The Southern Poverty Law Center released a new report that is getting a lot of buzz detailing the origins of opposition to the Common Core. The report looks at the coordinated campaign that has been run against Common Core over the past few years, and finds its roots in the radical right-wing infrastructure, heavily financed by the Koch Brothers:
Among those pushing the issue are advocacy groups associated with and funded by David and Charles Koch, the billionaire industrialists who fund many conservative causes and candidates. Politico, the online news outlet, reported in January 2014 that a draft action plan by FreedomWorks lays out the following agenda: “First, mobilize to strike down the Common Core. Then push to expand school choice by offering parents tax credits or vouchers to help pay tuition at private and religious schools. Next, rally the troops to abolish the U.S. Department of Education. Then it’s on to eliminating teacher tenure.”
The group’s director of grassroots activism, Whitney Neal, told Politico the group would kick off a “huge campaign” to “connect the dots” between killing the Common Core and other conservative priorities. She said a major march in Washington was being planned for this summer, perhaps with Glenn Beck.
Another Koch-backed group, Americans for Prosperity, is also pressing the issue in a series of town hall meetings across the country.
So what is the end game for the Kochs?
The 1980 Libertarian Party platform provides some perspective. David Koch ran for vice president on the party’s ticket that year, when its platform called for the “complete separation of education and State.” It went on: “Government schools lead to the indoctrination of children and interfere with the free choice of individuals. Government ownership, operation, regulation, and subsidy of schools and colleges should be ended.”
As the report details, attacks on the Common Core are part of a coordinated effort to attack traditional public education in the United States. And while there may be other, well-intentioned advocates, they’re playing right into the hands of this right-wing effort by the Koch Brothers.
Perhaps more troublingly, they’re also allying themselves with some truly deplorable conspiracy-theory-laden and deeply homophobic propaganda. As they write in the report:
Many of the criticisms are altogether unrelated to the standards but are freighted with themes from the Christian Right’s long-running battles over sex education, textbooks, school prayer, the teaching of evolution, LGBT issues, and secular teaching in general. Some of the claims are quite inflammatory, like the contention that children will be “sexualized” at a young age or “indoctrinated” into a “homosexual” lifestyle.
Here are a few examples:
- Chief among the Patriot groups is the John Birch Society (JBS)—the ultra-right organization that once called President Dwight D. Eisenhower a communist agent. The JBS links the Common Core to an all-encompassing conspiracy theory involving Agenda 21, a non-binding U.N.-sponsored set of principles for sustainable development that was developed during the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro and signed by President George H.W. Bush. The JBS believes Agenda 21 is part of a plot by a secretive cabal of global elites to institute a “New World Order,” a socialistic, totalitarian world government that will enslave Americans.
- On the Freedom Project’s website, academic director Duke Pesta calls the Common Core an “absolute appropriation of Soviet ideology and propaganda.” Further, the site calls the standards “a Trojan Horse that mandated cooperation with ObamaCare.” Perhaps even worse, the “mainstreaming of homosexuality, promiscuity and other practices—even to young children—is an important component of the scheme.”
- Last August, Schlafly wrote a letter to Catholic bishops warning them to stay away from the Common Core. She blasted the standards for “active promotion of gay marriage, and other federal efforts designed to dismantle moral society. … We cannot remain complacent as this administration takes aim at our children. … The laity needs to hear from the bishops on this issue.”
- On his website and BlazeTV Internet-based show, Beck has repeatedly railed against the standards, often in apocalyptic terms. “We will not save our country unless we save it first from this attack,” he said. The headlines on his site include: “Do Common Core’s roots date back to America’s earliest socialists?” and “Common Core: A Lesson Plan for Raising Up Compliant, Non-Thinking Citizens.”
This is the kind of rhetoric that is driving the opposition to Common Core, and even if opponents of it here in Montclair say it’s not them, the fact is that it’s the movement that they’ve joined up with – right alongside the Koch Brothers and it should be rejected here.