Nationalization Chickens Come Home to Roost

(Guest post by Greg Forster)

He who sleeps with dogs gets fleas. Conservatives who spent the last year pooh-poohing concerns about federal government coercion lying behind the “voluntary” “state-driven” adoption of Common Core, and stigmatizing as “paranoid” those of us who sounded the alarm, are now shocked and saddened to discover that – hold on to your hats! – the federal government is gearing up to use the ridiculous and unobtainable NCLB 100% proficiency requirement as a bludgeon to force the last remaining holdout states to bow down and adopt Common Core.

I am shocked – shocked! – to discover that nationalization is going on in here!

If it’s too much to ask that they come out and admit that it was always a bad idea to sign on to an agenda that was obviously being driven by nationalizers, much less that they apologize to those of us whom they smeared and laughed at along the way, could we now at least ask for a moratorium on the silly “we can quit any time we want!” argument?

I mean the assertion that once states have been forced to sign up for Common Core, the fact that they remain signed up rather than dropping out somehow counts as evidence that they’re really “voluntarily” on board. Leave aside the fact that it basically boils down to saying it’s OK for state political leaders to be prostitutes and destroy children’s lives for money as long as they then come out after the fact and admit openly that that’s what they were doing all along. Does anyone really think that strongarming is something that happens only once? I mean, if your corner grocery gets a visit from Guido and Rocco and immediately thereafter signs up as a member of the Legitimate Businessmen’s Neighborhood Business Protection Society, does its membership count as “voluntary” because it stays in the society year after year even though Guido and Rocco never set foot in the place again?

Suppoose the LBNBPS people swear – cross their hearts and hope to die – that they’ve fired Guido and Rocco and have gone totally legitimate? Would anyone believe them? Would businesses feel free to leave?

I get the sense that conservatives who like Common Core want a do-over. They want to disengage from their former allies among the nationalizers and reposition themselves as champions of high state standards.

Fine! Step one to getting a do-over is to actually do it over.

Common Core is irreversibly associated with nationalization. It already was before the latest word about NCLB waivers; that news doesn’t create, but merely confirms, the permanent link between CC and nationalization of education.

You want genuinely state-driven common standards? Create some.

16 Responses to Nationalization Chickens Come Home to Roost

  1. Erik Syring says:

    No – we want student/parent- and top-university-preferred curricula, not more curricula created by unwieldy committees and imposed top-down.

  2. Greg Forster says:

    Yes, and I think the only path to that is to quit messing with centralized “standards” and go for school choice.

    But let’s face it – because of the technocrats, state-driven standards will be a central issue on the table for a while. Given that, let’s at least establish clarity on what counts as state-driven standards.

  3. Matthew Ladner says:


    You know my position on this subject, and the reasons why: it is outlined in the second half of this blog post:

    Take a close look at that chart in the first part of the post. A child in Mississippi can score “proficient” in reading on their state test with the equivalent of a 163 NAEP score. That’s lower than the worst score ever posted by Washington D.C.

    If you were Secretary of Education, would you be inclined to give Mississippi or states like them a blanket waiver on NCLB? Personally I couldn’t do it.

    That is not to say that I think it is a good idea for Duncan to use the 2014 event horizon to compel states into adopting Common Core. Nor would I be inclined to give a dime of federal money to Mississippi unless they had a testing system that ranked well above a deceptive and cruel joke on children.

    Duncan’s strategy is broadly similar to the A+ plan proposed by Senator Coryn years ago, and which Gene Hickok and I endorsed in a paper for the Heritage Foundation (and for which we were denounced in some quarters of the previous administration). If Duncan requires adoption of CC and ONLY adoption of CC, you will be absolutely correct in this post.

    If however he requires CC or, effectively, a state system of testing that has a reasonable chance of spurring improvement but which reflects local preferences, then he will have effectively simply operationalized and embellished the Coryn bill.

    Let’s see what they come up with in September. I fear that they will prove you correct, but I hope they will not.

    • Betty Peters says:

      ACHIEVE stated on their website that ALL the Common Core State Standards for math and ELA {and I assume for science and social studies once they are put up for adoption} must be adopted. ALL as in 100%. States can add some extras but only to to 15% more, and ACHIEVE’s language makes it obvious that no state should really dare to do that. I am replying to the last sentence in your third to last paragraph: “If Duncan requires adoption of CC and ONLY adoption of CC, you will be absolutely correct in this post.”

  4. Greg Forster says:

    More important than the question of what policy I would choose to impose if I were in a position to impose my preferred policy is the question of whether any one person should ever have this kind of power to reshape the law unilaterally. Waivers are OK when they are used in isolated instances to prevent laws from being applied in cases where applying that law would be stupid. To take a classic legal example, there may be a law requiring pedestrians to walk on the left side of the road, but that law shouldn’t be enforced in cases where there’s an immanent danger on the left side. However, when waivers are used systematically to alter policy, the rule of law gives way to rule by the whim of powerful individuals. I think it was Jim Geraghty who recently commented that in the near future, all laws will be optional for people who have a note signed by a cabinet member.

