Stuck in the Middle With You


Yes I’m stuck in the middle with you,
And I’m wondering what it is I should do,
It’s so hard to keep this smile from my face,
Losing control, yeah, I’m all over the place,
Clowns to the left of me, Jokers to the right,
Here I am, stuck in the middle with you.

(Stealers Wheel)


There’s been a lot of confusion over what the Common Core is or is not. That’s understandable given its lack of transparency and back-room corporate involvement, misuse of “social justice” rhetoric and outright denials of its attachment to other corporate model reform policies which seek to privatize schools. Even some well-intended advocates for Common Core believe they are fighting for equity in otherwise underfunded and disenfranchised communities, hoping to provide students with quality education and a leveled playing field. In absence of more publicly available truths about Common Core, I empathize with them … though I disagree that Common Core will do anything to help these same communities, or help our children in general. So naturally teachers and parents feel boondoggled and unsure about how or why to support it.

But what’s even more confusing is the landscape of opposition to Common Core.

Ohanian’s recent blog  listing the ABC’s of Common Core Resistance really struck me. Per usual, she leaves me thinking! She notes that most opposition is from the politically conservative right wing. It would seem that the largest most vocal opposition to CCSS is coming from the right. She states, “It makes me wonder: Where are the progressives? I fear they talk only to each other and don’t make much effort to bring others into the anti-Common Core fold. I hope some progressives will study some of the sites below and maybe find some ways to spreading the message.

If that’s the case, either in fact or in appearance, it leaves me to wonder, why IS it that the uber-conservative effort to fight this, largely in favor of their own ideological viewpoints, is outweighing the voices of progressives many of whom have been fighting education reform ever since NCLB? Some of us have been fighting hard. I know this. But if we don’t start making more noise, more public impact, I worry about what will result from that. I don’t wish to diminish the efforts or voice of any group opposed to the Common Core-more power to you. But I am calling to progressives against Common Core here to increase our battle cry. As Elbow illustrates, “While the tea party mounts its well-funded, organized attack on Common Core educational standards, the attack from the left has been kicked to the sidelines.”

As a progressive who is opposed to Common Core I struggle with the overgeneralized notion that any and all collaborative resistance is good resistance. I must state emphatically here that while I believe that collaborative efforts between “the left” and “the right” (defined in a myriad of ways) are both possible and necessary, I do not agree with the idea that in order to do so we must put aside our differences. I am not talking about differences in our “labels.” Names like Democrat or Republican mean very little in identifying what one’s personal values are either for or against education “reform.” Of course, alliances can be formed across the political aisle! Our differences need not be an obstacle to our efforts. If Michelle Rhee and Jeb Bush can make strange bedfellows, then why can’t we?

However, whether or not we can cast aside our “differences” depends on what those differences are.

For me, this depends upon the differences upon which we agree to disagree. In order to move forward with any real and sustainable alliances, I think we have to put our differences on the table and be transparent about what we identify as the problem and what we identify as alternatives or solutions. Rather than “cast aside” differences for the time being to defeat Common Core, only to face each other as “opponents” once CCSS is eliminated, I’d rather forge sustainable and transparent alliances now that can not only defeat the foe but collectively agree upon “what happens next” and work toward that as well.

If you are a “progressive” (ignoring that I’m using a descriptor as a noun here) like me, opposed to the Common Core I wonder, how can we, or should we, negotiate the following differences:

1)      Identifying the causes and problems: Some, of course not all, conservative oriented criticism of the Common Core blame a “progressive indoctrination” as the effort which spawned the Common Core. Michelle Malkin criticizes the Common Core for its “progressive designs to measure and track children’s ‘competencies’ in ‘recognizing bias in sources,’ ‘flexibility,’ ‘cultural awareness and competence,’ ‘appreciation for diversity,’ ‘empathy,’ ‘perspective taking, trust, [and] service orientation.’”

Regardless of one’s interpretation of it from a personal POV, anyone versed in the history of curriculum and policy knows that Common Core was spawned from the roots of the “Core Knowledge” ideology of decades past which aims to get away from “progressive” values of “education theorists’ like Paulo Freire, William Ayers, and Jonathan Kozol.”

According to Porter-Magee and Stern :

“The goal of the Common Core is to expose… all children to …a strategy grounded in what education scholar E. D. Hirsch has shown: a broad, content-rich curriculum can reduce the achievement gap between the middle class and the poor.” In fact, Hirsch is highly critical of a curricula championed by John Dewey and other Progressives.

