Bill Bennett on Common Core: “More Cow Bell”

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Published on: February 4, 2015

Dr. William J. (Bill) Bennett, former Secretary of Education under President Ronald Reagan from 1986 to 1988, advocates for Common Core in a CNN op-ed published on Dec. 2, 2014, and as recently as Feb. 1, 2015, in a televised debate with Texas Governor Greg Abbott. In his CNN op-ed, Dr. Bennett concludes that because America “offers no better alternative“, we should accept Common Core. His argument dovetails closely with establishment Republican and Democrat ideology; one embedded with flawed logic, compounded falsehoods and unconstitutional rationalizations. I sincerely respect Dr. Bennett’s mind, heart, character and distinguished career. But on this critical issue, the conclusions he draws are dangerously and stubbornly, wrong-headed.

Dr. Bill’s false opening statement Two Washington, DC, based, private trade groups (the National Governors Association and Council of Chief State School Officers) created the Common Core State Standards, without public transparency, without voter awareness and detached from all congressional oversight. Individual state legislatures, Governors, teachers and parents had zero input in the closed door design of the Common Core State Standards. Governors, approached in the midst of 2009’s global financial crisis, were pressured to quickly accept hundreds of millions in federal grants and regulatory relief from onerous NCLB (No Child Left Behind) obligations. In return, Governors were required to quickly and blindly adopt a set of unwritten and unseen, Common Core “State” Standards. As of today, 640 federally mandated Common Core education standards exist, to which individual state curriculums must conform.

“More Cow Bell” – Since Jimmy Carter created the Dept. of Education in 1979, the lethargic, bureaucratic, unconstitutional entity has badly weakened American education by imposing student experiments like ebonics and countless outcome based education absurdities on both teachers and students. In Dr. Bennett’s CNN article, he highlighted a widely acclaimed government report, “A Nation at Risk“, to underscore America’s dismal education performance and poor student SAT scores. Dr. Bennett argues the systemic failures of a dysfunctional federal education system, one birthed, guided and bloated by unionized “leaders” in all 50 states, serves as long-standing evidence for “More (Educational) Cow Bell” (in this hilarious, classic Saturday Night Live skit, Will Farrell’s cowbell performance is a quintessential representation of establishment politicians advocating for more Common Core.)

“More rigorous and measurable standards” – Dr. Bennett seems unwilling to grasp the unending, unaffordable and enormously time-consuming requirements of high stakes, federally mandated student testing and teacher evaluations inextricably imbedded within Common Core. These federal Common Core mandates are literally destroying the joy of teaching and learning. Dr. Bennett’s (and Jeb Bush’s) “More Cow Bell” approach to high stakes student testing is proving, on a daily basis, to be poisonous to learning. Teachers, parents, students and administrators, liberals and conservatives alike, viscerally HATE this aspect of Common Core, perhaps more than any single aspect of this top down, one size fits all, federally mandated education scheme.

“Thanks to benchmarked national exams, we know American students continue to fall short.” Again, Dr. Bennett’s recommended education solution is to give the very geniuses that have so badly weakened the once greatest education system in the world, vast new centralized powers to regulate and “enhance” the very system they’ve so degraded. An endorsement of Common Core cannot be de-linked from advocating for the implementation of a de-facto multi-trillion dollar, crony-capitalism merger between Big Data corporations (read: donors) and bloated federal agencies (read: Czars, bureaucrats and lobbyists). Common Core proponents either support, or turn a blind eye to, the collection, warehousing and re-selling of student, family and teacher data mandated by endless profiling, testing and evaluations. A new, vast and ever expanding treasure trove of previously private, student/family/teacher data will be endlessly analyzed, manipulated, shared, sold and resold to an unlimited array of government agencies and approved, “education service providers” – a nebulously defined category of organizations ripe for political corruption. Dr. Bennett seems unfazed that Common Core regulations amount to a transfer of virtually unlimited regulatory powers to Washington, DC. Common Core gives birth to new federal powers completely detached from, and unaccountable to, local school boards and PTA members. In Dr. Bennett’s CNN op-ed, he praised Massachusetts as a high performing education state prior to Common Core’s arrival, yet Dr. Sandra Stotzky, the preeminent English Language Arts professional largely responsible for Massachusetts’s educational success, refused to offer her “rubber stamp approval” for what she considered experimental, untested and erroneous educational standards. For her refusal, her name was expunged from the official record in an effort to portray unanimous consent among Common Core Validation Commitee members.

“Local control has always been an essential right of education in America, but…” There is no “but,” Dr. Bill. The 640 (and growing) federally mandated, Common Core State Standards forced onto individual states through massive federal grants, federal NCLB waivers and billions in private financial subsidies to local and state boards of education, with substantial funding from the (very progressive) Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, exposes the lie that Common Core was, or is, a local education initiative.

No amount of false bravado, professorial sounding outrage or political denials can erase the truth about Common Core. On this issue, moms and dads, teachers and common sense Americans, be they black or white, conservative or liberal, know best.

Sorry Dr. Bill, your position is simply out of touch with Main Street. Sadly, Common Core is education, and taxation, without representation.

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