New York Times misses a ghost: Why some Christian parents don't trust Common Core

As the parent of a third grader, I had my run-ins with Common Core while my daughter was in Tennessee schools. Their standards were impossibly high for her and some of the bizarre ways they recommended that math be taught turned me off. Common Core’s math standards want students to explain how they arrived at the answer rather than memorize sums; sounds good on paper, I know but in reality, it doesn’t work.

Now Common Core is a set of academic standards in mathematics and English language arts/literacy that outline what a student should know and be able to do at the end of each grade. They were introduced in 2009 and 43 states have adopted the standards, lured, no doubt, by millions in federal funds given to those that complied.

A recent piece in The New York Times tells about those who are opting out.

GetReligion readers, can you guess what they missed? I predict that you can.

The Common Core standards, a set of challenging learning goals designed to better prepare students for college, were developed by a coalition of states. But they became closely tied to President Obama in the public mind as his administration offered money to states that adopted the standards, which conservatives portrayed as a stealth federal takeover of schools.

Tests that gauge how well students are learning the new material have become part of the way many states evaluate their teachers. This makes the tests a target for teachers’ unions, a bulwark of the left.

So the new batch of tests in New Jersey, created by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, is faced with an unusually diverse list of enemies.

“There are forces united against it on the left side of the aisle and the right of the aisle,” said James Crisfield, a former superintendent of the school district in Millburn, N.J. “We’re also talking about things that are happening to one’s child. You mix that all up into a caldron and it does create some really high levels of interest, high levels of passion — and, shall we say, enthusiasm.”

As decent as this piece was, it missed answering a huge question: WHY are some parents so against Common Core? And not only parents -- there are teachers unions that despise it as well and some states have repealed it. Just last week, hundreds of students in New Mexico schools walked out of their classes to protest taking the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) exam, which is used not only for grades but in teacher evaluations. The board of the New York State teachers union withdrew its support a year ago.

If you look at parent opposition, that's where you'll find the religion ghost. This NBC News coverage of a PTA conference gives some hint as to why Christian opponents have a gut reaction against the curriculum.

For the mostly female, mostly older, all-white crowd, Common Core is more than an attack on states’ rights; it’s an affront to Christian, conservative values. These mothers and grandmothers see a campaign against Common Core as an extension of protecting the nuclear family. Eagle Forum, anti-feminist activist Phyllis Schlafly’s national organization, is a sponsor of the conference…

(Alice) Linahan and the other organizers’ objections to Common Core go beyond the idea of a top-down intrusion. A chart folded into the conference packets contrasted “traditional classical learning” with … Common Core’s “radical social justice agenda”: teachers are “facilitators” rather “authority figures,” the lessons focus on “subjectivity, feelings, emotions, beliefs” rather than the “Declaration of Independence, Bill of Rights, Constitution…phonics…Drill and Skill.” (Unlike Common Core, CSCOPE sets standards for social studies and science, too.)

“I want my children to know that two plus two is four, that there are absolutes, that there are right and wrong answers,” Linahan said. “These kiddos are not developmentally ready for this deeper, rigorous thinking.”

Wish to know more?

That's easy. All journalists have to do is check out out Christian and other religious media outlets. The Christian Broadcasting Network’s analysis mentions this:

The chief author of the Common Core, education consultant David Coleman, is now president of the College Board. His new job entails rewriting the SAT.

Critics fear that will further cement the Common Core’s influence, forcing any college-bound student, whether public-schooled, private-schooled, or home-schooled, to align with the Core.

Billionaire philanthropist and Microsoft founder Bill Gates is the chief funder. Politico reports the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has pumped more than $160 million into developing and promoting the Common Core.

Anyone who has ever covered news stories connected with this culture knows the suspicion with which the Gates are viewed by some Christians because of their funding of Planned Parenthood to the tune of at least $70.5 million in grants.  Even though Melinda Gates has recently distanced herself from funding the abortion giant, suspicions run deep.

Another side says it’s a religious-liberty issue. From the Christian Post:

(Faith-based) schools are successful because of their ability to maintain autonomy, and, in the case of religious schools, their faith-based mission. They are not funded by tax dollars, and their accountability is to the parents-the strongest accountability a school can have. Although these schools are not required to follow government direction regarding standards and curriculum, the CCS as a national standard will negatively affect the autonomy of these schools, chipping away at the religious freedom enjoyed by faith-based schools.

Just under two years ago, Christianity Today, one of the best-known evangelical publications, ran this optimistic piece about why Common Core is “good news” for Christians.

But last fall, they ran a slightly less positive piece giving three mixed points of view on the national curriculum. In other words, they listened to alternative voices. That's a good thing for journalists to do. Thus:

Common Core will likely have only an indirect effect on religious liberty—at least initially. But advocates for religious liberty and the family still have genuine cause for concern. Common Core creates another tool for big government (judges, legislators, and education policymakers) to control the beliefs and actions of parents and their students.

The Supreme Court has long recognized that parents have the right to direct the education—religious and otherwise—of their children. In 1923, the Court ruled in Meyer v. Nebraska that parents have the right to teach their children a foreign language at a young age. Two years later, the Court bolstered parental rights in the Pierce case, in which it held parents could educate their children in parochial instead of state-mandated public schools.

But lower courts have seriously undermined parental rights in recent years. A federal appeals court denied the right of parents to opt their public school children out of explicit sex education in Massachusetts. And the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals infamously said in 2005 in another sex-education case, “Once parents make the choice as to which school their children will attend, their fundamental right to control the education of their children is, at the least, substantially diminished.”

The harmful trend is that parents cannot opt their children out of classes that conflict with their religious convictions. That restriction is likely to creep into parochial schools and even homeschooling through national education standards specifying what all students must be taught in order to move on to higher education.

Do you see where this is going?

One of the biggest home school curriculum providers has taken a stance against it, saying some of Common Core trouble goes beyond content into teaching methodology. The more you read, the more you may discover that much of the fear is coming from Christian homeschoolers who feel they may have avoided the evils of public school, but now their kids may be barred from college if they haven't had Common Core tests.

I think Business Insider gives the best explanation of the dislike factor

While the goals of Common Core are laudable, many parents and teachers don’t think they had a seat at the table when standards were developed. To parents and teachers who feel they were entirely left out of the process, the standards may feel heavy-handed.

And leaders of various faith communities feel like they have not been included at the table quite a bit with this current administration. So they're striking back. That's part of the story and, thus, needs to be covered.

It's a classic GetReligion ghost.

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