So which is it? Is Common Core a piece of “liberal propaganda” as criticized by the right, or is it a “back to basics” conservative curriculum as criticized by the left? Or have we all been boondoggled?

And in my efforts to fight back, can I work collaboratively with folks who blame folks like me, progressives, for the problem- one which ironically I have been fighting against for decades?

2)      In keeping with item #1, there are numerous progressive voices that have been vocally opposed to federally mandated top down policies, forewarning us back in the 1990’s of what was going to happen if we didn’t fight to stop them. I’m pleased that opposition to the Common Core has finally been addressed more publicly in the mainstream media, but largely supported opposition is recognized as “Conservative” or from the Tea Party, while progressives like Michael Apple, Alfie Kohn, Maxine Greene, and Peter Taubman were fighting similar policies even before the Tea Party was in existence. In the absence of a louder or more visible presence in the resistance movement, many people in the general public automatically are beginning to assume that any opposition to Common Core is grounded sole in a conservative ideology.

Take for example the following statement:

“It is hard to conceive of a set of educational purposes that does not include a concern for human freedom and sense of agency in the face of a more and more controlled and administered world.”

Does this criticism of a national curriculum come from Glenn Beck circa 2013? No, it comes from “liberal” scholar Maxine Greene written in 1995 (Releasing the Imagination).

3)      Motive. Can I work with anyone who refers to CCSS as “ObamaCore?” Yes, it’s driven by Obama’s administration. But what about Republican CCSS pimps like Jeb Bush (a member of ALEC), free-market loving Walton Foundation and Broad Foundation, and Rupert Murdoch (owner of Fox News)? Working off a shared set of facts, any alliances must be grounded in the concession that CCSS is promoted by both Dems and Reps. My fight against Common Core is not an attempt to discredit the entire Republican party nor to gain influence for my own party (which, by the way, I have none). My fight is against what Ohanian refers to as “the corporate party.”

4)      Do we have agreed upon alternatives? Progressives like myself are not only fighting Common Core (whether it be because of the data tracking, crappy and developmentally inappropriate standards, the corporate profiteering, or all of the above). We are fighting the bundle package of reform of which Common Core is just one facet. We are also fighting against the corporate takeover of public education and attempts to privatize it through ALEC- driven legislation to destroy unions, and use vouchers and charter schools as public school replacements. Even if, or when, CCSS is gone, will my allies still fight with me to promote a sustainable and equitable PUBLIC education for ALL children? Or are you one who believes that “government run” schools should be abolished?

If Texas is any example of what exists in a Common Core vacuum, my choices appear to be either — choice A: Common Core, or choice B: a curriculum of creationism, book-banning, and content that also chooses to deny the history of slavery and the existence of climate change, Thomas Jefferson and a Black President.

I’ll hold out for Choice C.

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.

6 thoughts on “Stuck in the Middle With You

  1. This is a beautiful piece that I hope will be used to open up possibilities for dialogue around genuine educational reform (which CCSS is not) and do it in a way not stymied by party-political categories. More of us need to find a way to undermine the subterranean politics at work – corporate politics (O’Hanian). THANK YOU!

  2. Most political labels at this point are meaningless, so it is definitely time to get past them and join forces with anyone who wants to stop the implementation of the Common Core. The truth about the origins on the Common Core and the actual content that is being delivered as “Common Core aligned curriculum” are two issues that have created a very convoluted journey to misunderstanding. We need to expose what is being perpetrated on us, not just by a “corporate party” but by the “globalists”, international oligarchs who have only their own best interests in mind.

    One name that I rarely see in articles concerning the origin of the Common Core is that of Sir Michael Barber. He was an adviser to Tony Blair for four years. He invented a method designed to increase the efficiency of government run agencies called “Deliverology.” It was tried in England and failed miserably. Professor John Seddon explains exactly why Deliverology cannot possibly work, because it is a top down, command and control method which requires the setting of targets and the punishment (demotion or firing) of employees if targets are not met. It leads to gaming the system, demoralization of staff, dissatisfaction of the customer, inefficiency and greater costs. The Common Core Standards and tests tied to teacher evaluations is Deliverology. Sir Michael Barber was the head of Mckinsey global education practice where David Coleman was an associate. Six degrees of separation.

