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An Interview with Joy Pullmann: What to say to the Pennsylvania Senate?

May 19, 2013 by

Michael F. Shaughnessy –

1) Joy, I understand that you are about to testify before the State of Pennsylvania Senate. How did this come about ?
Some local Pennsylvania organizations suggested my name to Senate Education Committee Chairman Mike Folmer, who was holding a hearing on Common Core, and he asked me to testify.
2) What are your concerns about Common Core?
I’ve already written several thousand words about that elsewhere, but in summary, my biggest concern is centralization of education. We know from history and experience that central planning simply doesn’t work. It restricts freedom, creates low-quality outcomes and materials, and wastes precious resources including time.  There is no one system of learning all children should be shuffled through. Other concerns include costs of transition during a time of fiscal crisis, the low educational quality of the standards, the widespread reinforcement of failed progressive teaching methods through Common Core’s interpreters, and the connections to invasive expansions of needless government data-tracking of children without parental consent or even informed consent.
3) What do you anticipate will be some of the concerns of the Senators from Pennsylvania ?
Now that I’ve been there, I know first-hand. The Democrats are angry at the state Department of Education for tying high school diplomas to several Common Core-aligned subject tests, adopted without legislative approval, they say. The Democratic Vice-Chair of the Senate Education Committee said several times he wanted a Common Core pause like Indiana just passed into law. His fellow Democrat on the committee was quite angry that parents as parents–meaning real communities and not people good at getting themselves in charge of committees–were not involved in writing Common Core.
On the Republican side, Chairman Folmer was both worried about even good Pennsylvania school districts saying Common Core will cost them millions, and shared some of my similar concerns about one-size-fits-all education. His Republican colleague on the panel focused exclusively on the academic quality of Common Core and said almost no one talks about that but he wants more information.
4) I know the state of Pennsylvania fairly well- I like the people, their culture, their values. What seems to be their concerns about Common Core ?
I think the grassroots are quite angry about having a federally-tainted initiative thrust upon them and their children with no consent.
5) Now, this is POST- Interview—-How did it go?
It went well. The senators extended the hearing by an extra hour or so and ditched their next scheduled committee hearing to continue the conversation. The more people ask questions and seek truth on this or anything else, the happier I am.
6) Were you surprised by any of the questions?
I was not surprised by the questions, but I was surprised that the entire Democratic caucus supports a Common Core pause and is very angry at the Pennsylvania Department of Education. They were quite indignant and insistent.
7) What was the general tenor of the event like ? Adversarial? Cordial ? Congenial?
Before I walked into the hearing room, a state senator in the hall told me, “I hope you like debate.” I do. There was a lot of clash and passion, but I wouldn’t say anyone was rude. A gentleman on the opposing panel representing the Pennsylvania Business Roundtable made a point to politely introduce himself and shake the hands of the opposite panel. Chairman Folmer did have to ask the very large audience to refrain from clapping several times.
8) What did you learn from the experience?
Don’t take your wedding ring off to wash your hands, or you will forget to put it back on and someone will steal it.
9) Any surprises?
The odd thing was that, except for the one Republican senator, almost no one talked about specifics inside Common Core, especially the Democrats. They even said, “We don’t care about Common Core one way or the other, but we hate this testing and this imposition on our communities who had no voice.”
10) What did I neglect to ask?
The biggest question for me now is “What next.” Of course, I’m not a decision-maker, so I can’t say. But I do know that’s what lawmakers are right now deciding.
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