"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Thursday, May 08, 2014

SPLC says don't read tacit support for Common Core into their condemnation of reactionary hate groups

"In short, the real literacy crisis occurs whenever we deploy a pedagogy that asks our students only to consume texts and not to produce them as well." — Richard E. Miller

Books not on David Coleman or E. D. Hirsch, Jr.'s so-called core knowlege list for Common Core State StandardsProfiteering members of the testing industrial complex, and right-of-center Democrats were quick to embrace the release of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) report that correctly takes issue with right wing extremism fueling a small portion of the criticisms of Common Core State Standards (CCSS). SPLC's Teaching Tolerance Director Maureen Costello made a mild statement about authentic issues with CCSS in their announcement: "There are legitimate concerns about the Common Core, but those very real issues are being obscured and distorted by the claims of extremists." However, I still felt the tenor and tone of the SPLC's report allowed CCSS supporters to claim that all opponents of the corporate curricula are right wingers. I wrote SPLC and received a response.

While I'm familiar with the hackneyed critique by CCSS defenders that some of the left has made a mistake in considering forming a united front with the right on this issue, I'm not guilty of that. I don't do united fronts with fascists. Even when citing works by right-wing sources I've written disclaimers about the sources and their ideologies. In fact, one such disclaimer led to me being vociferously attacked by teabaggers and other reactionaries. I defended my disclaimer then and still do. My critiques of CCSS are for the reasons stated in my email to the SPLC. While I appreciate their response, I think they could do more. It's one thing to acknowledge that some of the rhetoric on CCSS is right-wing tripe. It's another to acknowledge publicly that academia and the left have legitimate reasons to oppose the imposition of this corporate curricula. Here in Los Angeles they are shuttering Ethnic Studies and so many other programs so that students can learn David Coleman's corporatized, sanitized, and very white idea of what comprises "core knowledge."

Ironically, Ms. Costello's correct assessment of the fringe-right's motivations and goals: "school vouchers" and "the end of teacher tenure", are the identical agenda as the Obama Administration, and epitomized by Michelle Rhee's advocacy of those goals on behalf of Duncan's reign. There is no social justice case for CCSS; appeals to "competition," and "A Nation at Risk" are not progressive. Fortunately progressive, working class organizations like the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) are rejecting CCSS, and showing us the way forward. The always eloquent CTU President Karen Lewis speaks truth to CCSS' racist and classist nature:

"Common Core eliminates creativity in the classroom and impedes collaboration. We also know that high-stakes standardized testing is designed to rank and sort our children and it contributes significantly to racial discrimination and the achievement gap among students in America's schools."

From: "Robert D. Skeels" <rdsathene@sbcglobal.net>
Subject: re: SPLC to Release Report Examining Extremism Behind Propaganda Campaign to Kill the Common Core State Standards
Date: May 7, 2014 at 07:05:48 AM PDT
To: rebecca.sturtevant@splcenter.org

I am a long time supporter of the SPLC's work. As a student of Freire, and a long time social justice activist, I find myself saddened that the SPLC would support Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Aside from CCSS being the epitome of neoliberal corporate education reforms, it has a history tied to the very right wing ideas that the SPLC says its report will expose.

Had SPLC looked into David Coleman's sources for CCSS they would have seen that E. D. Hirsch, a noted white supremacist, was the central basis for the curricula. Hirsch's "core knowledge" notion, and the items it encompasses, are devoid of works authored by persons of color, women, LGBT, etc.

At the end of the day SPLC is doing us all a great disservice by standing up for CCSS. While I certainly have no affinity for the right wing groups opposing CCSS, to focus on them instead of CCSS itself puts the SPLC in the position of defending a curricula that the tea party, if their members were educated enough to realize it, actually wants. CCSS essentially enshrines what the celebrated bell hooks calls "white supremacist capitalist patriarchy" as both our national curricula and testing regime. I know in my heart that those things run counter to SPLC's values and mission.

Advocating Public Education and Social Justice

Robert D. Skeels

"Problem posing education does not and cannot serve the interests of the oppressor" — Paulo Freire

From: Maureen Costello <maureen.costello@splcenter.org>
Subject: Your comments about our report
Date: May 7, 2014 at 10:26:51 AM PDT
To: "rdsathene@sbcglobal.net" <rdsathene@sbcglobal.net>
Cc: Rebecca Sturtevant <rebecca.sturtevant@splcenter.org>

Dear Robert, 

Thank you for your note, and for your concerns about our recent report.  We too are students of Freire, and very familiar with the inherent conservatism of the Common Core State Standards.  In fact, we make the argument in our report that they are, in fact, very conservative in their "back to basics" approach, reliance on testing, and the canonical nature of the exemplar texts in Appendix B. 

We welcome a healthy and legitimate debate about the Common Core.  Our report isn't a defense of the standards — it's showing that the standards are a battering ram being used by far-right groups to weaken public education, especially as it increasingly serves children of color and low-income families.  Freedom Works, a Koch-affliated organization, has identified rallying people against the Common Core as the first item on a multipart agenda that goes on to include school vouchers, elimination of the U.S. Department of Education and finally the end of teacher tenure.  We think that's a worrisome agenda, and that's what we're warning about. 

We do value your support and your thoughts. 


Maureen Costello 

Maureen Costello
Director, Teaching Tolerance
Southern Poverty Law Center
400 Washington Ave. 
Montgomery, AL 36104

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