Pro-Common Core Fordham Institute Attacks HSLDA's 'Building The Machine' Documentary

The Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) released Monday its documentary titled Building the Machine, a film that explores the Common Core State Standards and their impact on the American education system. On Monday as well, the pro-Common Core Thomas B. Fordham Institute issued its new “Fact Sheet” on HSLDA’s documentary, one that is intended to reinvigorate proponents of the controversial and failing standards. The problem is the “new” Fact Sheet sounds just like the same old talking points.

As Breitbart News reported Saturday, a leaked email from the deputy executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), one of the nonprofits that developed the Common Core standards, pointed to an attempt at a resurgence of support for the education initiative by CCSSO, the Fordham Institute, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce--all three of which have been funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

In its “Fact Sheet” about HSLDA’s documentary, Fordham states:

The creators of this movie would like you to think the Common Core State Standards were created in a cloak of secrecy by a small group without the input of teachers, parents, or the public. They also falsely assert that state and federal governments broke laws in replacing old state standards. However the process – organized by governors and state education chiefs – included many of the most accomplished educators and academics from across the United States, was thoughtful and deliberative, incredibly inclusive, totally transparent, and completely legal.

The problem is that anything the Fordham Institute, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Governors Association (NGA), Achieve Inc, and the CCSSO have to say in favor of Common Core is compromised since these groups have been paid to promote and implement the standards by the Gates Foundation. The genesis of the Common Core standards initiative is a clear example of the alliance between corporatists and political and educational elites, and, as a result of this alliance, the standards are not “science” by any means.

In addition, as Common Core opponents have been saying for several years now, if the standards are so great, why are they not they selling themselves?

Missouri Education Watchdog, which picked up on the leaked email about the attack on the HSLDA documentary, aptly states:

Teachers and education experts who were involved in their development would have been out there speaking at every chance they could, trying hard to demonstrate how great they are. Instead, they have steadfastly refused to address the public. The Governors are only now beginning to weakly pick up the talking points which, sadly, had to be developed by a few paid agencies for everyone else. Even CCSSO can’t develop their own talking points.

Fordham denies any “secrecy” in the creation of the standards and states the process of developing them was “totally transparent,” yet we know from Drs. Sandra Stotsky and James Milgram, both of whom were invited to be members of the Common Core Validation Committee, that committee members were told they had to sign a document stating they would not divulge what occurred at meetings.

Stotsky and the Pioneer Institute--which was not funded by the Gates Foundation--have asserted that the Standards Development Work Groups, which, among its members, had no high school English and math teachers, English professors, scientists, engineers, parents, state legislators, early childhood educators, and state or local school board members, also “had no open meetings and have never provided access to any public comment or critiques they received.”

Fordham’s assertion that the development of the Common Core standards was “thoughtful and deliberative,” sounds like a page from the Obama administration’s talking points about ObamaCare. Why would a total of 34 states now have had some form of legislation raised against the standards themselves, the aligned testing, or the associated student data collection if the standards’ development process had been so “thoughtful and deliberative” and inclusive of so many at the state level as well as parents and teachers?

Perhaps the most disturbing “fact” put forward by the Fordham Institute in its attack on the HSLDA film is one that reveals the ultimate purpose of the Common Core standards, which is to engineer American society so that education appears more equitable.

Fordham states:

FACT: No longer will a zipcode be the leading indicator of what academic goals a child is expected to reach.

The future of our children will depend on the next generation’s ability to gain family-sustaining jobs. Rigorous education standards must be available to all children, especially those in poverty who need clear signals of what skills they need to succeed in college or a career.

As Stotsky and Pioneer have reminded repeatedly, however, “The standards are not rigorous.” In fact, there is no research that has been performed on the Common Core standards; they are not “internationally benchmarked.” Automatically, Fordham’s argument is flawed.

Ironically, Fordham’s statement actually reveals the primitive nature of the Common Core standards. How can the standards be “rigorous” when they are only basic sets of “skills?” It is clear from the statement that “those in poverty,” likely those who Common Core “architect” David Coleman referred to as “low-hanging fruit,” are thought to be the beneficiaries of Common Core, though that point is highly debatable.

In Kentucky, for example, President Pro-Tem state Sen. Katie Stine (R) wrote Monday that in 2009, she co-sponsored a bill whose goal was “loftier than what we have with the Common Core.”

“Our bill,” wrote Stine at Kentucky.com, “explicitly required the Kentucky Department of Education to meet the education needs of all students, including our more advanced students who need quality high-school courses in subjects like trigonometry, pre-calculus, chemistry and physics.”

Stine continued:

Our intent was that a student in any school would be able to take those upper-level high school courses that are essential prerequisites to college studies in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

While we didn't expect every student would take those more advanced courses, we did want students in every school to have those options available. We adopted this goal, in part, to help Kentucky compete in a global economy and to give our kids the tools they need to realize all their dreams.

In fact, the lead writer of the Common Core math standards, Jason Zimba, responded to Stotsky’s question in March of 2010 about the failure of the centralized math standards to prepare students for STEM, with the acknowledgment that, in fact, according to Common Core, “the minimally college-ready student is a student who has passed Algebra II.”

“This creates a highly inequitable situation where students from better-equipped high schools…have a clear advantage because those schools will teach well beyond the Common Core,” Stine wrote. “Meanwhile students from less advantaged areas would have no option to go on to a math-and-science based career because there simply were no standards requiring their school to offer such higher-level high-school courses.”

“It also discriminates against less affluent kids since they depend on public schools to offer what they need, while kids from wealthier families will have the means to purchase private tutoring to meet their needs,” she added.

Stine concluded, “I think it is time to acknowledge that the Common Core needs serious work and is contributing to unequal opportunity.”


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