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Thursday, September 25, 2014

Reframing the Common Core discussion: A battle for our freedom

By Laurie H. Rogers

“To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize.” – Voltaire
“The further a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those who speak it.” – George Orwell

If I were to build a list of the worst systemic problems in public education, the Common Core State Standards would not be at the top of the list. The Common Core (CCSS) is a huge problem, to be sure. It’s dictatorial, inadequate, experimental, expensive, developmentally inappropriate, politically infused – it’s nearly everything critics have said it is. But it isn’t the worst problem we face.

That dishonor goes to The Network, a moniker I’ve given to the conglomeration of corporate and government interests (and their allies) that have seized control of America’s classrooms. The Network is huge – containing most of the K-12 education mob, plus its allies in the Department of Education; colleges of education; unions; media; government agencies, associations and legal teams; foundations; corporations; legislatures; fundraising groups; colleges and universities; business; and even the courts.

The Network prefers to operate quietly, promoting supposedly good intentions. Its hallmark phrase: “It’s all about the kids.” But try opposing The Network on behalf of a child – yours or anyone else’s. If you can’t be put off, persuaded, ignored, bullied or bought out, The Network has no problem getting nasty. The more honest and honorable you are, the nastier The Network becomes.

This isn’t about left or right, Democrat or Republican. It’s about “in” and “out”; money and power; agenda and ideology. The Network spends a lot of taxpayer money growing itself, feeding itself and shielding itself from accountability. The bigger it is, the more power it has. The more power it has, the more friends it gains. The more friends it gains, the more money it gets. The more money it gets, the bigger it grows – even as it completely fails our children. Allies of all stripes play along.

In Washington State, legislators and judges now tout the additional billions they’ll rip from taxpayers for failed school districts. They don’t say how much is spent currently or what it buys. They don’t hold districts accountable. Education already is a bottomless pit of wasted dollars; they don’t seem to care.

Parents must understand: The Network will never properly educate our children. A) It doesn’t know how. Its power structure has lost any sense of how to teach academics sufficiently, efficiently and effectively. B) It doesn’t care. The agenda is to gain money and power; push a particular political view onto the next generation; maintain position and income; and avoid accountability and transparency. Some allies work agreeably with The Network; others accept the benefits of looking the other way.

This is how we were stuck with the CCSS. They claim it will raise the bar and foster international competitiveness, but unless they mean to foster competitiveness IN our competitors, their claim is easily disproved by a comparison of what they’ve done versus what happens in the classrooms of our competitors. The CCSS is designed to deliver the agenda in such a way that it cannot be overcome.

The Network wants freedom, choices and privacy for itself, not for us. If it’s successful, it will have replaced the light constraints of a free people with the ropes and chains of the subjugated. To have what it wants in education, The Network must have it all – K-12, secondary education, early learning, preschools, private and faith-based schools – and someday – mark my words – homeschooling. Dissenters spend time and energy fighting off the CCSS but almost none fighting off The Network. Thus, they can’t defeat the agenda, and The Network knows it.

A few in The Network believe they’re doing right by children, but most deceive themselves and us about their level of independence -- as they accept money, votes or benefits or do The Network’s bidding. You can establish who’s “in” by: following the money; speaking up publicly; or asking for help in opposing the agenda. The players and sycophants will undermine your message or crush it.

The Network will not tell the truth about the CCSS, for example. It was destined to be authoritarian and politically useful – not academically excellent. Nationalizing systems can work well for widgets, but not for children, learning, individuality or freedom. Politically biased, uninformed by what works elsewhere, and academically counterproductive, the CCSS is a national experiment on children and dangerous to the nation. The people who control it and push it aren’t accountable for it. It’s a lesser product than what many states had. It was deceitful from its inception in its adoption, writing, content, promotion and implementation. This was a bipartisan deceit – Republicans are as guilty as Democrats.

The CCSS is a godsend for district leaders, however. Many lack the knowledge necessary to identify a solid curriculum. They habitually adopt programs that are unproved or proved to be failures. The failures of the CCSS won’t be known for generations, so they’ll have lots of time to retire in comfort.

In math, the CCSS is cementing processes proved over three decades to be failures. Nationalization of education is how extreme constructivists plan to ultimately win the “math wars” – by using the CCSS to mandate their stupid methods across the country. They will destroy more generations of students and further endanger the country.

In English, the CCSS is allowing districts to eliminate great literature, replacing it with “informational” (pro-government, pro-extremist) material. Much of the history, culture, context, and factual information that would help to inform a student’s “critical thinking” has been or is being removed or minimized. Ray Bradbury, author of Fahrenheit 451, once presciently noted: “You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.” The CCSS is doing that.

In history and civics, the new themes are content-light and opinion-heavy, pro-victimization, anti-Christian and anti-patriot. America is to be portrayed as bigoted, imperialistic, genocidal, misogynistic and anti-immigrant. Great historical figures and much daring and innovative history are to be eliminated, criticized or minimized. (This is what happens when those who view America with contempt are given free reign over academic standards.)

