by Robert Morrison
November 8, 2013
After a nuclear war, President Kennedy warned, “the living will envy the dead.” Well, at least the dead don’t have to talk about ObamaCare. That topic has dominated America’s politics for five years. It may succeed in getting everyone covered — with sod. By boring us all to death.
Let’s shift gears. Let’s talk about ObamaCore, aka Common Core Education Standards.
Last week, I had a wonderful conversation with a National Board Certified Math teacher from the Midwest. This highly motivated and gifted teacher wanted to persuade FRC to embrace Common Core Education Standards. She made a strong case, claiming that the Common Core Math Standards were far better than what she had been working with before.
I had to defer to her judgment about that, since it’s been decades since I’ve darkened the door of a math class. But I pressed her gently on the idea that if these new math standards really were superior, what prevented her state from adopting them on their own?
Why did her state need to be prodded, pressured, and bribed into adopting better math standards? Indeed, if there really are better methods for teaching math, and better goals for math student achievement, how could such information be suppressed in this happy day of Al Gore’s Internet?
I noted to this dedicated professional the fact that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation had found it necessary to sweeten the pot with a donation of $373 million in inducements to the National Governors Association and others to adopt Common Core?
Question: If a single governor is being investigated for accepting lavish gifts from a businessman, why isn’t the National Governors Association being investigated for accepting millions from the Gates family foundation? Is it the new rule that you should never try to bribe a single governor; you must bribe all the governors!
I will be criticized for calling it bribery, I am sure. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation simply wants to let the grassroots speak to their elected officials about education reform. These are beneficial changes for everyone, they assure us.
If that is so, then why does the Obama administration require states to sign on to Common Core Standards in its “Race to the Top” program? It is one of the only ways your state can get a waiver from the disastrously intrusive federal initiative, “No Child Left Behind.”
This is rich: You don’t like No Child Left Behind? You can escape the tortures of the rack by voluntarily climbing into the Iron Maiden of Common Core.
It’s unfair to call this grassroots initiative ObamaCore, they will say. This is a state-initiated project, with plenty of Republican support. Like Jeb Bush. Like Mike Huckabee. They will repent, I’m sure.
The reality is: Common Core Education Standards, financially pushed by major Obama donor Bill Gates, is another project for centralizing and bureaucratizing education in America.
And that project has been a colossal failure. We can challenge the centralizers to show us one school in America that has been improved on orders from Washington, D.C.
Ronald Reagan was the last president to staunchly oppose the federal education department. He zeroed out its budget for all eight years of his presidency. Liberals in Congress — Republicans as well as Democrats — always jammed the money back in the appropriations bills.
ObamaCore is an attempt at even greater control of education by a distant bureaucracy that does not know local conditions and is not responsible to local voters.
Alexis de Tocqueville, in his classic work, Democracy in America, praised our public schools and offered them as an example of de-centralization of administration. Tocqueville spoke of the American “genius” for voluntary association. He said he knew of no nation on earth that had schools better suited to its people than those of the Americans.
Tocqueville saw, as did Jefferson before him, that locally administered schools were a key element in America’s amazing democracy. The experience in and the responsibility for running our counties’ schools was what equipped us to maintain our own republican form of government.
ObamaCore is not only a clear and present danger to what little discretion remains for local education authorities (LEA) and state education authorities (SEA), it is a grave threat to private, parochial, and home schools, as well.
The demand for “alignment” of all curricula in the nation, the coordination of these curricula with the requirements of the College Entrance Examination Board, menace intellectual freedom.
When Oregon in the 1920s adopted a Ku Klux Klan-initiated ballot proposition forcing all children to attend public schools, private and Catholic school groups went into federal court. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the parents who chose to send their children to schools other than those operated by the government.
In its justly famous ruling in Pierce v. Society of Sisters (1925), Mr. Justice McReynolds wrote:
The fundamental theory of liberty upon which all governments in this Union repose excludes any general power of the State to standardize its children by forcing them to accept instruction from public teachers only. The child is not the mere creature of the State; those who nurture him and direct his destiny have the right, coupled with the high duty, to recognize and prepare him for additional obligations.
The Court then found the Oregon ban on private schooling:
an unreasonable interference with the liberty of the parents and guardians to direct the upbringing of the children, and in that respect violates the Fourteenth Amendment.
The U.S. Supreme Court here spoke of parents’ rights and high duties. Nowhere in the agitation for ObamaCore will you read any such language.
ObamaCore agitators are far more likely to sign on to educationists’ importunate demands that “we must take charge.” The we who must take charge of the nation’s education, and hence direct the destiny of the children, are the governors and Big Business. Not the children’s parents. Not locally elected school boards. Not state legislators immediately answerable to their constituents.
Under ObamaCore, the elites in Washington shall direct the destinies of our children.
This is unwarranted. It will ultimately fail, just as the fifty-year record of federal usurpation of state and local authority in education has failed.
It necessarily involves indoctrination of all our children in federally-mandated curricula. We know what this means.
We have faced this issue before. In 1943, in the midst of World War II, the State of West Virginia tried to force school children to salute the American flag. Some religious parents sued.
At FRC, we endorse and encourage the Pledge of Allegiance, but we would never coerce the flag salute. And we stand firm for religious freedom of conscience. As a result, we support strongly what the Supreme Court ruled in that famous case.
Mr. Justice Robert Jackson eloquently stated it:
If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein. If there are any circumstances which permit an exception, they do not now occur to us.
ObamaCore threatens to extinguish the light of that “fixed star in our constitutional constellation.” Justice Jackson’s warning should compel us to recognize ObamaCore for what it is: a powerful attempt to prescribe what shall be orthodox in every academic subject.
Dr. Ben Carson provoked liberals when he said ObamaCare was all about control and not about good medicine or quality health care. Dr. Carson is right. When they rammed ObamaCare through a rubber-stamp Congress, liberals added — at the last moment — the federal takeover of college student loans. What did these college loans have to do with a federal takeover of health care?
If we thought it was all about health care, then we missed Dr. Carson’s brilliant insight: The operative word is takeover. No wonder President Obama said his goal was “to fundamentally transform this country.”
ObamaCore is an unconstitutional and unnecessary takeover of education. For the sake of liberty we must resist it. In opposing Common Core Education Standards, we can safely stand with Founding Father Thomas Jefferson:
I have sworn upon the altar of Almighty God
Eternal hostility to every form of
tyranny over the mind of man.