Glenn Beck hosted an anti-Common Core extravaganza tonight. At least in my neck of the woods, the theaters that live-streamed the event were sold out weeks before. It’s easy to criticize Beck—he can sound like a conspiracy theorist, and he hopped on the Common Core pony just in time to make a lot of money and publicity from people’s frustration and ignorance.
But he did that by actually listening to his constituency, because Beck’s audience kept demanding he pay attention to these national curriculum mandates and their accompanying federally funded tests. If politicians did that, U.S. education might be in for less of a Common Core-induced trainwreck. The polls keep showing normal people hate this central-planning solution for other people’s children straight from this country’s moneyed elite.
Common Core’s origin within tax-financed courtier clubs should have made that obvious, oh, five years ago, but when $148 million from Bill Gates and at least $10 million from the feds help spread deceptive ideas, it’s harder for the truth to shine. Federal demands that states sign onto Common Core before it was even published sure sped it into schools, but also handed opponents strong arguments about too little public participation and far too much federal coercion. People who want to criticize Beck for being a flamboyant, audience-focused entertainer should consider that he started informing the public when they thought explaining this sea change in education to the people paying for it was unimportant.
Now attention from folks like Beck and Michelle Malkin, combined with years of sweat equity from moms and dads whose kids are being hurt by this national initiative, have made Common Core the political issue it was all along, perhaps it’s a good time to review public opinion on the matter, because they’re winning it.
Here are four major stories polls tell us about how normal people think about Common Core, after a huge increase in media attention and political activity in the first half of 2014, which took four years after Common Core became law to show up.
Lots Of People Still Have No Idea
The well-financed narrative is that “the standards are informed by…feedback from the public,” its website says. That’s complete news to the rubes out here in flyover country, because about half of them have still not heard of this thing that commands practically all of American education for the foreseeable future.
The most recent poll on this question, from MSNBC/Wall Street Journal, finds 47 percent of Americans have still never heard of Common Core. That’s the most-informed poll finding yet. Two years after it passed, 79 percent of Americans had not heard of Common Core, according to Gallup. Even this May, 61 percent of Americans in a University of Connecticut poll reported they had never heard of Common Core, while 95 percent had heard of its predecessor, No Child Left Behind.
There’s clearly an information vacuum here. Whether one likes Beck or not, at least he’s trying to fill it. That’s more than one can say about Common Core proponents, who have retreated to their think tank towers to bemoan how if Common Core falls, its demise will be due to “misinformation” and “poor implementation.” It’s always the pawns’ fault they’re not easily guided.
The More They Know, the Less They Like It
Polls also show that the more people know about Common Core, the less they tend to like it. That’s likely the right way to read the MSNBC/WSJ poll. A Rasmussen poll from June saw a huge drop in parents’ support, from 52 percent to 34 percent support. Parents in the poll now oppose Common Core, 47 to 34 percent. A Friedman Foundation poll found narrower parental disapproval, but still disapproval, in June.
In New York, which may have the best-informed electorate on Common Core because it’s the main issue in the governor’s race, almost every demographic is against Common Core. At Slate, Dave Weigel comments:
In a very short time, opposition to Common Core has evolved from a fringe Republican position that blue-staters laugh at to a position that clearly wins out in blue New York. When independents break against something by a 14-point margin, politicians generally look awkwardly for the escape hatches.
That’s got to be why Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker just reminded everybody he wants Common Core replaced in Wisconsin (although last time he said that his suggestion was having its biggest proponent in the state decide on its replacement), why Indiana’s Mike Pence went through the trouble of rebranding Common Core as something else, and Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal’s now fighting his education wingman to strip the mandates he formerly championed.
Business Folks Actually Oppose Common Core
You wouldn’t know it from the frenzied advocacy spending by state and national Chambers of Commerce, but business-minded Republicans agree with Tea Partiers on Common Core. In a June Pew poll, 61 percent of both demographics disapproved of the curriculum mandates. Vox’s Libby Nelson, who used to report on education for Politico, interprets: “Business conservatives will side with the Chamber of Commerce, and not with other conservatives, on business issues like immigration and Wall Street. But they just don’t seem to buy the Common Core as a business issue. Instead, the standards are seen as yet another facet of Washington run amok. The responses on the Common Core questions look like those to other questions about the proper size and role of government—questions that brought business and steadfast conservatives together.”
Glenn Beck Isn’t the Problem, and Neither Is ‘Implementation’
Supposedly California has been doing really well at putting Common Core into place, but that hasn’t stopped voters there from reversing their support for it into a 42 percent plurality now opposed. Maybe it’s the nearly $3 billion the state is throwing at schools for Common Core.
The response from Common Core supporters often sounds like this: The ideas are good. But stupid people are messing them up. (They use nicer words—typically it’s “implementation is the problem.”) As the Brookings Institution’s Tom Loveless wrote, “[W]hen CCSS’s advocates talk about implementation, it seems to mean every important activity in education outside of adopting standards. By meaning almost everything, it means nothing.” And no one would accept that argument about an iPad, or democracy, or a business failure: “The concept sounded great, but it didn’t work in real life.” We call those “bad ideas,” or “you’re fired” moments. And education policy is full of them, but nobody ever seems to get fired because of them.
“Throughout the history of American education, when reformers’ pet ideas have failed, the failure has been laid at the feet of ‘poor implementation,’” Loveless observes.
It’s already obvious that Common Core proponents will blame Glenn Beck when their shoddy edifice collapses under its own weight and public opinion. He may ultimately deserve some of that credit, but they deserve more.