they make policy. Unfortunately, the truth makes them look bad, so they have to stick to carefully worded talking points.
That’s probably why, instead of facing straight questions from interviewers who might not already be in the tank for them, Common Core proponents prefer instead to stick to pitched interviews to friendly news organizations, like Bill Gates’s recent one-on-one with George Stephanopoulos. I challenge any Common Core proponent to name one factual error in this movie. No, smears, labels, and insinuations won’t do. I want anyone to quote a factual error. My Twitter feed’s open.
But enough of this manufactured spit fight. How about instead of letting overpaid spinmasters filter Common Core information for you, you actually take a look at the documentary for yourself? It’s free, and it’s only 40 minutes long. That was mercifully short enough for this mom of three kids under age four to be able to see it in just three viewing sessions! Even shorter, here’s a two-page fact sheet for an appetizer.
As for the film itself, it’s likely most folks will agree with its premise: You deserve to know more about the biggest education shift since progressives began centralizing American education in the late 1800s. It matters to everyone, no matter what type of school you send your kids to, or even if you don’t have kids, because the people interviewed for this film charge that Common Core endangers our economy and political freedoms. Their concerns cross political boundaries.
As Building the Machine concludes, no matter where you eventually raise your flag on the topic, it’s important that you get informed and get involved. The more central planners control education, the darker America’s future. For all that, however, there’s still hope. There are still people in this country brave enough to speak truth to power. Some of those people are on this film. And they need you to join them.
(Full disclosure: I was interviewed for the documentary almost a year ago. After that, I have had no involvement with the film besides suggesting other potential interviewees and signing a waiver allowing them to use their recording of me.)