The entire Common Core enterprise has been characterized by shocking political naivete and over-reach. Despite investing a fortune in political operatives and holding weekly conference calls “directed by Stefanie Sanford, who was in charge of policy and advocacy at the Gates Foundation,” the folks pushing Common Core did not anticipate that the Unions would betray them and oppose the implementation of Common Core as soon as it suited their purposes. They did not anticipate that there was no authentic constituency for the proper implementation of the new standards and aligned high stakes tests. They did not anticipate that the combined forces of the Unions and conservative opponents of centralized control would overwhelm the largely paid mercenaries they had on their side. For people who imagine themselves politically sophisticated they look like a pack of amateurs.
This has not stopped the attempt to characterize opponents as kooks and extremists. To be fair, some opponents are kooks and extremists, but many are not and Common Core supporters have had a bad habit of avoiding substantive debate by trying to dismiss their opponents as crazy. There is something vaguely authoritarian about trying to centralize all education standards and testing, so not surprisingly Common Core supporters have also resorted to authoritarian tactics. Taking a page from Tricky Dick, they have begun to use the power of the government to identify and punish opponents.
No, I’m not just talking about the threat that NCLB waivers and RTTP money would be more available to those who played ball with Common Core. I’m talking about going after individuals who dissent. Check out this story about Brad McQueen, a teacher in Arizona, who published an op-ed against Common Core.
The state’s Associate Superintendent, Kathy Hrabluk, alerted her subordinates to this teacher’s dissent and asked them to “check your list of teacher teams (from which teachers are selected to work on tests at the Dept of Education)” so that he would not be involved in future teacher workgroups on state tests and other matters. McQueen had been on those workgroups for the previous five years for which he received extra compensation. No more. As the Deputy Associate Superintendent for Assessments, Irene Hunting, replied to her boss, “We have made a note in his record.” Another state official replied, “This was such a surprise for Arizona as Brad has been on many committees… Let’s make sure he is not going to Denver later this month [to work on the new tests]. Please remove Brad McQueen from the list.”
Another Arizona education official, displaying all of the political sophistication of the Common Core movement, then replied on her government email, saying: “What a f*cktard.”
State education officials, doing their best to be the Common Core equivalent of the White House Plumbers, then proceeded to work on identifying one of McQueen’s fellow teachers to lend his or her name to a rebuttal op-ed that they would ghost write. The bureaucrat in charge of PARCC for Arizona also called McQueen in his classroom to challenge him on why he opposed her test and quiz him about whether he was teaching the required standards. McQueen feared they were fishing for grounds to terminate him and got off the call feeling like he has been threatened by a senior state official.
It’s an ugly story. But this is what happens when you flirt with authoritarian reforms of education. You start acting like an authoritarian.
This is how you know Common Core is dead in the water - when supporters and proponents channel the Nixon administration to save it.
Nixonian tactics work for a while, as we know from Tricky Dick's career longevity.
But in the end, they often come back to do more harm than good for the people employing them.
Have you heard of any other stories of CCSS supporters and proponents employing Nixonian tactics to smear and retaliate against CCSS critics and opponents?