All Hail to the “Not Me” Party: Sponsors of the Common Core and other ed reform debacles

"Not me!"

In my house, my kids and I like to play a game called “Not me.” I am sure that many other parents play this same game with their children. When I find a wet towel lying on the floor, or a half eaten yogurt sitting on the kitchen counter,  or a pile of toys left scattered about I ask, “Who made this mess?” and the reply is usually “Not me!” claimed in unison by both my children. We joke about my “third child,” who must be named Not Me since he or she seems to be responsible for most of the misdeeds around my home.

And while I find this whole exercise endearing within the confines of my own family, I find it far less humorous when played by politicians and billionaires playing games with children’s education, and yet this is the game being played by individuals and groups from “both sides of the aisle.”

Of course the game is played slightly differently depending on the political and corporate affiliation of the “not me” in question. In essence, in the media and using their public “face” they easily lay blame on anyone but themselves, usually employing the political tactic of throwing the oppositional party, or politicians, under the bus- laying blame for the failure of education reform policies on one another. But as I said, this is simply game, used to dupe the public. Let me offer some examples.

The Democratic party are the ones who take ownership for the latest in ed deform, called Race to the Top, which brings with it among other things, the national Common Core Standards. They encourage schools, teachers, parents and politicians to embrace this initiative in the name of “equity” and “opportunity” for all children, providing benefits to the neediest of children living in underserved and underrepresented schools and communities. It is intended, they claim, to provide quality curriculum to “level” the playing field for all children. (I’ll come back to the sad reality behind this in a moment.)

Conversely, there seems to be a resounding resistance coming from the voices in the conservative “right”, opposing the national common core standards, claiming it re-entrenches “big” government, and strips states and local communities of their “freedoms” and “rights” to determine educational policy. Their basic ideology is one of private enterprise and the abolishment of government interference in private life.

But under the ideological rhetoric, under the façade of “caring” for children, or even honoring the beliefs and values of their party constituents, something quite the opposite has happened.

Business and political leaders from both parties are appealing to their members- using language that will draw us in. For conservative-minded parents, they claim that more charters and vouchers will offer greater “freedom of choice” and limit the role of the government. But if you want to know how this really plays out, just ask the parents who were duped by the Parent Trigger Laws. Private does mean more freedom for YOU… or your child. It means more freedom to billion dollar corporations to take over and own our rights, not to mention our private data. It’s not merely the government pulling those strings. It’s private corporate interest hailing from the conservative party lines. And from the Democrats, we receive sound bites of how the Common Core and all the goodies that come along with Race to the Top will provide more equity and opportunity for all children, especially those in poor communities. Say what they like…sorry, it ain’t happening. In fact, just the opposite is happening. Racial segregation has increased exponentially-so much for the promise of greater equity. Children with special needs and English Language Learners suffer (not flourish) with increased pressure from standardized tests, and denial of needed services in their new charter schools “of choice” (to which many are not even welcome).

Regardless of the ideological language that they use, all these leaders from both parties are gunning for the same things: money, power, and control. They just use different language and strategies to get there. They work for each other. Not parents. Not teachers. And certainly not children.

WE HAVE ALL BEEN SOLD UP THE RIVER to an unofficial yet powerful third party called The Corporatists, a party peopled by members hailing from both the so-called right and left of the political spectrum. Their ideology is grounded in a belief of the almighty dollar, which serves them.  And the leader of this third party is apparently Representative Not Me. But no one really knows who he or she is. Not Me’s job is to make sure that blame can be laid at the feet of their political opposition.

