In the past week, Govs. Nikki Haley of South Carolina and Mary Fallin of Oklahoma evicted Common Core from public schools, even at the risk of losing hundreds of millions of federal dollars promised to states adopting it. Haley and Fallin initially supported Common Core, but public outrage is forcing them to reverse course, and more states will follow. In New York, Rob Astorino, the Republican conservative challenger to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, vows to topple Common Core if he wins in November.
Move over, Obamacare. Midterm elections will also be referendums on Obamacore.
Contrary to what the public is told, Common Core is not about standards. It’s about content — what school kids are taught. In the social studies framework approved on April 29 by New York State’s education authorities (but not parents), American history is presented as four centuries of racism, economic oppression and gender discrimination. Teachers are encouraged to help students identify their differences instead of their common American identity. Gone are heroes, ideals and American exceptionalism.
Eleventh-grade American history, for example, begins with the colonial period, but Puritans and their churches, standing on virtually every New England town green to this day, are erased. Amazingly, Puritan leader John Winthrop’s “city on a hill” vision — an enduring symbol of American exceptionalism cited by politicians from John F. Kennedy to Ronald Reagan and Michael Dukakis — is gone. Religion is expunged from New York State’s account of how this nation began.
Instead, the focus is on “Native Americans who eventually lost much of their land and experienced a drastic decline in population through diseases and armed conflict.” The other focus is on slavery and indentured servitude. True, the curriculum includes political developments and democratic principles. But overall, it’s so slanted it’s untrue.
The indoctrination begins early. In third grade, “students are introduced to the concepts of prejudice, discrimination and human rights, as well as social action.” Fourth-grade suggested reading includes “The Kid’s Guide to Social Action.”
Ninth grade shortchanges the discovery of the Americas by European explorers, renaming it “The Encounter.” Students will “map the exchange of crops and animals and the spread of diseases across the world” due to The Encounter, and study “the decimation of indigenous populations in the Americas” and the “the impact of the Atlantic slave trade on Africa, including the development of the kingdoms of the Ashanti and Dahomey.”
Common Core was invented by a handful of Washington-based education “experts” five years ago and bankrolled by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. But it took off when the Obama administration put $4.3 billion in state education grants called Race to the Top in the stimulus bill. President Barack Obama’s Education Secretary Arne Duncan made it clear the surest way for states to qualify was to adopt Common Core. Some states took it unseen, since the first grant applications were due in January 2010, and the standards were not written until months later. New York adopted Common Core in July 2010, in return for $697 million.
All in all, 45 states signed on to a program that had never been tested in even one school. What pomposity.
Common Core eliminates handwriting, the basis of communication for over 2,000 years. Students learn to print in kindergarten and first grade, but then instruction shifts to keyboards. The next generation will not be able to read a historical document in its original form or even a letter from Grandma. Worse, scientists warn that this ignores the proven connection between writing and absorbing information. Kids will learn less and remember less.
Private schools and home schooling won’t shield you if you want your children to compete for college. ACT and SAT tests are already being aligned with Common Core. This is a no-exit system.
But what’s most at stake is truth. Novelist George Orwell warned in “1984” how distorting history destroyed freedom: “The past was erased, the erasure was forgotten, the lie became truth.”
Betsy McCaughey has a Ph.D. in American history and has taught at Vassar and Columbia University. She is a former lieutenant governor of New York and the author of “Beating Obamacare.”