Two different stories were brought to my attention today. They are from different parts of the country, and vary in seriousness, but it gives a snapshot of how Common Core opponents are being treated in some quarters.
One is a case of a substitute teacher suing his school district for being fired from Courthouse News Service:
A substitute teacher sued his school board, claiming it fired him for photographing and posting online a teacher’s lesson plan, with political intent.
Bruce Smith sued the Oldham County Board of Education, its Chief Operations Officer Dorenda Neihof and Director of Personnel Phillip Moore, in Federal Court.
Smith claims he was engaging in speech “on matters of public concern,” but the school board suspended and fired him after they “expressed concern that it [the lesson plan] was posted to a site with political implications that might lead people to think the school was advocating some sort of radical political agenda.”
Smith began working as a substitute teacher for Oldham County Schools, in Crestwood, Ky., in November 2012, according to his lawsuit.
“On Oct. 11, 2013, Smith served as a substitute teacher at East Oldham Middle School (‘EOMS’),” the complaint states. “Smith took a picture of the front page of the lesson plan for the day with his cell phone. The lesson plan was a ‘WebQuest’ on individuals who have worked (or are currently working) for social justice. The lesson plan was developed by Pacific University in Oregon and is publicly available on the Internet.
“Smith sent the photograph of the lesson plan to interested parents in Oldham County, who like Smith, are generally opposed to the ‘common core’ curriculum being taught in Oldham County Schools. These interested parents, including Smith, have united under a banner they refer to as ‘Kentuckians Against the Common Core.’
“When sending the photograph of the lesson plan, Smith commented, ‘I thought you would find this interesting.’ By commenting and sending the photograph of the lesson plan to parents interested in the curriculum at Oldham County Schools, he engaged in speech on a matter of public concern.” (Parentheses in complaint).
Parents forwarded the lesson plan to other advocates against the “common core” curriculum, who discussed and criticized it in blogs and Facebook posts, according to the complaint.
I don’t want to get into a discussion about the curriculum as I think that’s an unproductive discussion, especially if it is not math or ELA curriculum. Leslie Beck recently wrote a great article on how some curriculum discussions can actually end up being a distraction.
A couple of thoughts about this…
If Smith posted it on another website it would have been fine? If that’s the case then it shouldn’t matter.
If the curriculum didn’t espouse a radical political agenda then the school has nothing to worry about.
It was already available to the public, and the public has the right to see what is being taught in public schools regardless of the website that gets the information. The allegation that a school board would fire a teacher or sub based on them sharing this information is troubling if proven to be true.
This coincides with me receiving reports from teachers that they are being placed under gag orders being told not to even discuss the Common Core under the threat of losing their jobs.
How can we have an actual discussion with teachers being silenced. Proponents certainly like to tout teachers who love the Common Core. Shouldn’t we be able to hear from teachers who feel differently? I think so.
Which leads me to the next story. A school superintendent in Alabama equates Common Core opposition to the Salem Witch Trails. Yeah that’s helpful for civil discourse. John Mullins, Superintendent of Education for Arab City Schools, wrote in an op/ed at Al.com:
A dangerous conspiracy theory is threatening the future of Alabama’s 750,000 public school students. The Common Core conspiracy theory wants us to believe that the Alabama College and Career Ready Standards (ACCRS) are evil and will harm our children. Like other conspiracy theories, this one is born of fear and uncertainty.
Unlike other theories, the Common Core conspiracy theory may well be politically motivated. Regardless of its origin of this theory, it is as wrong as the 20 executions that occurred in Salem, Massachusetts.
The ACCRS are researched-based, academic standards designed to teach children how to think critically, problem solve, and communicate effectively. Adopted by the Alabama State Board of Education in 2010, these standards have been approved by 45 states. For three years Alabama’s school districts have invested thousands of hours and millions of dollars towards successfully transitioning to these more challenging Math, Language Arts, and Literacy Standards.
The conspiracy theorists, who have now introduced a bill in the legislature to abandon the ACCRS, want you to think that President Obama and the federal government are forcing these standards upon us. This is totally false. The work on the standards began while George W. Bush was president.
Anyway you get the gist. You can read the rest. So basically anybody opposing the Common Core is a crackpot, conspiracy theorist worthy of a tin foil hat. Common Core advocates – if you have to resort to tactics like this it simply means your argument is wanting.
I agree with Mr. Mullins in his exhortation to read the standards – http://corestandards.org. He also encourages people to read the FAQ as well. That’s fine, but if he was intellectually honest he’d also say take time to read why some members of the validation committee could not sign off on these standards.
Or are they conspiracy theorist crackpots on an educational witch hunt as well?
Photo credit: Steve Rainwater (CC-By-SA 2.0)
The situation with the Arab City Schools superintendent is, very frankly, depressing. Arab is a small town in Alabama — just the kind of place where you would expect a certain level of common sense to reign. But not so, at least with respect to its education officials on this issue.
I have been in touch with the superintendent and all five school board members. My purpose wasn’t to argue against Common Core so much as to tactfully chastise the superintendent for the uncivil tone of his column and to make the point that there are many legitimate, fact-based reasons for objecting to Common Core that have nothing to do with “conspiracies.”
The superintendent, as you would expect, was unrepentant. What floored me, however, is that three of the board members (so far) wrote back, and every one of them not only expressed support for Common Core, but also saw nothing wrong with the superintendent’s comparison of CCSS-opponents to a witch-burning mob. None even bothered to try and rebut any of my factual points.
When even school board members in small-town Alabama have drunk the Kool-Aid to this extent, what hope is there of overturning CCSS before the damage is too great to reverse? Making the situation even more dire, most people I talk to don’t even know what Common Core is. And if you try to explain it to them, the subject exceeds their attention spans within 30 seconds.
Even if CCSS is given the boot, I am fully convinced that the powers that be will simply adopt copycat standards and push on. It’s really hard to be an optimist these days.
Sounds like it needs to be made a school board election issue.
I would agree with you, except that as I stated, most people don’t know what Common Core is and don’t have the patience to learn about it. They seem to figure that this is just another one of “those things” like “new math” or “whole language” that is over their heads and will blow over eventually. I doubt these school board members will get much blowback.
What slays me is that when members of public practice critical thinking, citing source material, drawing relevant conclusions and public speaking, all the things that common core is supposed to teach our students to be prepared for the 21st century, we are called conspiracy theorists. It’s that kind of philosophical duality that makes people think there is something other than just quality standards behind the push for common core standards and question the honesty of proponents.
This tactic is taken from Dem playbook, page 1 (1/2 way down) . . . “Mock and ridicule ANY opposition”. It has been perfected over the years. Common Core opposition is just the latest recipient of the mockery. The twist, this time, is that it is both Repub’s and Dem’s doing the mocking.
I often wonder why we don’t mock them back. It is, after all, easier to mock idiocy and foolishness than common sense and truth
And, that’s exactly what I do . . . constantly. Unfortunately, Repub leadership can’t quite seem to figure out how to do it.