mark garrison
CCSS is really not about the standards.

Let’s revisit Dr. Mark Garrison writing about the primary reason (in our opinion) to be opposed to The Common Core State Standards Initiative.  From 2011 and The Case for Examining the Political Significance of the Common Core:

…it is not so clear that the CCSSI is a “federal power grab” — at least in the common understanding of what that would mean. In fact, all four major institutions that directly govern the initiative are non-public, 501c3s. They are: the National Governors Association (NGA), the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), and the two assessment apparatuses, the Partnership for Readiness for College and Career (PARCC) and Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC). While there is no doubt that the power and influence of the USDOE was instrumental in bringing about the CCSSI, little direct authority (which must be distinguished from influence) over the CCSSI appears to rest with USDOE administrators. Yet, as Race to the Top operates on incentives and is based on granting waivers from NCLB testing requirements on the condition that states comply with Race to the Top initiatives, including the CCSSI, an argument can be made that USDOE — an executive body — has actually engaged in law making. So, while USDOE policy may not specify that the USDOE has direct control over curriculum, etc., it might nonetheless represent a significant departure from Constitutionally authored practice.[7] The point is to be open to dynamics that don’t fall neatly into the “state’s rights” vs. “federal power” framework. Maybe the federal government used (illegally) its power to remove components of the governance of public schools from public authorities at both the federal and state levels?

Thus, one preoccupation will be to isolate the role of the USDOE and other federal authorities in brining about the CCSSI and how these roles change federal power and influence.

But, neither does any substantive power over the initiative reside within the states (which is different from saying some state officials might have substantial power). In fact, at both the federal and state level, there appears to be little role for the legislature. The role of local educational authorities (LEAs) or “local school boards” has been diminished over the last several decades under a variety of auspices (e.g., mayoral control, “control boards” and emergency financial mangers, etc.). In the case of the USDOE, congressional approved funds (namely Race to the Top) are being expended free of congressional oversight. State legislatures, likewise, seem to have little role in the CCSSI, other than to possibly rubber stamp it as required by Race to the Top application “guidelines” (even if a state legislature did consciously adopt the CCSSI, they would have, it appears, legislated themselves out of power!). In fact, the long standing state control over public school curriculum and assessment seems to have largely vanished, at least as it existed in its past forms. The details and significance of this development must also be explored.

And, while the executives of each state constitute the membership of the NGA and CCSSO, and state representatives participate in the governance of the assessment consortia, neither of these organizations seems to exist as a means to represent individual state interests or the interests of the electorate of each state (i.e, they don’t operate as units of a federalized system). The nature of these arrangements must also be explored, although, since they are 501c3s, their internal workings are not easily subjected to public study. Of course, that fact alone is politically significant.

So, while the Constitution provided means to both block the tyranny of the majority and the tyranny of a strong central authority (blocks which are now obviously permeable), it seems to have no specific means for limiting the power of non-public power over public affairs (e.g., powerful foundations, a different kind of tyranny of the minority) or for stopping the government from privatizing functions of governance (e.g., turning over the role of a legislature to a 501c3). Given the tremendous concentration of wealth that has occurred over the past three decades, this is a key concern, as concentration of economic power yields concentration of political power. Certainly the role of venture philanthropy (e.g., Gates, Broad) rivals the power of the USDOE in terms of brining about the CCSSI, power based on accumulation of massive private fortunes.[8]

Dr. Garrison knows what CCSSI accomplishes: an alteration of our political system on the increasing power of “non-public power over public affairs” which allows the government to privatize functions of governance.  It is laughable that the proponents cast dispersions on those who oppose the standards as “politically motivated”.  It has nothing to do with political parties; it has to do with turning over the “role of legislatures to 501c3” organizations.

Don’t get distracted by these side arguments from the proponents:

  • we’ve been using that curriculum for years
  • what’s in the standards (or not),
  • name one standard you don’t like
  • the state’s standards were poor before
  • you don’t want kids to be competitive on the global level
  • we need good standards (even as they are being shown to be developmentally inappropriate)

Keep focused on what Garrison contends:

We are no doubt experiencing significant change to our political and economic institutions. These changes are not only taking place inside the United States, but across the globe. While these changes are by no means singular in the nature, evidencing as much contention as consensus, general patterns do exist. Various terms are commonly attached to these changes: globalization, neoliberalism, denationalization, privatization. The patterns that these words describe form the context in which the CCSSI emerged. In this sense, the CCSSI must be understood as both a response to and means for institutionalizing changes associated with these larger trends.

Via Susan Ohanian, from: http://truth-out.org/art/item/10712-privatizing-public-schools

Via Susan Ohanian, from: http://truth-out.org/art/item/10712-privatizing-public-schools

But it is unlikely that the political significance of the CCSSI will be fully grasped if left there. Yes, I have no doubt that the CCSSI is an expression of neoliberalism, a form of privatization, representing a type of denationalization, but without a detailed analysis of how it alters political institutions inside the United States, important features of the CCSSI will be missed.

 

Here is Dr. Garrison’s written testimony in favor of Missouri anti-common core bills in last year’s legislative session.  You may follow Garrison by subscribing on his blog.

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