The Home School Legal Defense Association released its long-awaited documentary on the Common Core national standards last week, Building the Machine.
The film offers clarity to an initiative that is little known by the American public but will affect millions of students across the country.
Spearheaded in 2009 by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, Common Core was immediately incentivized by the Obama Administration with $4.35 billion in competitive Race to the Top grants and No Child Left Behind waivers. Forty-six states signed on and agreed to implement the standards by the 2014–2015 school year with little public input. Indeed, a Gallup poll released last summer showed that 62 percent of Americans are unfamiliar with Common Core.
The new film is likely to change public awareness about Common Core. It is, as the film notes, “the biggest reform you’ve heard nothing about.”
As Queens College professor emeritus of political science Andrew Hacker states in the video, “I’m trying to think of something analogous to this that slipped through so easily on the national basis and I really can’t. That’s why I called it radical; you know it’s a real change from the past.”
Sandra Stotsky (University of Arkansas professor emerita of education reform) and Jim Milgram (Stanford University professor emeritus of mathematics) offer their perspectives on the rigor of the standards. Both sat on the Common Core validation committee but refused to approve the standards. According to the film, each member who refused to sign off on the standards was “expunged” from the record, making it appear there was little if any dissent with the content of the standards.
Jason Zimba, the lead writer for the Common Core mathematics standards who was highlighted in the film, admitted that Common Core represents “a minimal definition of college readiness” and was not designed to prepare students for admission to selective colleges.
At the heart of the film is the notion that parental control in education will be jeopardized by national standards. “Who does the child belong to?” asks Ze’ev Wurman, a former U.S. Department of Education official. “Is it the government’s right to teach the child what the government thinks the child should know? Or is it my child and I [who] should have some say in it?”
With the implementation deadline drawing near, many states are pushing back against national standards. As Stotsky states in the video, Common Core is an “opening wedge” for top-down education reform and centralization. Research shows that the greatest factor in educational success is parental involvement—something Common Core critics fear will be diminished.
Brandon Hershey is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please click here.