How Common Core Fulfills Hillary Clinton’s Education Dreams

How Common Core Fulfills Hillary Clinton’s Education Dreams

If Hillary Clinton had never played a pivotal role in creating and accomplishing her husband’s education agenda in the ‘90s, we might well not have Common Core.
Joy Pullmann
By

Recently, Hillary Clinton interviewed with Newsday, a daily paper in her “home” state of New York that circulates where opposition to Common Core is among the most forceful in the country. In it, Clinton reiterated her support for Common Core, noting “I have always supported national standards.”

Early in her campaign, the long-time education nationalizer had stayed noticeably silent on this topic until a staged Iowa interaction with a teacher last year in which she called education a “non-family enterprise.” More from the Newsday interview:

Clinton: Well, I have always supported national standards. I’ve always believed that we need to have some basis on which to determine whether we’re making progress, vis-à-vis other countries who all have national standards. And I’ve also been involved in the past, not recently, in promoting such an approach and I know Common Core started out as a, actually non-partisan, not bi-partisan, a non-partisan effort that was endorsed very much across the political spectrum…you need to be sure that you are benchmarking to those standards. That’s why we need to have them. What went wrong? I think the roll-out was disastrous. I think the way they rolled out the Common Core and the expectation you can turn on a dime…
Filler: So you wouldn’t say don’t do it, you would say do it right.
Clinton: Do it right. Do it right and I would say I think we need better and fewer tests that are used for what tests should be used for, first and foremost as to how to improve the educational outcomes for individual children, for classes of children, and for schools of children.
Filler: Should they be used at all to determine whether teachers are being successful?
Clinton: I think given the state of where testing is right now, I don’t think they’re good enough to make that determination.

Common Core is deeply unpopular, not just in New York, but across the country, and the unpopularity has only grown as it has moved into schools since 2010. From just 2013 to 2015, teacher support for Common Core dropped like a rock, from 76 percent to 40 percent support.

Consequently, people politically invested in Common Core such as Hillary Clinton have fallen back on the same old “implementation” line all utopian schemers use when confronted with the real-world catastrophes their grand schemes always create. “We need to have” Common Core, it’s just those rubes in the states and local school districts bungled it. They don’t have the money, they don’t have the right structure. It was ahead of its time.

Next time, though, we’ll do it right. Never mind that millions of American kids are now struggling in school thanks to the failure of these same ideas. Ya gotta crack some eggs to make an omelet, you know?

One of These Things Is a Lot Like the Other

In this interview, Hillary alluded to but didn’t expand on her role in making Common Core. The truth is, if Hillary Clinton had never played a pivotal role in creating and accomplishing her husband’s education agenda in the ‘90s, we might well not have Common Core. The education structure she helped design and push is a direct precursor to Common Core, and Common Core actually fulfills parts of the agenda she wasn’t able to get passed then.

The education structure Hillary helped design and push is a direct precursor to Common Core, and Common Core actually fulfills parts of the agenda she wasn’t able to get passed.

To show how, let’s go back in education policy history a little earlier, to the 1980s. In 1983, the Reagan administration issued the famous “A Nation at Risk” report that revealed a steep decline in the quality of American public schools. It sparked a raging national debate over education quality, which, according to meticulous reporting at the time from my Heartland Institute colleague Bob Holland, gave impetus for leftist politicos to redesign U.S. schools.

Holland’s 1995 book, “Not With My Child, You Don’t,” recounts further key details that show how Hillary and Co. laid the groundwork for Common Core all those years ago. In 1989, the National Center for Education and the Economy—a highly connected “nonprofit” that prefigured the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s later massive bankroll of Common Core—formed a commission under the U.S. Department of Labor. That commission featured, among other key players, Hillary Rodham Clinton, NCEE leader Marc Tucker, Michael Cohen (who was pivotal both to Clinton’s Goals 2000 and later Common Core), and HillaryCore architect Ira Magaziner.

This commission issued several reports outlining education policies the Clinton administration enacted when it came to power in 1992. In fact, Cohen helped set the stage for this policy coup by, as the National Governors Association’s education analyst, engineering another key event: the 1989 Charlottesville “summit” between President George H.W. Bush and many states’ governors.

There, for the first time in U.S. history, they set national education goals (notably without any input from legislative branches, either in the states themselves or through Congress; that’s the exact same template Common Core followed to become, not law, but effective law through executive-branch regulation). Common Core fulfills a major goal of that summit, and was moved into place by key organizations that both spearheaded and resulted from the summit. Who chaired that summit? Then-governor of Arkansas Bill Clinton.

Hillary Clinton: A Key Player in Nationalizing Education

What about Hillary? She was right there the whole time. It’s well-known that Hillary and Magaziner worked together to write and push HillaryCare, Clinton’s health-care nationalization scheme. That the duo also worked on an education nationalization scheme is less well-known—oddly so, because it was more effective. The two initiatives were also deliberately linked, just as Common Core has been: The health and education policies of both eras feed a system of networked government databases designed to track citizens for life.

