covaultRetired Lt. General Marvin Covault was quoted in a piece by Freedom Outpost as supporting common core. He and a number of other retired generals were recruited by a group called Mission: Readiness in North Carolina to speak out against legislation working its way through the legislature there that would pull the state out Common Core.  Given some of his on-line statements, Covault could be considered a country loving patriot who is opposed to big government and desires to bring jobs back to America. He says in the FO piece that that the federal government has, ““zero track record” of effectively running anything at a large scale. His goal is to bring production of PopUp Towels, a company he has partnered with, to North Carolina so they can put “Made In America” on the packaging.  Yet he still thinks Common Core is not only a good idea, but is absolutely necessary for the nation’s defense interests.

Covault did not get a lot of support from commenters on the FO piece. Perhaps that is because the general American public is not quite as easily duped as he thinks they are. In a piece he wrote in The Pilot he talked about the current culture of blame. He sites that culture as the major reason congress and the US President have become disfuctional, because they are so busy passing the blame on to someone else that the real problems never get fixed.

Strange then that he plays the same blame game by blaming the public education system for the lack of qualified candidates for the U.S. Military.  He claimed that 20 percent of applicants are unable to pass the Army’s entrance exam and said, “I’m telling you, that’s not a very difficult exam.” If all students were asked to take the military’s standard entrance exam I guarantee you more than 20% would fail. That is the nature of the bell curve of performance. Without knowing the full context of the exam and of qualifications of the people who walk  in to recruitment offices to take it, that 20% statistic is almost meaningless.

He also claimed that “as many as 75 percent [of those who apply] are unsuitable for federal service, whether due to criminal records, lack of personal fitness, or the failure to graduate high school.” Yet we need common core to address criminal tendencies I suppose or to make sure that everyone is physically fit? That is now a goal for public schools? Did the American public at any level of government ever get to vote on those goals?

If we are going to play the blame game General, then let us look at the current state of the U.S. Military and ask, what other reasons could there be for your poor recruiting statistics? Who would want to take a job in this field?

There is a rampant gang problem within our military that has been called out by enlisted folks who left the military and in recent FBI reports. “Members of nearly every major street gang, including the Bloods, Crips, Black Disciples, Gangster Disciples, Hells Angels, Latin Kings, The 18th Street Gang, Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13), Mexican Mafia, Nortenos, Surenos, Vice Lords, and various white supremacist groups, have been documented on military installations.” Military members have been threatened, beaten and in at least one case killed by gangs while on tour. Talk about a hostile work environment!

There is no doubt that military duty is by definition hazardous, but the traditional code of honor and protection promised by the U.S. Government for our servicemen and women has been violated recently  making  that commitment to serve even more dangerous. Our government has not honored its promises. We have left U.S. citizens and military personnel to die in Benghazi. For years we have  denied or provided poor care for our veterans  seeking treatment in our VA health system. Our veterans’ widows had to sue for the Survivor Benefits that they were promised when their spouses enlisted.

Though the Congressional Budget Office claims that military members are paid more on an equalized basis for the same jobs as civilians, there is a perception among military middle class families that they are paid less.

The rules of engagement make deployment now the most dangerous it has ever been and there is great questioning of leadership. The answer to the question, “What is the mission?” is becoming less clear each day. What very bright, highly motivated individual is going to choose this career path? Please do not clobber me in the comments. I do not mean to imply that everyone who chooses to go into the military is stupid. There are still intelligent, compassionate, patriotic people out there who believe in the value of protecting their country who enlist, or go to officer candidate school whose service I value tremendously. But the General is painting a picture of a preponderance of dolts applying to the military and I believe the military deserves some of the blame for attracting those types of applicants.

It also bears mentioning that the rising sophistication of our military means that even lower level soldiers  require greater skills than their predecessors. The General’s comments imply that they are only looking for basic skills that everyone should have.

The rest of his comments demonstrate that he did not investigate it much beyond the CCSSI talking points. There are many reasons our k-12 graduates skills may have dropped that have almost nothing to do with standards. Along with standards based grading we have instituted the elimination of zeroes for poor quality or missing work. Kids just get to keep trying or get a pass. We have dropped content in order to prepare for standardized testing. We have demonized rote memorization even though neurological studies have shown it to be necessary to brain formation. Yet Common Core is supposed to just be standards. So how are new standards going to address all these other factors that affect student performance?

Remember that the American Diploma Project claimed credit for being the basis of Common Core. In his testimony before the New York State Senate Education Committee October 1, 2013 President Michale Cohen stated, “Achieve’s analysis of these standards in nearly 20 states identified a ‘common core’ of rigorous expectations across the participating states. This work provided a foundation for the development of the Common Core State Standards.” From that perspective, what is in common core has been common in almost half of the states for decades, so how could it possibly be considered ground breaking? And how could we predict that suddenly kids will come out of high school with such improved performance if we have been using something similar to these standards for years?

So the military industrial complex likes the idea of private business taking public money and essentially running large portions of government. Who’d have thought? The military would like to see all soldiers, I mean students, trained to the same level of performance exactly like the Prussian education system that our current education system is modeled on? I’d like to say I’m shocked, but I know too much history. The Prussian king wanted total control and an easily ruled populace. It therefore was imperative to to take education out of the hands of the family and church in order to create:

  1. Obedient workers for the mines.
  2. Obedient soldiers for the army.
  3. Well-subordinated civil servants to government.
  4. Well-subordinated clerks to industry.
  5. Citizens who thought alike about major issues.

With these facts in mind, is U.S. Military support for Common Core all that significant?

Anne Gassel

Anne has been writing on MEW since 2012 and has been a citizen lobbyist on Common Core since 2013. Some day she would like to see a national Hippocratic oath for educators “I will remember that there is an art to teaching as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy and understanding are sometimes more important than policy or what the data say. My first priority is to do no harm to the children entrusted to my temporary care.”

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