If the CCSS was ever about helping students academically, its promoters would have had proof of its efficacy – a track record of success. They don’t have it. The CCSS is an unproved product. Unfortunately, as bad as it is, the CCSS is just one tentacle of the monster. The Network remains largely hidden as its agenda oozes out around us, like a nasty sludge. It’s difficult to confront and defeat what we can’t see. It’s an ongoing challenge to explain this to people who would rather not believe it.

Another tentacle is the privacy-destroying longitudinal data systems. Another is the flawed testing, all online. Another is teacher evaluations, based on the faulty premise that good teachers can overcome bad curriculum, policy and administration. Another is the de facto federal takeover, now seeping into private schools, preschools, daycares and colleges. Another is the creepy technology: emails for children (that disallow parental access); scanning of driver’s licenses; and biometric intrusions on children.

We try to put all of this under the umbrella of the CCSS, and we can’t, because the CCSS is not the umbrella. We struggle because we’re missing the point. These are tentacles of the same monster. They’re separate – related but independent. It’s fascist, it’s corporatist, it’s dictatorial, selfish, larcenous... Call it what you like, but The Network is in charge and not accountable to anyone.

This is how national tyrannies are born.

The Network’s strengths are in its size, money, and near-sociopathic ability and willingness to lie on a daily basis and with impunity. It benefits from our ignorance and passivity. It’s easy, safe and pleasant for us to believe that government/corporate “partnerships” are benevolent and that the government is still on our side. We are failing to recognize our new reality.

It’s almost too late. The Network now determines problems, makes decisions and provides solutions. It essentially has oversight over itself, and it’s rapidly gaining power over the rest of us. It cares less about the children or our rights than it does about protecting its interests. The finer details of the content of the CCSS were always immaterial – a distraction. The CCSS will be whatever The Network wants it to be. The goal was that we lose our power as individuals. Graduates won’t know they’ve been manipulated. The Network wants to be the decider; we are to be the obeyers. Hop to it.

It’s risky to draw this picture for the public. Network allies will kick into gear to mock and undermine the message. Since 2009, I’ve watched this come to fruition, hearing lie after lie about it, even as the dark truth blossomed right there in front of our face. We asked for help from legislators, board directors, government watchdogs, and the media -- only to find out that most are part of The Network.

Sometimes a conspiracy “theory” isn’t a theory.

Fighting it off requires a certain mindset about freedom, knowledge, the law, the Constitution, and individuality – hence The Network’s attacks on those things. The Network is self-regenerating, with a long institutional memory. If it loses a tentacle to a determined group of dissenters, it grows another and renames it. In math, it can be Outcome-Based Education; New Math; Reform Math; inquiry-based math; student-centered learning; or constructivism. If a state rejects the CCSS, The Network can keep it in place under a different name. The Network isn’t worried. It intends to win. For the kiddoes, of course.

This is grim, so I hate to leave it here. This is America, and in America, it’s never over. But we’re now in a battle for our freedom, and most of us appear to not know it. It isn’t going to be a walk in the daffodils. The battle cannot be won by a few of us while the rest wait to hear how it went.

More citizens must become motivated, questioning, informed and involved. We must learn, vote, dissent, and inform others (including the few in The Network who will listen). We must stop supporting powerful people who demand that we acquiesce to The Network. We must vote against legislators who vote for The Network. We must walk away from schools run by well-heeled administrators and board directors who express solemn concern over students they never actually help. The Network prefers that we remain uninformed and obedient. As we wait in vain for it to do the right thing for our children, it advances the agenda. It’s symbiotic to itself but parasitic to the rest of us.

Americans have been asleep for too long. This battle is necessary to our children’s future as free Americans. If we don’t save them now from The Network, we risk losing them to it forever.

Please note: This information is copyrighted. The proper citation is: 
Rogers, L. (September 2014). "Reframing the Common Core: A battle for our freedom." Retrieved (date) from the Betrayed Web site:

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

What Does a Quality Textbook Look Like?

By Nakonia (Niki) Hayes.
(Previously published on Truth in American Education. Republished here with permission from the author.)

There’s an interesting new concern being voiced by Common Core leaders: “What does a quality textbook look like?”

Here’s a non-nuanced, concrete answer, especially for mathematics textbooks: “It gets results and doesn’t chase kids out of math.” And, yes, such textbooks do exist.

It’s not surprising that the issue of quality textbooks has come up with Common Core. After all, textbook publishing is a multi-billion dollar industry. The federally-supported mathematics and English Core standards will drive 85% of a school’s curricula and 100% of the related assessments in about 40 states. The creation of new Core-aligned materials that prepare students for the Core-aligned assessments is already making a rich impact on publishing businesses, vendors, and peripheral activities (teacher training, consultants, etc.). So much has to be rewritten or at least republished with the words “Common Core Aligned” on the cover. Old materials must be thrown away. New materials have to be bought. Lots of profit is on the horizon.

