Monday, February 24, 2014

An Interview with Common Core expert, Dr. Duke Pesta

Common Core continues to be a controversial subject in Wisconsin and throughout the nation so I wanted to get a better sense of what it is and why it's a threat to Catholic families. Fortunately, Dr. Duke Pesta, expert on Common Core and the academic director of Freedom Project Education, was kind enough to take some time out of his schedule to talk with us.

The debate over Common Core is heating up in both public and private schools. For those who aren’t familiar, could you tell us what, exactly, is Common Core?

Common Core is a set of curriculum guidelines, standards for curriculum. Right now we have English and math standards that have been implemented in the schools, and they were put together by a small cadre of activists and lobbyists. These standards were written largely behind closed doors with very little educator input and funded to the tune of $150 million by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The reason 45 states in the union adopted Common Core standards without ever have seen them is because of the Race to the Top program…which gave states a waiver from No Child Left Behind—previous bad education legislation. And it offered hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayer money to the states provided that they took Common Core, that once the Common Core was released—it hadn’t even been written yet—[Common Core standards] would be adopted by the states. So that’s how 45 states came to be under the onus of Common Core without having voted on it or seen what the standards were.

Why should parents be concerned, and what are some of the big problems with Common Core?

Parents should be concerned because first and foremost it’s a radical encroachment on parents’ rights, local school board rights, teacher rights. It’s a huge encroachment in that…more than ever before, these standards run technically through the federal government.

All the testing…that Common Core will do, is all nationalized. All of the textbooks have gone Common Core, which means that even though standards are standards, they actually are a curriculum as well. All these standards have been put together into all these textbooks—that are the only Common Core textbooks you can buy. The standards themselves…have been curricularized. The tests themselves require conformity to a certain pedagogy and a certain approach to be able to pass those tests or to even take them. That’s a huge problem for parents.

Also you have issues with data mining in conjunction with the federal government and with Obamacare in particular. The schools become gathering houses for all sorts of information on your kids, radical and often times sensitive information.

Parents should be concerned also because [with] the continuing federalization of the standards, you’re going to have very little opportunity to make any changes in your local school—a bad lesson, a bad book, bad subject matter. Right now you can go to the school, complain and opt out. Once this all runs through the federal government, you’re not going to be able to do that anymore.

Given these problems, why is Comon Core being pushed so hard? If not the students, who stands to gain from its implementation?

Common Core is being pushed so hard because—as with everything else in the federal government right now—the government is in a very expansive mood in terms of growth. Big government all across the country. If you think about how much control the federal government has over your body now because it runs health care, think about how much control the federal gov’t is going to have over your families and over your kids once they ultimately control education from the top down. So that’s the end game.

And in terms of who benefits from it, well, there’s all sorts of crony capitalists—people like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The big donors to common core are going to reap windfall profits. The textbook companies, many who are aligned behind Common Core. All these textbook companies are making millions and millions of dollars providing these textbooks. The testing consortia are going to be responsible for writing these tests. Big money for these groups. Crony capitalism and special interests: that’s who [are] going to profit immediately.

Tomorrow we'll be back with part two of our interview with Dr. Duke Pesta--including a chilling explanation of what Common Core means for Catholic schools and homeschooling families.

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