Education Post is beginning to look like an organization dedicated to the proposition that it takes an entire village to replace She Who Will Not Be Named. Though they have not yet announced plans to run a large urban school district into the ground, they are laboring mightily to make themselves a clearinghouse for all the top talking points for the Core and its attendant reformy barnacles.
They have taken to repeating an old favorite that has been coming back strong lately.
"Gosh," says the reformsters, shaking their heads ruefully. "Why is this discussion of the standards so politicized?" Why, they wonder, aren't we just focusing on the educational merits or, you know, the kids?
As it turns out, I think I have an answer for this one. Asking why the Common Core are wrapped up in politics is like asking why human beings are so involved with blood.
The Common Core were birthed in politics. They were weaned on politics. And every time they have looked tired and in trouble, they have been revived with a fresh transfusion of politics.
When David Coleman and Gene Wilhoit decided they wanted to standardize American education, they did not come up with a plan to sell such a program on its education merits. They called on Bill Gates to use his money and power to convince state governments to legislate systemic changes to education.
The states signed on to a Memo of Understanding (a political tool for out-politicking politics) and many of them did it before there were even any standards to look at. This was a political move, using the political power of legislatures and governors' offices to impose rules on educational systems-- in many cases, before educators in particular states even knew that such a systemic overhaul was being considered.
Common Core's Pappy, No Child Left Behind, was a creature of politics, right down to its spin-ready title. It was created to put a glossy shine on bipartisan action for the kids. Educators (and other people with rudimentary math skills) pointed out early on that the NCLB end game of 100% above average was ridiculously improbable, but the political shininess plus the political notion that future politicians would find a political solution drowned out good sense. Because, politics.
President Obama tried to use the need to re-authorize (aka rewrite) ESEA as leverage to get Congress to adopt some of his fave reformy ideas including Common Core, and when Congress was politically unable and unwilling to yield to White House political pressure, the President and Arne Duncan used a political rules trick to do a political end run around the political power of Congress to twist the arms of state legislatures.
And that arm twisting hasn't stopped. The political leverage has been brought to bear against states like Washington for not agreeing to judge teachers the way the federal politicians want them to. And every time waiver renewal season rolls around, we wait to see what local political modifications the national politicians will let go.
Meanwhile, on the state level, we see political gamesmanship in places like New Jersey and Louisiana, where the discussion is not about the educational efficacy of the reformster ideas, but the political power struggles involved. And that's before we even start talking about political power being used to crush teacher pay and job security, trash school funding, and gut districts so that political friends of the politically powerful can cash in on the charter bubble.
At no point in all this reformy baloney have we seen the spectacle of bottom-up reform, a reform movement driven by teachers and other educators saying, "Hey, we have some ideas that are so revolutionary and so great that they are spreading like wildfire strictly on their educational merits!"
No-- Common Core and its attendant test-driven high stakes data-glomming VAMboozling baloney have come from the top down, by politicians using political power to impose educational solutions through the political tools applied to the political structure of government. Why do people get the idea that all these reformy ideas are linked? Because they all come from the same place-- the linkage is the political power that imposed them all on the American public education system.
Look. We live in the real world and politics play a part in many things. But for some reformsters to offer wide eyes and shocked dismay and clutched pearls as they cry, "Oh, but why does it have to be so political!" is the height of hypocrisy. It's political because you folks made it political, every step of the way, and it's not humanly possible for you to be too dumb to know that (particularly at a site like Education Post that is larded with career political operatives). So if you want to have a serious conversation about any of this, Step One is to stop lying, badly, directly to our faces. I can't hear you when my bullshit detector alarm is screaming in my ear.