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Arne Duncan and Common Core: Dumb Is As Dumb Does

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This past November, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan gave us a look into his soul.

Speaking to a group of state schools superintendents, the shadowy group behind Common Core, he confided that he had been shocked by the opposition to their brave new world of education. Given that Common Core is a massive federal intrusion, and fundamentally illegal, Duncan shouldn't have been surprised.

Then he delivered a shock to the rest of us. “It’s fascinating to me,” Duncan shared, “that some of the pushback is coming from, sort of, white suburban moms who — all of a sudden — their child isn’t as brilliant as they thought they were and their school isn’t quite as good as they thought they were, and that’s pretty scary. You’ve bet your house and where you live and everything on, ‘My child’s going to be prepared.’ That can be a punch in the gut.”

He doesn’t sound very sympathetic, does he?

Duncan assumes every problem is the fault of ignorant parents and their limitations. What about his new curriculum, his new directions in testing? Aren’t they part of the problem? The Obama administration seems to be filled with people who never doubt their collectivist wisdom. If the peasants don’t like what has been prepared for them, well, that’s because peasants are dim-wits.

Diane Ravitch, a leading figure in education, was quick to express her disapproval of the education czar: “Duncan apparently thinks American students are mostly dumb, and US schools are awful. Other supporters of the Common Core share his low opinion of our youth. Up until now, Duncan had been blaming the pushback to the Common Core on the Tea Party and extremists. He really doesn’t get it.”

Michelle Malkin, another leading light, also attacked “Duncan’s war on women and children.” She said: “I’m not going to let Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s attack on moms and their kids who oppose Common Core just fade away. His fauxpology is meaningless. His defenders are clueless. No wonder Moms Against Duncan is swelling on Facebook.”

Diane Ravitch and Michelle Malkin see prejudice, not twisted intellect. That’s how our politics work now, everyone first sees bias. But the intellectual underpinnings need to be examined as well.

Everybody in the Education Establishment has become a cheerleader for what they call New and Higher Standards. What’s this all about?

First of all, ostentatious New and Higher Standards serve to silence criticism and prevent any further discussion of how to improve education. We’ve reached the promised land, what more is there to talk about? That’s the official spin. It’s a perfect recipe for stagnation and continuous failure.

Second, New and Higher Standards serve to justify inane, counterproductive instructional methods. If it’s “higher,” it must be what we need—that’s the official spin. There is almost a fetish now for creating difficult, even impossible homework problems. Children must read boring non-fiction text over and over.

Challenging is good. But Common Core has a thing for torture. The so-called experts have created the perfect formula for demoralizing and defeating students. As comedian Louis CK famously summed up the situation: “My children used to love math. Now it makes them cry.”

The whole trick of real education is to let students start with baby steps. Make students feel that they’re having fun, that learning is easy, so they will want to do it every day. But Common Core is the master of making students feel that they’ve gone down into hell, and nothing is possible.

In short, this constant chatter about New and Higher Standards is justification for a lot of worst practice, none of which has been tested or proven.

You see all these intellectual machinations coming together when Arne Duncan criticizes students and their parents because they are too dumb to deal with his new curriculum. No one is supposed to note that perhaps he and his cronies are too dumb to come up with a plan that actually helps the country.

Critical Thinking question: can the same people who have been dumbing down the schools for the last 75 years be trusted to come up with better ideas now? Anyone who considers all the failed theories and methods beloved by our Education Establishment will conclude that these people can’t figure out how to do it. So now they want to tell us that they have got higher ways to do things? How could they possibly be sincere? What if it's just more dumbing-down but dressed up with a lot of fancy new rhetoric and jargon? Yes, more and more people are figuring out that’s exactly what it is.

Michelle Malkin sees hope: “Over the last 10 months, Common Core has imploded under withering scrutiny from the tax-paying public, informed parents and educators, and more national media. States under both Republican and Democrat governors have adopted moratoria on the untested standards.”

Take that, Arne Duncan.

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RELATED ARTICLE: Common Core and ObamaCare – why they are basically the same thing

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