The major problem for publishers, however, is actually in mathematics education. They must figure out how to get good, reliable, and verifiable results from American children who have become math phobic over the past 50 years. That means publishers need to listen to authors who have a
proven success record and not to ideologically-driven math education leaders who have for years promoted fads with political correctness as the purpose of math education. It will be hard—and expensive—to cut the cord between publishers and embedded education “leaders” if quality textbooks are to be created. Profits may suffer at the beginning.

But here is a checklist for publishers, administrators, teachers, and parents to consider about math textbooks:

1) Look for
results, not ideology. It is about student success, not affirming adult beliefs.
  • Results are reflected in GPAs, End-of-Course exams, state tests, national tests, and/or college board exams.
  • Local comments from students, teachers, and parents give anecdotal but often powerful insight. (Surveys are especially interesting when high school students are asked about their elementary and middle school classes.)
  • Specific studies commissioned by the author(s) or publishers show results.
  • School districts or schools with similar demographics that have used the textbook should be contacted. This information can be supplied by the publisher.
2) The author (not “consultants” or “advisors”) who actually wrote the textbook is named, preferably on the cover. This also helps provide accountability.
  • If no authors are listed, the book has been created by workers in publishing “development houses.” This can and probably does provide lack of continuity, different writing styles throughout the book (and supplemental materials), and thus incoherency which decrease clarity of the lessons and affect student responses. This also erases responsibility for the publisher.
3) Actual examples of internationally-based problems (not simply referenced in “studies” by education researchers) are offered for review by the publisher if the textbook is listed as Common Core-aligned, since it is touted that Core standards are internationally based.

4) The teacher’s manual does not consist of 1,000 pages for 180 days of instruction.
  • One afternoon of teacher training with a user-friendly textbook should be sufficient.
  • If it is claimed that a detailed and extensive teacher’s manual (for teaching the teacher) is needed because of weak teacher preparation or skills, then it is the school administration’s problem. They need to work with the teacher training sites to produce better candidates, not buy a truckload of supplemental materials.
5) The textbook does not waste space with expensive, colored photos even if they may have a relationship to the topic. One color used for highlighting words or graphs is sufficient.
  • The textbook uses appropriate space for examples and creative repetition of exercises through every lesson of the book for practice and mastery.
  • The textbook’s focus is on mathematics. Use of social justice themes, for example, in math problem-solving detracts from the math concepts which should be the focus of students.
6) The use of calculators is limited to a few “investigative exercises” to help familiarize students with calculators for later use; they are not to be used in regular problem-solving activities in grades K-6.
  • Mental math and memorization of math facts are required.
7) Few supplemental materials are necessary for students, especially in basic, foundational learning.
  • A test manual and a solutions manual are sufficient as supplements for teachers.
  • A manual for specific populations (special needs or gifted) may be useful.
8) No protest has ever been waged against the textbook by any organized parent group.
  • An Internet search will show if such protests have taken place.
9) The textbook can be completed in one school year without skipping pages or topics.
  • Textbooks of 600-800 pages that can weigh up to seven pounds are subject to teachers’ having to eliminate topics. This creates holes in the fabric of linear mathematics education.
10) Schools using the textbook can show the following:
  • a steady, significant decrease in low-level math courses and the need for remedial programs,
  • an increase in enrollment in advanced math and science courses,
  • an increase in those passing state-required exit tests, and
  • an increase in passing rates and scores on college board exams.
11) In summary, does the textbook show accuracy, brevity, and clarity in its lessons so both parents and teachers can help children learn mathematics?

There are those who insist that textbooks aren’t “the curriculum.” They say it’s all about the teachers. (Common Core now says it’s about standards.) If that’s the case, let’s just give all students a copy of the Yellow Pages. Let’s save all that money spent on books and materials and finally train teachers in their content areas so they can use anything handed to them to teach—including the Yellow Pages. (And if the textbooks are so unimportant, why do progressives fight so hard to get “their” chosen textbooks adopted?)

Maybe teachers can do without a book, but many of us know that students need a quality textbook. Parents and teachers come and go in the lives of children these days, but a user-friendly textbook should always be within reach for children. It can set up a satisfying relationship with positive
results for them to show the world.

More than a million homeschooled students, plus many charter, private, and small public schools use a textbook that meets these listed criteria. The math education leadership hates the series because they say it is too traditional. Reams of documentation exist, however, to prove its success with students. For more information, go to (Disclaimer: The author is NOT affiliated with any publisher.)

About the Author:
Nakonia (Niki) Hayes is a K-12 teacher, counselor, and principal who retired in 2006 in Seattle, WA, and returned to Waco, TX, her former home. Certified and experienced in journalism, special education, mathematics, counseling and school administration, she also worked 17 years in journalism fields outside of teaching. She now operates a tutoring academy using Saxon materials in math, reading, and writing. Hayes self-published John Saxon’s Story because publishers said no one wanted to read a story about a math teacher. Her mission is to have John Saxon recognized and honored for his clarity in teaching and his continued legacy of success among students today. All proceeds from the book go to the West Point Department of Mathematical Sciences in memory of LTC John Saxon.