For years, elites in big business, foundations, well-endowed think tanks, and corporate media have conducted a well-financed marketing campaign to impress on the nation’s public schools an agenda of change that includes charter schools, standardized testing, and “new and improved” standards known as the Common Core.
These ideas were sold to us as sure-fire remedies for enormous inequities in a public school system whose performance only appears to be relatively low compared to other countries if you ignore the large percentage of poor kids we have.
But the “education reform” ad campaign never got two important lessons everyone starting out in the advertising business learns: Never make objective claims about your product that can be easily and demonstrably disproven, and never insult your target audience.
For instance, you can make the claim, “this tastes great” because that can’t be proven one way or the other. But when you claim, “your kids will love how this tastes,” and parents say, “my kids think it tastes like crap,” you’re pretty much toast. And you make matters all the worse if you respond, “Well, if you were a good parent you’d tell your kid to eat it anyway.”
Those two lessons seem to be completely lost on advocates behind the menu of education policies currently being force-fed to classroom teachers, parents, and school children across the country. As more Americans take a big bite of the education reform sandwich, more choose to spit it out.
A Heapin’ Helping Of Common Core Propaganda
The latest serving of education reformy slop was served to us in the pages of The New York Times where, first, one of the paper’s All Purpose Pundits David Brooks repeated false claims about the Common Core and denigrated anyone who disagreed with its agenda as being part of a “circus.”
Then the Times published a “news” story that completely ignored any well reasoned criticisms of the Common Core and framed the opposition as mostly a political tactic from rightwing factions of the Republican party.
Many have taken to personal blogs and websites, including Salon, to criticize what Brooks and the Times published.
Education historian and university professor Diane Ravitch wrote at her personal blogsite, “In order to explain a point of view, one must make the effort to hear the voices of critics without caricaturing them. Unfortunately, David Brooks has no idea why anyone would not embrace the Common Core standards.”
In another post, Ravitch blasted the Times report that characterized Common Core opposition as primarily a Republican political issue, noting the paper’s tendency to report on the standards “as though no reasonable person could possibly doubt the claims made on behalf of the Common Core.” She asked, “How can the nation’s ‘newspaper of record’ be so seriously indifferent to or ignorant of the major education issue of our day?”
Louisiana classroom teacher and prolific blogger Mercedes Schneider wrote at her personal site, “Brooks’ opinion is that opponents to CCSS are part of a ‘circus’ … Brooks believes he writes about CCSS from an op/ed perch outside of the Big Top. However, his place is in the ring of the many who support CCSS on the unsubstantiated opinion that CCSS is necessary to American public education.”
Russ Walsh, a retired classroom teacher and reading specialist, took particular offense with Brooks’ statement that “the [new] English standards encourage reading comprehension.” He countered, “As far as the ‘old standards’ go, they varied widely across states, but I have yet to see one that did not address reading comprehension.”
Even some reform enthusiasts had problems with the Brooks column. Writing for Education Week, Frederick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute called the writing “ripped from the talking points of Common Core enthusiasts” and “an object lesson in the vapid triumphalism of Common Core boosters.