NCEE, the agenda-setting nonprofit on whose commission Hillary sat once her husband was elected, issued a 1990 report that essentially outlined what would become Bill Clinton’s education agenda as president, NCEE itself says:

almost the entire agenda advanced in the report was enacted into legislation by the Congress and signed into law by the President, including the School-to-Work Act, the National Skill Standards Board, and the Workforce Investment Act. At the Rose Garden ceremony at which President Clinton signed his signature education legislation, the President departed from his prepared remarks to single out the contribution made by NCEE to the national education reform agenda.  Subsequently, many states also enacted policies designed to support the recommendations made in the America’s Choice report.

In March 1992, Clinton and Magaziner co-authored a journal article that essentially paraphrases the national education policy schemes in this report and which Tucker repeated to Hillary in a letter he sent her the week after her husband won the presidency in 1991. It’s known as the “Dear Hillary” letter. All of these documents stress the need to “comprehensively” “reorganize” America’s economy and schools. As Tucker wrote to Hillary in 1991: “Nothing less than a wholly restructured school system can possibly bring all of our students up to the standards only a few have been expected to meet up to now.”

Tucker is still chanting this mantra. In the face of evidence that Common Core is not improving student achievement, as he and its myriad other backers promised, he wrote this March that Common Core “will make no difference at all to student performance unless the other parts of the education system are crafted to use those standards to get the desired results” (emphasis added).

It’s not just about the curriculum mandates, and it never has been. It’s about using them as leverage to change—and control—everything. The Obama administration made it very clear that it intended Common Core to “leverage systemic reform”—e.g., get states in line with its agenda despite lacking the legal authority to do so. How did the Clinton cabal want to “restructure” U.S. education? Similarly to the way Common Core has.

How Goals 2000 Prefigured Common Core

Let’s compare the Clintons’ signature education laws—Goals 2000, School to Work, and workforce credentialing—and Common Core. They are breathtakingly similar in personnel, structure, and goals. They are essentially mirror images of each other, separated only by approximately 20 years.

Among their commonalities are: Fusing education, labor, and health care policies; using big data to track and manage the citizenry; using education to accomplish national economic planning; combining national curriculum mandates with tests that enforce lawmakers’ will on teachers and schools; blending high school and college by lowering academic standards and turning the latter into voc-tech; and emphasizing sociopolitical behaviors and attitudes (such as sexuality, separating children and parents by needlessly teaching them differently, and socializing them to go along with the crowd) in the curriculum, not objectively measurable academic knowledge.

In other words, a key executor of the Clintons’ education policies went on to become a pivotal figure in enacting Common Core.

Tucker’s letter proposes a system in which “curriculum, pedagogy, examinations, and teacher education and licensure systems are all linked to the national standards.” Common Core and the Obama administration’s related demands of states have made this mission accomplished.

Clinton’s Goals 2000 law created a federal panel with power to approve or deny states’ curriculum mandates. When Republicans retook Congress in 1994 for the first time since the federal government had assumed direct power over the nation’s schools under President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society, this panel was one of the first things they ditched, charging that it constituted a “national school board.” A similar provision has now become law again under the Every Student Succeeds Act, which Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander was pivotal in herding to Obama’s desk for his signature.

Cohen, who had been on the NCEE panel with Hillary, went on to work in Bill Clinton’s U.S. Department of Education and write his Goals 2000 legislation. After the Clinton years, Cohen headed up a federally funded nonprofit called Achieve, which first spent the intervening years cultivating state bureaucrats’ attachment to centralized curriculum and homogenizing nearly half of states’ curriculum and testing mandates. Although this work did not result in student achievement gains, it did become the basis of Common Core and result in a lifetime of well-paid employment for Cohen.

Under Cohen, Achieve took millions from the Gates Foundation to write Common Core, then millions from the Obama administration to create a set of Common Core tests called PARCC, which has now gone down in flames thanks to inept execution. In other words, a key executor of the Clintons’ education policies went on to become a pivotal figure in enacting Common Core.

Don’t Tell the Public Or They Won’t Like It

Tucker’s letter to Hillary contains some extraordinary passages exposing his contempt for American-style government, in which we, the people are supposed to govern our own lives and government acts as our servant, not our master.

The way to centralize education was by pretending that was precisely not what you were doing—just like the Clinton administration had, by giving states grants to do its bidding.

His policy proposals—which, again, the organization whose commission he chaired with Hillary says were largely enacted during Bill Clinton’s tenure—are “very complex, will take a long time to sell, and will have to be revised many times along the way. The right way to think about it is as an internal working document that forms the background for a plan, not the plan itself. One would want to make sure that the specific actions of the new administration were designed, in a general way, to advance this agenda as it evolved, while not committing anyone to the details, which would change over time.”

Now perhaps the most revealing passage: “The question is how to get from where we are to where we want to be. Trying to ram it down everyone’s throat would engender overwhelming opposition. Our idea is to draft legislation that…would require the executive branch to establish a competitive grant program for these states and cities and to engage a group of organizations to offer technical assistance to the expanding set of states and cities engaged in designing and implementing the new system.”

