We’ve written about the Gates Foundation’s admission that its efforts to impose Common Core nationwide were misguided and ineffective. Remarkably, the mainstream media have begun to analyze the relatively unexamined problems with allowing one unelected man – even one who is very very very rich – to control public-education policy. But although they’ve taken a small step in the right direction, they still miss some essential conclusions.
Case in point: a recent column in the Los Angeles Times, promisingly entitled “Gates Foundation Failures Show Philanthropists Shouldn’t Be Setting America’s Public School Agenda.” The Times correctly observed that “the Gates Foundation strongly supported the proposed Common Core curriculum standards, helping to bankroll not just their development, but the political effort to have them quickly adopted and implemented by states.” Agreeing with and elaborating on the foundation’s admission of “stumbling,” the Times concluded that Gates accumulated “an unhealthy amount of power” and was given “too much sway in recent years over how schools are run.”
Too bad no one ever saw this problem before. Oh wait – thousands of parents and other concerned observers have been protesting for years now Gates’s assault on local control over education, and his blunderbuss attempts to remake schools in his own image. But not until his foundation itself admits what has been glaringly obvious for some time does the Times notice the situation.
Perhaps we shouldn’t criticize the Johnny-come-latelies in the press but rather welcome them to the train wreck. But they richly deserve criticism for still clinging to the shreds of Common Core propaganda that Gates and other proponents continue to recycle. From the same Times piece: “Financial support for Common Core isn’t a bad thing. When the standards are implemented well, which isn’t easy, they ought to develop better reading, writing and thinking skills.”
Journalists in the old days usually based conclusions on facts, but one searches this column in vain for any facts supporting the bald assertion that Common Core will “develop better reading, writing and thinking skills.” Says who, exactly? Where is the evidence that any of this has occurred or is likely to occur?
In fact, of course, the evidence overwhelmingly points to the contrary conclusion. As we pointed out in our previous piece, students’ scores on the National Association of Educational Progress (NAEP) have actually been declining since Common Core was fully implemented (see here and here). College-readiness, as measured by NAEP, is sliding downhill as well. College math professors are complaining that incoming freshmen are increasingly less prepared for college-level work.
But never mind, says the Times. Having just chastised Gates for its failure on Common Core, it turns around and accepts, uncritically, his claims that the scheme will work if we just get the logistics right.
Another interesting observation is that the Times lauds Common Core for its potential benefits to “reading, writing and thinking skills.” Notice the omission? Math.
Maybe this was just an oversight. Or maybe the Times editors read the Wall Street Journal article by their neighbor up the road, world-class mathematician Dr. Marina Ratner of UC-Berkeley, in which she warned “that students taught in the way that these standards require would have little chance of being admitted to even an average college and would certainly struggle if they did get in.” Maybe they’ve heard from Dr. James Milgram of Stanford –another world-class mathematician–that the dumbed-down math standards cannot prepare students for STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) studies in college. (Even one of the drafters of the math standards admitted the standards are designed for community college work, nothing more.)
The Times editors owe it to their readers to investigate the standards they’re still pushing. It’s not hard – a simple Google search will pull up a treasure trove of information. “Philanthropists,” says the Times, “are not generally education experts, and even if they hire scholars and experts, public officials shouldn’t be allowing them to set the policy agenda for the nation’s public schools.” Nor should public officials accept at face value, as the Times editors seem to have done, unsupported predictions about the benefits of Common Core.
Now that the media have begun to notice the emperor’s state of undress, maybe they should take the next step and actually report the whole truth.
Jane Robbins is a senior fellow with American Principles Project.
Emmett McGroarty is the Director of Education with American Principles Project.