“Building the Machine,” the Common Core Documentary

Common sense of the common people is more important for the health of the nation than the ideas of the philosophical elites.” – Wayne Brasler

In 2013, sixty-two percent of Americans have not heard of Common Core. Ian A. Reid set out to change that. He directed the best documentary on the National Common Core Standards, “Building the Machine.” www.CommonCoreMovie.com

The national teaching standards were adopted by 45 states without parental or teacher input, under confidentiality agreements, without public debate, untested, untried, unproven, and certainly not “internationally benchmarked” as is now promoted in non-stop ads or “state-led.”

The bait for adoption was the $4.35 billion worth of grants offered through the President’s stimulus package. States had two months to write proposals in order to be eligible for the Race to the Top grants. Hurting for money because the economy was so depressed, 45 states applied and, in doing so, they accepted the Race to the Top Standards.

The standards, which were to become Common Core standards were not debated, “the drafts were cloaked,” there were no hearings, no testimony, just “some truncated public comments and no response to comments.”

“The Common Core standards were designed for an industrial model school,” claiming that they are “rigorous, even though they can’t tell you what makes for rigorous or non-rigorous standards.” Marc Tucker believes that they are designed for “work force development in the German model system.” Andrew Hacker, Professor Emeritus at Queens College, called Common Core standards, “a radical change from the past.”

According to the documentary, the “players” involved in developing, funding, adopting, and advertising national Common Core standards were:
– Achieve, Inc.
– Fordham Institute
– The National Governors Association
– Council of Chief State School Officers
– U.S. Department of Education
– Foundation for Excellence in Education
– U.S. Chamber of Commerce
– 45 governors
– Jeb Bush
– Mike Huckabee
– School Officers
– Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (donated $200 million in 2012 alone to adopt Common Core)

The Validation Committee was composed of 30 people who had to sign a confidentiality agreement that they would not discuss what took place in the meetings. (Sandra Stotsky)
Five committee members, a significant percentage, did not sign the final standards and were thus “expunged from the record.” Dr. Jim Milgram said, “They are not giving the public any idea of what’s going on.” Dr. Milgram and Dr. Stotsky were the only mathematician and English language arts content specialists on the 30-person validation committee. Neither approved the standards.”

Dr. Jim Milgram objected to forcing college presidents to accept students from any high school who had passed algebra, without any remedial math courses. According to statistics from the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, in 2010 “over 40 percent of college freshmen specifically need remedial mathematics and over 60 percent of new college students need remediation of some sort.”

Dr. Milgram believes that the long-term effect of non-remediation is that college course content will have to drop in order to meet the lower quality of students coming in from k-12, in essence dumbing down the college mathematics curriculum.

The much advertised “college readiness” with Common Core is not going to be good enough for STEM (an acronym that refers to the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics), not good enough for selective colleges, it is going to be barely enough for a community college. But everybody can get into a community college. Common Core standards are not standards for excellence or competitive colleges, they are for mediocrity.

Ze’ev Wurman, 2010 member of CA Academic Content Standards Commission and former U.S. Department of Education official, argues that a student cannot be prepared for both “college and career readiness” as Common Core advertises. Declaring by fiat that everybody is “college and career ready” is “untenable,” in his opinion. Not all children want to go to college or should. Some children are better suited for a vocational career.

According to the documentary, the “Lead Common Core Standards writer, David Coleman, became president of the College Board in the fall of 2012. In 2013, the College Board began to simplify the material on the SAT exams and all AP courses to match the Common Core.”

Michael Farris, J.D., LL.M., founder of the Home School Legal Defense Association, admits that David Coleman has some good ideas in education. What Michael Farris disagrees with is the fact that “David Coleman wants to use the force of law to require everybody to implement his ideas of education.”

Dr. Stotsky, who grew up in a small town in Massachusetts, believes in “independent citizens who choose for themselves,” people who don’t need a “monarch and a central planner” but self-government. “Central planners are people who like power; they think they are an elite who knows how to run other people’s lives.”

Dr. Andrew Hacker, Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Queens College, said that 22 percent of 9th graders do not finish high school. Many variables contribute to a student’s success; however, the most important is parental involvement.

Alternate high schools in Finland and Germany offer 8 different tracks for graduation in order to better match the students’ interests, talent, ability, and motivation. “Duncan [Secretary of Education] does not like that approach because it leaves choices up to kids,” said Dr. Stotsky. “They want a centralized system where things are directed by people like them who think they know better what’s good for other people’s children.”

Wayne Brasler, Veteran Journalism Teacher, University of Chicago Lab Schools, explained that one standard for all is a ‘dead end.’ “It is stereotyping people that everyone wants to go to college, have the same career, same ability, same interests, and you are not worthwhile if you don’t do this.”

Dr. Andrew Hacker opined that “McGraw-Hill, Pearson, Gates, really regard education as a production line in which they are going to take little human beings and make them college or career ready.” Are these not our children, should we not have a say in what they learn? Is it the government’s right to teach our children what the government thinks our children should know?

Home-schooled children will not be insulated from this mediocre national curriculum. They will be affected because colleges, tests, and curriculum will be aligned with Common Core Standards.

Ian A. Reid, the director of the documentary, Building the Machine, wrote, “Lead writers of the Common Core, David Coleman, Susan Pimentel, and Jason Zimba, were asked to defend the standards in the film. Two declined, one never replied.”

American colleges were once the envy of the world. If we cut out chunks of mathematics that have been taught for 100 years, without proper research and testing, chances are great that we will no longer be the exceptional higher education bastion.

Quantifying everything will result in teaching to the standards in order to get the right score. Wayne Brasler thinks that “Systematization, centralization, and data collection are not good for the public schools but David Coleman believes so.”

Replacing basic arithmetic (addition, subtraction, multiplication) with Constructivism, teaching children how to “construct” their own way of figuring out an answer, even if it’s the wrong answer, and replacing English literature selections with New Criticism Literary Analysis, using leftwing norms of morality and behavior, appears to be a recipe for mediocrity.

We are a diverse nation populated by individuals with different talents, ability, IQ, motivation, interests, and dissimilar childhood experiences. Some children live on farms and some in the cities, some are affluent and some are not.

College should help Americans become life-long learners, not ideological robots. Education should be about our children, not the “system.” Paul Horton, Veteran History Teacher, University of Chicago Lab Schools, thinks that the “Current policy makers see the purpose of education as training people to acquire the minimum level of skills that are required to work in a technical workplace.”

We are not trying to win a race, we are trying to pursue happiness and keep our constitutional republic intact and safe. What race are we supposed to win and against whom?

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