As children continue to suffer under conditions of tremendous poverty, a factor which Not Me likes to ignore, billions of dollars are funneled to charter school “managers”, testing companies, and the six figure salaries of the people who run them. Anyone who has ever voted Democrat or aligned themselves in that direction, hoping for justice, equity, and fairness to all people, especially those among us with the greatest needs, are probably sorely embarrassed by Democratic supported initiatives led by Arne Duncan at the right hand of President Obama, Michael Bloomberg, and Michelle Rhee. And many of will (and do) call them out for their misdeeds. Party “loyalty” be damned. These politicians and figure-heads have forsaken their supposed values to make back room deals with corporations, and with policies that will profit the rich, dis-empower the working class (including teachers unions), and hand over personal data into the hands of private corporate interests. So many of these policies appear far more in keeping with values and goals of politicians identified as conservative, including the stated goals of the American Legislative Exchange Commission. Randi Weingarten (in a document sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation) articulated what she called good and effective measures in education reform. But as Jim Horn points out:

Your union dues are not going to protect you and your students from the corporate onslaught by efficiency zealots, privateers, and proto-fascist ideologues. In fact, your president, Randi Weingarten, has joined forces with the oligarchs to begin the Accountability Testing 3.0 regime that has failed so miserably in the two previous releases.

In another example, referring to the PARRC, a central facet of the Common Core (assumed to be an initiative of the current Democratic administration) Ravitch states:

The PARCC assessment group includes all or almost every member of Jeb Bush’s Chiefs for Change.

Quite curious to me are members of the Not Me party hailing from the conservative side of the aisle. I am sure there are average citizens (including parents) who genuinely resist the Common Core based on their own set of personal values. But are these same constituents aware of the numerous members (and organizations) of their own party who have been deeply enmeshed with creating the same set of education policies they now claim to reject? As one example, I have read in numerous places now where Rick Hess, of the conservative think-tank the American Enterprise Institute has warned of the problems with Common Core. As Ravitch succinctly summarizes it:

Rick Hess … has a completely different understanding of the Common Core. As he explains it, “reformers” expect that the Common Core standards will reveal to suburban parents just how awful their public schools are. This will set off the “reformers’” long-hoped for stampede for privatization among the smug and satisfied denizens of the nation’s suburbs. Imagine the possibilities as everyone discovers their local school is failing and runs to the exits, demanding charters and vouchers. Farewell, public education. Hello, free market. Even Rick Hess has his doubts about this scenario.

Yet, in spite of his luke-warm attitude toward the Common Core as stated more recently, his name is signed on a report written by the Council for Foreign Relations Independent Task Force Report No. 68 entitled US Education Reform and National Security. According to the report:

“Task Force members are asked to join a consensus signifying that they endorse ‘the general policy thrust and judgments reached by the group, though not necessarily every finding and recommendation.’ Each Task Force member also has the option of putting forward an additional or dissenting view.”

As a member of this committee Hess essentially approved a document of projected policy recommendations which mention the Common Core (at minimum) 22 times; articulating the need for a national common core curriculum and its inherent values. Dr. Hess did not offer a dissenting opinion on the matter even though he was afforded the opportunity to do so. Now let me be clear, I am not picking on Dr Hess. I have no idea what was going on his mind at the time he served on this committee, nor the possible changes of heart he may have had since that document was signed in March 2012. I just find this to be a curious thing in light of a pattern emerging from members of “the right” seeming to do a “turn around” on the policies they helped put in to place. As Ohanian points out:

That’s why many conservatives dislike Chester Finn, Jr., and Louis Gerstner, Jr., and George W. Bush, Jr., even more than liberals do. Incongruous as it may seem, opposition to Goals 2000 might provide an opportunity for right-wing and left-wing zealots to join hands in their common belief that the state is the enemy of education.

More curious to me is the stance articulated by ALEC, which is now seemingly against the Common Core. And yet, one glance at the list of the “whose who” that orchestrated the Common Core, one can see their finger prints cannot be wholly erased. So many of the supporters of the Common Core through their association with CCSSO, NGA, Achieve, Pearson or other Common Core Partners are directly affiliated with ALEC and its education policies (which aim to privatize public education). This list includes but is not limited to: LUMINA, STATE FARM, CONNECTION ACADEMY, ALLIANCE FOR EXCELLENECE IN EDUCATION, THE WALTON FOUNDATION.  See

Bill Gates himself donated millions to various organizations who praised the Common Core Standards:

The list ranges from the American Federation of Teachers ($1,000,000) to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction ($823,637), from the neoliberal Center for American Progress ($2,998,809) to the neo-conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute ($5,711,462). The PTA got money ($2,005,000); so did the National Writing Project ($2,645,593).

