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“A sound mind in a sound body is a short but full descriptionof a happy state in this world.” —John Locke
What if Obamacare—the attempt to nationalize and, ultimately, socialize the health industry and one-sixth of the nation’s economy—is not the worst thing that has happened in the last four years? What if, largely under the radar, the progressive establishment has successfully gained the capacity to have well-nigh complete control over something even more important than our bodies: our minds, or at least, our children’s minds? If a sound mind in a sound body (and I hope a sound soul thrown in there somewhere) is what constitutes our happiness, then what happens to us when we put our bodies and our minds in control of some unaccountable, outside force? What if that force thinks far less of us than we ought to think of ourselves: intellectually, morally, spiritually?
Something very close to that has happened in this business called the Common Core. And it is no mere piece of populist punditry that has given it the monikers Obamacore, Commie Core, and so on. Any way you look at it, the Common Core is what the educational establishment and progressive politicians in general have wanted for a long time: a completely nationalized system of education that is accountable to no elected body or group of parents. And this system was adopted with virtually no public discussion a couple of years back, when Race to the Top money was used to bri—, er, persuade state governments that were strapped for cash to adopt it.
That is bad enough. But what is really awful, ridiculous, and often reprehensible is what takes place in classrooms across the country under the false assurances of “college and career readiness for a twenty-first-century global economy.” While the authors of the Common Core trumpet their “standards,” and a host of “experts” (who ought to know better) join them, and millions of dollars of “non-profit” and corporate funds are spent to advertise this educational regimen, parents—mostly moms—are looking at the math their students are bringing home and wondering, “why should it take my child five minutes to do a simple addition problem in this ‘new way’?” Gradually, parents are also starting to wonder about some of the things being taught in what used to be called English class. The more they learn about the Common Core, the worse it turns out to be.
Of course, these concerned, taxpaying parents are dismissed as “suburban moms” by the Secretary of Education and “just moms” by local educrats in almost every state. Yet those suburban moms are a lot closer to their children’s education than Arne Duncan is. Two of these suburban moms brought me into this fight about seven months ago. These incredible ladies—Heather Crossin and Erin Tuttle—are responsible for the “pause” in Indiana that has spread to other states, the purpose of which is to figure out what Common Core really is—which means exposing it for what it is. But the pause is only helpful if we make use of it. That means getting to the heart of what it is, exposing it, dismantling it, and then having a discussion about what education should really look like in this country.
To help forward that discussion (and perhaps others) on Ricochet, Peter Robinson has kindly invited me back to the site. So, for the next few weeks, I shall offer occasional pieces that will, I hope, shed some light on the almost impenetrable darkness that is the Common Core. The problem, you see, is that the Common Core, though in one sense very horribly written, is at the same time cast in such jargon-ridden educationese that the real intent behind the “standards” is concealed. Well-intentioned people have flipped to Appendix B of the English Standards and concluded, “there are some good books listed here, so this can’t be all that bad.”
What I hope I can do is serve as a translator: of the philosophy behind Common Core, of the standards, of the means of selecting books, of the books themselves, and of how these books will be taught in the classroom. (I am referring to the English Standards.) My thesis is simply that the architects of the Common Core are story-killers. They are trying to remove the great stories of a great people from the classroom and replace them with either postmodern tales of self-induced malaise or outright political indoctrination. Without great stories—stories of heroism and love and sacrifice and faith—a people can hardly be great. And, as Plato pointed out long ago, whoever controls the stories of any society controls the politics. Stories, like music, speak straight to the soul; they shape the soul. A person’s soul determines how he will live and act in the world and, yes, vote. The struggle over the Common Core—the current manifestation of the hundred-year march of progressive education—is nothing short of a struggle for the souls of the nation’s children. It is really that simple.
I invite folks who really want to study up on this issue, to read my book The Story-Killers, available on Amazon and Kindle. I very much look forward to what Ricochet readers will have to say. Based on what I have seen over the past few months, I believe that this is an issue we can win. I do not mean that in the sense of a short-term political victory. Rather, the fight over Common Core, which is taking place in state capitals, cities, and towns across the country, is an embryonic grassroots effort to take back our schools. Consequently, it presents the opportunity that we have not had in this country since the 1983 A Nation at Risk report. It presents the opportunity to figure out what an education really is, which can only mean figuring out what the world is, who human beings are, what justice is, and what beautiful and ennobling stories teach us about the human condition. That’s a discussion worth having and a cause worth fighting for.