Engler sells out Michigan’s future

Sep 18, 2013 by

A new lobbying group called “Conservatives for Higher Standards” (CHS), which includes former Michigan Governor John Engler, has launched a media blitz to push its view of education reform. Presumably a group that endorses higher standards would advocate that Michigan upgrade its K-12 standards to equal the best in the nation, such as those previously in place in Massachusetts or Indiana. The Thomas B. Fordham Institute lauded those states’ standards as first-rate.

But CHS is pushing instead a set of standards that Fordham ranks as inferior to those states’ – the new Common Core national standards. (Although Massachusetts and Indiana have yielded to the Common Core juggernaut and jettisoned their high standards, Indiana is now re-thinking that rash decision.) And one of the CHS partners advocating the inferior Common Core standards is . . . Fordham. What’s going on here?

What’s going on is that CHS (a partnership of Fordham and Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education) is doing what its member groups have been paid to do – lobby for the Common Core standards. Paid by whom? Primarily the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which has decided it should be allowed to conduct its grand education experiment on American children because of Gates’s superior wealth and intellect. But the goals of Gates and the other private corporate entities that are pushing Common Core don’t necessarily correlate to what parents want for their children.

The Common Core standards were created by two private trade associations, the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, financed largely by Gates and imposed on states with the lure of federal grants. Common Core creates a system of top-down education control designed to give students the minimum amount of education they need for community college or an entry-level job. The idea is to develop workers for the managed economy, not to educate citizens. Thus, companies such as Microsoft would have access to entry-level workers they wouldn’t have to train. The added benefit would be a reduced likelihood of developing independent-minded future competitors of these powerful companies. It’s 17th-century mercantilism with a modern twist.

A chief drafter of the Common Core math standards, Jason Zimba, has admitted that Common Core prepares students for a nonselective community college, not a four-year university. Dr. James Milgram of Stanford University, the Common Core Validation Committee’s only mathematician (as opposed to math-education professor), rejected the standards because he concluded that they would leave American students at least two years behind their counterparts in the highest-achieving nations by 8th grade.

Common Core’s English language arts (ELA) standards reflect the same industrial mindset. For most of American history, it was recognized that study of classic literature was the best way to develop good readers and thinkers, and to truly educate citizens. During the 1960s, educators in search of “relevance” replaced much classic literature with less-demanding “pop” literature. Now Common Core takes the next step – further diminishing study of great literature in favor of nonfiction “informational” documents that students might encounter in their entry-level jobs. These are the “higher standards” that conservatives are supposed to support?

Dr. Sandra Stotsky, the nation’s premier expert on ELA standards, is appalled by Common Core. As a member of the Validation Committee, she refused to endorse the standards because they cannot prepare students for genuine university coursework, or more broadly for a life of meaningful citizenship. But that isn’t the point of Common Core. If the point is to develop workers, there’s no time to waste on something they won’t see on their jobs created by the central planners.

By adopting Common Core, then, Michigan has rejected high standards that could really make a difference in students’ education. It has instead adopted a theory of “education” being imposed by private interests whom Michigan voters have never elected to anything. And because the private interests own and have copyrighted the standards, Michigan parents and teachers will have zero control over evaluation and future revision of the standards. In the area of English and math education, Michigan has abdicated its constitutional sovereignty.

Why would John Engler sign onto this scheme? Perhaps because he is now president of the Business Roundtable, an association of powerful companies that expect to benefit from the workforce-training model of Common Core. The Roundtable endorsed the standards the very day a draft was released, long before there was any chance to evaluate the quality or the ramifications of Common Core. (Gates, of course, funds various state roundtables.) And, by the way, the Roundtable has a dubious history in education policy, having supported the much-maligned No Child Left Behind.

Gates’s investment of over $6 million in Fordham and over $1.5 million in Gov. Bush’s foundation is paying dividends. They and their new Conservatives for Higher Standards are following orders – push the national standards regardless of mediocre quality, and slander anyone who asks questions as “anti-standards.” But unless we ask questions, and demand answers, we will have to settle for the drab conformity of Common Core. Michigan students deserve so much better.

State Rep. Tom McMillin, R-Rochester Hills, represents Michigan’s 45th District.

via Engler sells out Michigan’s future | The Detroit News.

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