So why would organizations with the ideological bent to privatize public education, turning it into a free market enterprise, eliminating the federal department of education, and dismantling unions have an interest in funding and promoting the Common Core which supposedly is intended to STRENGTHEN public education? And why do they pretend to disown it? I don’t know the answer but I can damn sure guarantee there is one and they just don’t want us to know what it is.

Sound bites are pouring out from social media sources which support conservative values, calling the Common Core a big government conspiracy; as if it sole the fault of “the left” for its raison d’etre. I agree that Common Core sucks.  I do not defend the Common Core. Most people who still identify as hailing from “the real left” (not to be confused with being a Democrat) are just as outraged by the abuses of common core and high stakes testing as you are.

Writers at What is Common Core summarize the new Corporatist Party beautifully:

Republican Jeb Bush is behind the Foundation for Excellence in Education, a nongovernmental group which pushes Common Core and is, of course, funded by Gates.   Republican Rupert Murdoch owns not only Fox News, but also the common core implementation company Wireless Generation that’s creating common core testing technology.   Democrat Bob Corcoran, President of GE Foundation (author of cap and trade and carbon footprint taxes to profit GE on green tech) and 49% owner of NBC also bribed the PTA to promote Common Core, and gave an additional $18 million to the states to push common core implementation. Corcoran was seen recently hobnobbing with Utah’s Republican Lt. Governor Greg Bell, business leaders in the Chamber of Commerce, and has testified in the education committee that the opponents of Common Core in Utah “are liars”.  Meanwhile, Republican Todd Huston of Indiana got his largest campaign donation from David Coleman, common core ELA architect;  then, after Huston was elected as an Indiana State Representative and placed on Indiana’s education committee, Coleman hired Huston to be on the College Board.  They are both profiting from the alignment of  and AP courses and alignment of the SAT to the Common Core.  And of course, Huston’s listed on Jeb Bush’s controversial Foundation for Excellence in Education. Even my own Republican Governor Herbert of Utah serves on the elite executive committee of NGA, the Common Core founding group.  He doesn’t make money this way, but he does make lots of corporations happy.

I am not criticizing either political party for moving away from  entrenched ideologies or values (“reaching across the aisle” has become reaching into their own bank accounts to deposit our tax payer dollars). I am not calling for renewed political orthodoxy nor for stronger divisions between political stances.  However,  I think that the American public of all political affiliations, and OUR children, are sick of being duped, lied to, or manipulated by games played members of the Not Me party, whose goal seems to be to blame the “others” for their own failures, and collect the shared profits off the backs of all our children. The Democrats under the leadership of President Obama and Arne Duncan have sold out public education to private free-market enterprise, while leaders from the Conservative right such Rupert Murdoch, Jeb Bush,  Tony Bennett, and numerous hedge fund consulting firms ( seem to have sold out their supposed values of “individual rights” and “privacy” to the owners of private data base agencies and testing companies; calling it a government conspiracy, when in fact it’s billion dollar conservatively-minded corporations like ALEC and the Walton Foundation pulling the strings BEHIND the “big government” they fear. They’re all members of the Not Me party.

In some sort of “Clash of the Titans,” the powerful elite from all sides of the political spectrum seem to be battling it out (and with each other) for money and power while the rest of us, regardless of how we vote, stand on the ground beneath them, knowing that their battles have little to do with actually improving the quality of education for our children. This isn’t a battle between us as parents, or as everyday citizens. This is a battle between them, and our children are caught in their cross fire.

Democrats and Republicans: A pox on both your houses.

Published by educationalchemy

Morna McDermott has been an educator for over twenty years in both k-12 and post secondary classrooms. She received her doctorate in education, with a dissertation focus on arts-based educational research, from The University of Virginia in 2001. Morna's teaching, scholarship, and activism center around the ways in which creativity, art, social justice, and democracy can transform education and empower communities. She is currently a Professor of Education at Towson University.

2 thoughts on “All Hail to the “Not Me” Party: Sponsors of the Common Core and other ed reform debacles

  1. Let me tell you something. This is a brilliant piece. Such a scathing indictment of all the crooked players & plays in this ugly scheme. I thank you so much for writing this.

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