    Sir Michael Barber is now the head of Pearson. The Common Core is based on the concept of E.D. Hirsch’s “Core Knowledge.” However, the standards themselves are made up of empty skill sets. It is the CC aligned materials that contain Hirsch’s curriculum, such as inappropriately introducing the Code of Hammurabi to children at age 6. Hirsch himself has this to say, “Not even most prescient among us can know whether the Common Core standards will end in triumph or tragedy. That will depend on what the states actually do about developing rich content knowledge ‘within and across grades.” Herein lies the opportunity for “liberal propaganda” to be inserted into the tests and the texts that support the test and in turn, the teachers’ lesson plans. So it is both a system of back to basics conservative curriculum as well as liberal propaganda. It is absolutely a boondoggle which has us sniping at each other rather than uniting to throw out a fatally flawed system before we subject any more students to this grand experiment.

    All of us can get behind a campaign to discredit Bill Gates, I should think. Can someone explain to me why most people on the right and the left can acknowledge that Bill Gates has been the funding source for the invention, marketing and implementation of the Common Core and the longitudinal data collection systems required by the RTTT grant, but only the tea party has been able to connect the dots between the Common Core and Agenda 21 or sustainable development as it is now known? Can it be that climate change (previously known as global warming until it was acknowledged that there has been no appreciable warming for 17 years) is such a sacred cow to the progressives that they cannot even imagine for one second that Bill Gates may be behind the manufacture and sale of that concept as well? Is it possible that he wants to use the United Nations and the many NGO’s (some of which may be unwitting dupes) that he supports to collapse the United States and the dollar? For what purpose, you say? Control.

    The United States is unique in the world in that we have a Constitution that enumerates our human rights. We grew up saying things like, “it’s a free country, it’s my right, etc.” We don’t like to be controlled. And Bill Gates and the United Nations and the globalists are all about control. The Common Core is designed to dumb down the population, remove our perspective about U.S. history and its unique Constitution and replace it with the concept that we are all global citizens who perhaps no longer have the right to dream the American Dream of owning a house in the suburbs with two children, a dog and an SUV. Without the concept of climate change, there is no urgent need to stop using coal and oil and limit its use in developing countries. There is no need to inventory and control every resource on the planet and work out complicated plans to share it equitably through carbon taxes and cap and trade schemes. Al Gore and Bill Gates are heavily invested in carbon credit companies. Warren Buffet invested $44 billion in carbon credits. They couldn’t get people to willingly give up their consumption habits (which I am not totally justifying by the way) and even their desire to have a big family or even one baby without the climate change brainwash. At this point, some of you will call me a conspiracy theorist. That term was created by the globalists to malign the truth and discredit people who directly expose propaganda. Speaking of exposing things, the whole global warming hoax began in 1991 at a meeting of The Club of Rome, where it was decided that pollution and global warming would be used as a boogey man to get people to give up their sovereign rights for the good of the planet.

    Bill Gates signed an agreement in 2004 with UNESCO, the United Nations Education Scientific and Cultural Organization, which stated that he would create and disseminate a world-wide curriculum for the purpose of spreading the goals and agenda of UNESCO. Very shortly after that, he began funding the inception of the Common Core. Sir Michael Barber is in charge of spreading the Common Core throughout the world through his position at the head of Pearson. Bill Gates owns many shares of Pearson and has placed Gates Foundation fellows in key positions in the Obama administration, such as Arne Duncan’s chief of staff. It is all so incestuous. Basically, Bill Gates gets whatever Bill Gates wants. And unfortunately, he wants a depopulated world.

    In 2012, Gates cosponsored, with the British Government, the centennial anniversary of London’s First International Eugenics Conference of 1912. He and his fellow eugenicists write white papers about how the world can only support one billion people. Ted Turner says, 500,000 (but he’s extreme.) They are not shy about this view. They hire people to place propaganda in every TV show and movie we watch to make us believe in climate change and depopulation for the good of the planet. We have drunk the Koolaid. And progressives, because, maybe they majored in environmental studies at Bard College or maybe they work at the UN or maybe they work for an NGO which is funded by Bill Gates which is only in existence because of climate change or maybe they sell windmills and solar panels or maybe they just drank more Koolaid than the tea party patriots can’t imagine that the whole “97% of scientists agree about climate change” is a lie. If you tell a lie that is really big and you repeat it often, it can become accepted. Bill Gates owns thousands of shares in Monsanto. That is another unbelievable experiment they are running on all of humanity and the planet, splicing human, animal, insect and plant DNA all together in genetically modified foods (which are banned in most other countries but predominate our grocery shelves.) Need I say more? Bill Gates is a bad man. He wants to dumb down our children with the Common Core, privatize education, end unions, end U.S. sovereignty, make cancer producing food and depopulate the earth. Can we all work together to expose Bill Gates for the plague that he really is?

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