This is precisely how Common Core became the reigning structure of the U.S. education system. In fact, education nationalizers disappointed at the incomplete success of Tucker and Hillary’s schemes, after a newly Republican Congress dispatched major parts of the plan in Bill’s first term, recommended following this strategy yet again, with modifications.

In 2000, two researchers published a case study of the Clintons’ Goals 2000 efforts to “nationalize” American education. It concluded that, to be effective, “a national education strategy has to be driven by the states, working in conjunction with a wide variety of nongovernmental national organizations.” The way to centralize education was by pretending that was precisely not what you were doing—just like the first Bush and Clinton administrations had, by giving states grants to do its bidding rather than just directly making them do things.

Federal influence through the Clinton administration made the corporate-leftist ‘standards-based reform’ configuration the default.

Again, this is exactly the playbook the Obama administration also followed to implement Common Core, a playbook the Clinton administration had written. Federal influence through the Clinton and Bush administrations made the corporate-leftist “standards-based reform” configuration default for American education. The Obama administration merely ran the same play for another down closer to the nationalization goal line.

Tucker told Hillary: “Radical changes in attitudes, values and beliefs are required to move any combination of these agendas.” He said the way to overcome this resistance was “consensus building” among governors and Congress. This same game plan, including many of the very same people and organizations, created Common Core.

Yes, Virginia, the End Goal Is Complete Central Planning

In her Newsday interview, Hillary also subtly affirmed the end game of Common Core and all other statist schemes for education, no matter their labels. Here’s another excerpt of that interview:

…just like you were talking about Common Core and to set some standards, we need to have a common set of standards by which we judge all the schools, all the public schools, traditional, charter, magnet, whatever we call them…Remember the original idea behind charter schools was let’s loosen some of the restrictions, but then once they try things, let’s migrate them back into the public schools.

Put two phrases here together: “we need to have a common set of standards by which we judge all the schools” and “once they try things, let’s migrate them back to the public schools.” Statists like Hillary Clinton see freedom as something to be parceled out in carefully controlled conditions, then retracted as soon as possible.

Charter schools are a form of public school in which the operators are given freedom to determine how they spend money, who they hire, and what they teach in exchange for having to meet performance benchmarks within a few years or be shut down. They’ve blossomed as traditional public schools have increasingly deteriorated, largely because they offer better environments to children based on parent choice, and as public schools are paid through taxes rather than tuition.

Statists like Hillary Clinton see freedom as something to be parceled out in carefully controlled conditions, then retracted as soon as possible.

Clinton here says that charter schools should be “migrate[d] back into the public schools,” or placed under the very government rules that have choked public-school quality and thereby given rise to the demand for charter schools in the first place. It’s also really interesting that she discussed this in the context of talking about Common Core, because Common Core is a tool for doing precisely that, not just with charter schools but with private schools and homeschools.

That’s because Common Core is, among other things, a blueprint for national testing (again, an idea embedded directly inside the Clintons’ 1990s education agenda). It acts as a dragnet to push every single child and every single form of schooling into one vision for education—the Common Core vision. Every charter school has to administer annual, government-mandated tests, and so do many home and private schools. Measuring them in terms of Common Core is thus a powerful force to push all schools into teaching what Common Core demands so their students look good on Common Core tests.

They have used the police power of government and our own tax dollars to herd our children into separate and unequal system of schooling from the one they have enjoyed.

This in itself doesn’t prove that students are “educated.” If we measured everyone in the country according to jumping ability, and said how high you can jump indicates how well you are educated, a lot of people would be mislabeled. Jumping is not a proxy for education. And neither is Common Core. Common Core represents what some people think an education high-school graduate should know; but many independent experts and other intelligent observers disagree.

In fact, it seems that the Clintons and Obamas themselves disagree. Bill and Hillary Clinton’s daughter Chelsea attended Sidwell Friends in DC for high school, the same school President Obama’s daughters attend. Guess what? Sidwell doesn’t use Common Core. It also wasn’t subject to Goals 2000 during the Clinton years. Lack of a Common Core or School-to-Work stamp didn’t frighten either the Obamas or the Clintons from sending their daughters there, with nary a fear expressed of being “unprepared for the global economy.”

But they want all the rest of us to not only feel frightened from following their example in exercising independent judgment about what constitutes a good education, they want to force all the rest of us to do as they say, not as they do. They have used the police power of government and our own tax dollars to herd our children into separate and unequal system of schooling from the one they have enjoyed.

That’s what Clinton means when she says “we need to have a common set of standards by which we judge all the schools.” Standards is just an education weasel word for “criteria my buddies and I get to set but you don’t.”

Joy Pullmann is managing editor of The Federalist and author of "The Education Invasion: How Common Core Fights Parents for Control of American Kids," out from Encounter Books February 28. Pre-order on Amazon.

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