This is the third part in a four-part NaughtyBots series about the #commoncore Project: How Social Media is Changing the Politics of Education.
The BotNet, or naught, issue was addressed in the previous installment so there is no need to address it again. This section will have a focus on the advocacy of Common Core opponents.
On page 32 of the project’s pdf report it says:
“As the data show, in many ways, Prasek and the PJNET Team accomplished what they set out to do. Not only did they dominate the Common Core conversation on Twitter, but they also achieved their stated goal of promoting a set of “conservative topics, causes, and legislation.” What is even more intriguing is that the group is apparently unaffiliated with any registered political action committee. They are instead a homegrown grassroots social media movement intent on promoting their social and political agendas, cleverly aided by BotNets and hashtag rallies.”
That team is portrayed as a grassroots social media movement. Since the Project looked at the use of Twitter, this limited view is understandable. The team, or advocates, is more than a social media movement. Many are very involved in opposing the Common Core outside of social media. That outside social media involvement includes writing articles, writing letters to the editor, calling and working with legislators, attending school board meetings, testifying, and giving presentations.
It is fair to portray this as a homegrown grassroots effort. The on-Twitter and off-Twitter opposition to Common Core has been grassroots for years. Michelle Moore Earle of NY Parents Involved in Education (NYPIE) has been involved in this effort and says it well in this statement:
“We’ve been grassroots for years now. Our Twitter rallies gave us experience and provided insights into how do we make it more user friendly for people new to Twitter. We urged more grassroots parents to join Twitter to help in our campaigns against reformers and PJNET responded by tweaking and improving. We know what and who PJNET is and are incredibly appreciative to continue to work together. You have to admit using data against Gates is a sweet irony.”
Given the difference in resources between proponents and opponents, it is pretty impressive that such a grassroots effort has dominated the Twitter conversation. Just think, what if this group was affiliated with a registered political action committee? What if this group had millions of dollars to spend like those promoting the Common Core? Instead, this group scrambles to scrape up $125 for a rally. It should be okay for such a group to promote their social and political agenda in this manner given the funds that have been spent to promote the Common Core and the social and political agenda of those funding the promotion.
I wonder what this group really set out to do. Did they set out to dominate the conversation? Or did they set out to provide information to help people become aware of issues related to the Common Core and have their voices heard? Some of the articles supporting the project almost make it sound like those dominating the Twitter conversation are cheating by using technology available to anyone. Were well organized and well funded proponents, including foundations/corporations/wealthy individuals, out maneuvered by a flock of mostly independent moms who have come together as Twitter users? Were some feathers ruffled?
The project undertakers say in their report, “the controversy over Common Core was never really about standards themselves.” Based on their analysis of Twitter data, this may be true but outside Twitterspace the standards themselves and their shortcomings are controversial. It is possible that the advocates against Common Core don’t address the standards themselves because decision makers don’t or won’t listen to concerns about the standards, possibly because they don’t understand anything beyond the promotional boilerplate blather they have been fed by sources they think they can trust, bought by or naught (or should that be bot buy). Chances are great those decision makers have not read the standards, yet like many proponents they may not hesitate to marginalize opponents without doing any fact checking beyond the promotional boilerplate blather.
I refer to most of the Common Core promotional information, or pro-Common Core marketing, as Common Core promotional boilerplate blather. The project undertakers seem to be operating under the same misguided assumption as many decision makers—assuming all of the information NGA/CCSSO/CCSSI and supporters have put out to promote the standards is true. They do this without bothering to do their own fact checking and automatically assume what anyone from the opposition says is not true. Most anything the opposition says, even with evidence to back it up, proponents say is myth. Rather than produce evidence to support their claims, proponents attempt to marginalize the opponents. Maybe it is easier to marginalize than trying to produce, or fabricate, evidence of questionable existence.
I think the NGA/CCSSO/CCSSI, corporations, foundations, and wealthy individuals as well as many decision makers supporting the standards expected a little opposition, but nothing that couldn’t be readily handled by marginalization. I do not think they had any idea their grand plan would foster such pushback and launch a growing and sustainable effort to counter the larger education reform movement. It seems that efforts to marginalize opponents backfires and promotes further growth for the opposition’s advocacy.
That was just the warm up. I think I will kick it up a notch here.
One tactic often used by CCSS proponents has been to marginalize or squelch the voice and message of opponents by labeling them as one thing or another in an attempt to discredit them by association or characterization. It’s possible the real “barbarians at the gate” are the proponents as they infringe on parental rights in education and operate in such a manner as to disallow citizen input and policy discourse. Proponents seem to be wearing a tin foil hat wired to have them believe CCSS promotional statements without question and convinced one size fits all is the ultimate answer (it seems they forgot about 42). As for proponents labeling opponents as conspiracy theorists, let’s consider one definition of conspiracy: an evil, unlawful, treacherous, or surreptitious plan formulated in secret by two or more persons. Hmmm, standards developed behind closed doors with states enticed, bribed, or coerced into adopting. I suppose if you want to see opponents as conspiracy theorists, in all fairness, you need to see proponents as conspiracy perpetrators.
The project report states as fact, “the Patriot Journalist Network (PJNET) is a group affiliated with a for-profit church.” Is this a false fact? Or perhaps just a fake fact? This has been picked up and naughtily “retweeted” in some articles without any fact checking. How could the project undertakers and article authors have checked their facts on this? Searching for information online? Calling PJNET’s Mark Prasek? Since that seems easy enough, I thought I would do my own fact checking. My online search found that PJNET is a ministry of By His Grace Ministries and that By His Grace Ministries Inc is a Florida for profit corporation. No mention of any church affiliation. A fellow advocate provided me with the same phone number I found on PJNET’s website. I picked up the phone and made the call. Mark Prasek answered. I asked if PJNET is affiliated with a church. It was simple, like his answer, “By His Grace Ministries, and thus PJNET, is not affiliated with any church.”
In an era that seems to be anti-Christian, is this an attempt, intentional or naught, to marginalize PJNET, its work, and anti-Common Core tweeters? Portray a corporation as a church or as being affiliated with a church? Is there something wrong with being affiliated with a church? Would this be like assuming, without fact checking, Common Core proponents are pagans or that an association, corporation, or foundation supporting the Common Core is a wicca affiliated group? I think to do so, would be irresponsible.
One article title, An Army Of Sophisticated Bots Is Influencing The Debate Around Education, has me perplexed. Could this be a complimentary marginalization? Basically, as I see it, the bots are moms (no offense to dads who are involved) and casting moms as bots seems to be dehumanizing. On the other hand, they have been promoted to being sophisticated from being white suburban moms, barbarians at the gate, and tin foil hat wearers… or are they now sophisticated barbarian white suburban moms wearing tin foil hats? All I want is to see the boots the army bots wear.
On page 74 of the project report it says, “Fueled by technology, the strategies of advocacy groups are becoming increasingly powerful.” Will it ever come close to the power and influence of individuals and foundations with deep pockets that are able to use their funds as leverage to have unproven education policy and practices adopted and implemented? If it does, will those sophisticated army bot boots walk all over the proponents? Do you suppose these researchers would consider a project to study the influence of corporations, foundations, and wealthy individuals on education policy and practices?