Sunday, November 13, 2016

Adieu, Core Warriors: The Post-Election Realignment

It was going to happen sooner or later.

The folks lined up against the forces of reformsterdom, like the forces of reformsterdom themselves, represented an odd patchwork of alliances, an alignment of a few interests that prompted overlooking a few others.

But now, with Trump's election, alliances on both sides will be ended. Folks are going to have to throw away their old dance cards and grab some new ones.

The Resistance has always included people who either A) think that reform is an assault on the promise of public education or B) think that reform is simply public education revealing its secret ugly face. And throughout twitter and facebook, the folks in group B have been making one simple announcement--

We've won! Common Core is dead! We can all go home and rest now.

I've seen this article posted again, a piece from February of 2015 (lordy, this election really has been dragging on forever)  when then-candidate Ben Carson told CPAC that the best education was the one "closest to home." Homeschooling, he confidently declared on the basis of zero data, gets the best results, followed by private schools. I've read tweets and statuses about how this is it! Victory! Trump will deliver us from the Core. So we've won. Hurray!

First of all, probably not. The feds are now barred by law from meddling in state-level ed policy, so rooting out Common Core, or Common Core 2.0, or Common Core [Your State Name Here] Standards will be a state-level fight. For people who opposed the Core because of the content, that will be a tedious process because as we've already seen, some twisted version of the standards just keeps coming back under a new name. For people who don't care what the Core says-- they just oppose it because it came from DC-- well, woohoo! You win. Your students lose, but you win.

Second of all, if it's okay with you, some of us are going to keep Resisting. Common Core was always only a highly visible symptom of a bigger problem-- the destruction and privatization of American public education. And that issue is still ongoing, has in fact gathered steam, despite its occasional set-backs, because it is fueled by the most powerful force in 21st century politics-- giant heaping piles of money.

So I encourage you Core warriors not to quit. Yes, someone may get Common Core out of your school. But by the next time someone tries to launch an objectionable program in your community's schools, you may find you can do little about it. Board meetings are held privately for the convenience of the people in charge who don't even live in your state, let alone your neighborhood, and are not elected by or answerable to you. The school is now a privately operated business and has no more need to listen to you than the widget plant that used to employ your neighbors. Don't like what's going on in schools? Too bad-- you don't have a say (and if you don't have a child to enroll, you have less than no say). Or your community may just be deemed too poor to even support a decent profitable school, so you get nothing. And even if you do get a school, that poor part of town is now cranking out citizens who are completely unprepared to pull their own weight in the world. You may not think schools for Those People are your problem now, but I guarantee you they will be everybody's problem in ten years.

Third of all, there are other threats to all forms of education that make Common Core look like a bad warm-up act. If you have not been paying attention to Competency Based Education, I suggest you start reading up, because all of the mindlessly numb bad centralized standardization of CCSS is there, but delivered in a soul-crushing, brain-thumping daily dose. Now is not the time to relax vigilance.

Some Core warriors are going to go anyway. They consider the battle over, and they have already taken issue with former allies who aren't excited about the Trumpocracy.

Meanwhile, the reformster cracks were already showing, as highlighted by Robert Pondiscio's piece that launched a thousand other pieces all centered around the question of whether or not an alliance between free-market conservatives and social-justice reformsters could hold.

The answer is probably "no."

That's partly because some folks will be changing their costumes. With a Democratic administration in DC, painting charter schools as "the civil rights issue of our time" (or was that Common Core? or the achievement gap?) made political sense. It was a good label for selling the product. Somehow, I don't think "the civil rights issue of our time" is going to be a big priority in the Trump administration. So people who were busy pretending that they cared about the social justice aspect of ed reform can stop playing that game, and start pretending they care about making America white great again.

Folks who really do care about the social justice aspect of ed reform (yes, I believe they exist) now find themselves in a much more hostile environment, while folks who want to push the privatization of education and the growth of charters (even and perhaps especially for-profit ones) now get to go straight to the front of the lines.

These are going to be strange new times. It will help if you keep your eyes focused on what you want, what you care about. It will be a waste of everyone's time to administer purity tests and deliver rants about betrayal. One of the best way to find your real allies is to walk toward the goals you care about, then look around, and see who's walking with you. Who knows? Some of us who are parting may meet again, and soon.


  1. <<<One of the best way to find your real allies is to walk toward the goals you care about, then look around, and see who's walking with you.

    Nicely put. And strongly agreed.

  2. A while back, Obama made a comic video of himself lounging on a couch, wondering what he will do after his term is up. He couldn't come up with an idea of what to do.

    I have a serious suggestion: he and Hillary can go back to all their generous donors and have parties to raise funds to support impoverished schools. They could accomplish so much. It would even be fun for them. They just need to show up and maybe give a short speech.

    They are capable of bringing in tens of millions of dollars that way. He could go back to Chicago and dig in to help his friend Rahm Emanuel find a solution for the CPS crisis. She could start programs where she regularly visits schools to inspire students. They are capable of making real change. They have the means, the clout and according to their speeches, a deep desire to help the most disadvantaged young people in our country. They will both be out of a job so they will definitely have time, if it is important to them.

    Let's wait and see.