ImageMay 17 will mark the 60th anniversary of Brown vs. the Bd. Of education, Topeka Kansas. That landmark Supreme Court decision was supposed to guarantee equal and equitable education for all. Obviously racial and economic segregation have not gone away, but these days there is a different reason countless numbers of students have lost their civil right to an equitable education.

That reason is the creation of a 2-tiered education system: one for the elite and one for the common people based not only on ethnicity and economics, but also on the implementation of the common core and standardized testing.

We see this monster’s ugly head in the guise of the “education reform” movement and the Common Core expertly marketed by organizations funded and founded by the likes of bill gates, the Koch brothers, Wendy Kopp, and now, apparently, Eva Moscowitz. 

At first glance, the curriculum standards known as common core looks appealing. Who could be against improved critical thinking and communication skills or more progressive, student centered teaching? Who could be against collaborative thinking and reflective learning or being “college and career ready”?

But as teacher-blogger José Vilson, puts it, “people who advocate for the [common core standards] miss the bigger picture. … [They] came as a package deal with the new teacher evaluations, higher stakes testing, and austerity measures, including school closings.” 

 The Common Core is just the last of a series of politicized and incentivized business models inappropriately being applied to education. Attempts to “commonize” education to make the U.S. more economically competitive started with the use of Frederick Winslow Taylor’s scientific management in public, not private, schools during the early 20th century to train workers, not leaders, for our new industrial economy. During the 1950s, the launch of the U.S.S.R.’s sputnik then led to an infusion of federal dollars to improve science education. 

But it was the publication of “A Nation At Risk” in 1983 that was “commonizing’s” great leap forward. According to the author of “Finnish lessons,” Pasi Sahlberg, international corporate and national leaders then decided in the early 1990s on a “close interplay between education policies and economic strategies”.

Which nation refused to join? Finland, which is considered to have the world’s top education system, and turned it’s very poor education system around in the early 1990s by emulating the teaching we did here in the 60’s and 70’s.

In 2001, President George W. Bush brought us No Child Left Behind, an education reform law based on the goal that high standards and establishing measurable goals would improve individual outcomes. That law also gave states the impossible goal of achieving 100 percent proficiency in English and Math by 2014. In 2009, the Obama administration then launched race to the top, created to “spur innovation and reforms in state and local district k-12 education.”

The net result was a huge standardized testing craze used to rate students, teachers and schools that led to stressed out students, frustrated teachers, anxious administrators and cheating and closed schools. 

Relying on national standardized tests to evaluate naturally leads to the next logical step: nationally standardized curricula. The problem is that a federal set of common curricula is illegal according to “the 1965 elementary and secondary education act (ESEA), and two additional education acts.

So, to skirt those laws the national governors association and the council of chief state school officers spearheaded the creation of the common core: D.C.-based associations funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and others.

The common core standards themselves were actually developed by Achieve Inc. Headed by now ETS president, David Coleman. No teachers were in the work groups charged with drafting the standards. Almost all 35 people in the feedback groups were university professors, and of the 135 reviewers, not one was a k-3 teacher, early childhood professional or parent. One K-12 teacher was found to be in the entire process and any other K-12 teachers associated with the products were brought in after the fact mostly to endorse and legitimize them.  Had teachers developed these curricula and standards as they have done in states like New York for decades  and without the standardized testing umbilical cord, I believe this debate would not be going on.

James Poulos, in the daily beast, argues that:

 “We need to bluntly confess that all these concerns and more boil down to a single bad idea—one that’s revealed by big business’s insanely obdurate and fanatical devotion to the ideals of common core.”

“In its substance and its structure alike, common core does not educate students to be their own bosses or their own masters. The common core standards owe their existence to the appeal of a simple master concept: everyone should be an employee. The corporate elite will pretty much stop at nothing to make us all into happy, healthy sheep.”  

Is that our children’s new civil right?

Somewhere Frederick Winslow Taylor is smiling.