    I’m on record saying that if we can’t stop federal funding for education, we should at least get some transparency in return for it. However, I’m no longer inclined (as I once was) to go any further than transparency. Look at the direction it takes us in.

    I’m prepared to admit that my position implies the feds should keep funding Mississippi regardless of performance, as long as Mississippi continues to participate in a testing system transparent enough to allow people like you to hold it up and point out what a lousy performance it has. I don’t want to set up Arne Duncan as dictator – I’m counting on you instead!

    • Matthew Ladner says:

      I don’t know the source of Duncan’s waiver authority. I would say however that applying the 2014 standard qualifies as stupid.

      • Sandra says:

        No much questioning on the waiver authority; much questioning on the “conditional” part of the waiver….do this, to get the waiver.

      • Greg Forster says:

        The source of his authority isn’t the issue. Laws often create permission to give waivers, but it’s always abusive to exploit this as a backdoor way of turning a cabinet secretary into a one man legislature, executor, judge, jury and executioner. So Duncan could have gold plated authorization signed by all nine justices, all four Iron Chefs, Oprah, Kaizer Soze and Moses, and I wouldn’t really give a rip.

  5. Sandra says:

    @Greg: “More important than the question of what policy I would choose to impose if I were in a position to impose my preferred policy is the question of whether any one person should ever have this kind of power to reshape the law unilaterally. Waivers are OK when they are used in isolated instances to prevent laws from being applied in cases where applying that law would be stupid.”
    We agree here. However, in a recent opinion piece, Jeb Bush seems to advise Duncan to make the “conditions” tougher and other reporting suggests involvement in “calming” anti-common core standard push. US House education/workforce committee members have a rather tepid response to the overreach you describe. Where do they stand on legislative responsibilities? Maybe we’ll know more in September.

    Unless I am mistaken, without the Common Core standards, there can be no “new generation” of national standardized assessments to measure learning gains, starting in preschool. Without the data collected, there can be no national student longitudinal database. The “conditions” as described require rigorous use of data. I don’t see the conditions just about Common Core standards, but the entire Common Core package.

  6. stlgretchen says:

    With all due respect, there are many liberals who have welcomed the common core standards. I would classify the conservatives who like the standards as “progressive conservatives”. Many of our Republican legislators in my state prefer to tout themselves as “patriots”, but yet, have put forth their education plan that mirrors Race to the Top language and mandates.
    Would I consider them “conservatives”? Hardly. They are as progressive and in love with federal money strings as a politician who believes in centralization of power. In fact, I had one of these “progressive conservatives” tell me he sees no problem with private companies setting consortia standards with taxpayer money.
    I see this not as a “conservative” vs “liberal” argument. These are not true conservatives who have supported common core standards. Call these progressive conservatives for what they are. They are political ELITISTS. Just like Arne Duncan and Obama. And I don’t see anyone calling THEM out for supporting this educational disaster.

  7. […] nationalization chickens have come home to roost, writes Greg Forster on Jay Greene’s blog. I love the Chicken Run […]

  8. Sandra says:

    Here come the so-called “new generation” of assessments based on the Common Core standards.

  9. Grumpyelder says:

    Thank you stlgretchen a couple weeks ago Rich Swier who as or more conservative than I am wrote a blog accusing the Florida Legislature of selling the souls of our school kids to DC for 63.00 each….

    I’ve argued for almost two years if the teachers were smart, they’d come off the ” poor mistreated teacher line ” they’ve used for the last 50 years, and explain real impact of RTTT to TEA Partiers and ask for a little help…logically it should have been a TEA Party fight, Its DC over reach at it’s worst. There isn’t a GOP legislature in the country that would take on the teachers, if they had TEA Support

    The teachers wanted no part. Logic didn’t work with them, I got the same reaction as most of the other conservatives who tried reaching out to ’em.. It’s been months and I’m still bleeding.

  10. Ayn Marie Samuelson says:

    The central focus of educational policy decisions should be on who pays and who benefits, as that determines legitimacy and value. Those who make educational decisions with taxpayer money – you know, mandatory taxes from local property taxes to myriad other taxes – but permit private, non-profit, for-profit companies or foundations to use public funding, while also having significant sway over ed policy, are disingenuous at best.

    What about parents and community members, who pay and have truly local concerns, namely their own children, but are clearly not allowed into the decision-making process?

    Talking about “choice” without permitting real participation in the decision-making process is a false choice indeed. The elites believe it is they who should make all educational decisions – from standards to curriculum, despite the fact that many don’t understand the implementation difficulties and the unintended consequences in the real world. Money and power drive the show.

  11. stlgretchen says:

    Everyone say AMEN. Perfect analysis.

  12. concerned says:

    “many don’t understand the implementation difficulties and the unintended consequences” OR THE CONTENT!!!

    Weak Math >>> Weaker Science



    (via these weak national standards)


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