If you like this article, would you Like and follow my new Hollis Easter, Writer page on Facebook and tell me what you liked about it?
This article builds on my earlier piece, Lies My Teacher Told Me About Common Core. If you haven’t read it yet, please start there.
I’ve had a lot of fun talking and writing with people about the Common Core State Standards in the months since I wrote that piece. Nine months later, there’s still a ton of misinformation out there. Repealing Common Core has become a major issue in a bunch of the electoral races around the country this fall.
It makes me sad, because I think the standards are good. A lot of my teacher and professor friends agree.
One of the consistent things that comes up about Common Core is the specter of dirty money: the idea that corporations have bought and sold our future and controlled the destiny of America by shoving Common Core down everyone’s throats. It’s an appealing image, and it resonates for a lot of us—hardly surprising given that we’ve been forced to bail out banks and auto companies, insurance companies and more. We don’t trust corporations.
Questions about Corporate Money
I received an interesting comment on the other post, and I wanted to address it in greater detail, so I’m writing this post. The comment came from Meagan:
“Thank you for this. I am frustrated with the misinformation and confusion, too.
Other concerns I’ve heard, but haven’t fully researched on my own, are the CCSS connections to certain corporations and sources of funding that some folks have beef with, or assume directly influenced the standards. Of all the anti-CC arguments I’ve heard, that’s the only one I might agree with. Otherwise, I think the standards are strong, and as a college writing teacher, think that if they’re taught well (not with canned curriculum and testing-based teaching) they’ll definitely better prepare students for college and life.
If you amend this, would you consider addressing the concerns about the funding behind the push for CCSS?”
Hi Meagan! Thanks so much for writing in—it’s always lovely to interact with readers.
I’ve heard the same things about the corporations and funding issues behind CCSS, but I haven’t been able to find anything conclusive either way. I’m choosing to hold that concern in abeyance until there’s more information available. If there’s a shadowy conspiracy out there, they’re hiding it well. (Readers, if you have actual, sourced information about money and influence peddling in CCSS, please post links in the comments.)
I’m not that concerned about the allegations of corporate money in CCSS for a couple of reasons, if you’ll permit a digression or two:
Preamble. I’ve read the Common Core standards, and I think they’re good. It sounds as though you’ve done the same. I don’t see evidence for most of the criticisms people make against CCSS; I think they’re complaining against bad curricula and bad testing practices. The complaints against CCSS itself don’t hold water.
In any case, we’ve both agreed that CCSS is, mostly, good. It has solid standards, a good framework for thinking, and a way of prioritizing and demanding critical thinking skills that have not previously been required. The standards are good.
The argument you cite really has two prongs:
- The identity of the specific corporations/groups funding the development of CCSS taints Common Core by association.
- These corporations influenced the development and adoption of CCSS, which is therefore bad.
Let’s address them in order.
Corporations taint Common Core by association
Let’s suppose that corporations really did throw a ton of money at this (which they probably did; it’s hard to find an area of American life that’s unsullied by corporate cash). That leaves us with this:
Corporations spent a ton of money to force us to develop Common Core, and it reflects their agendas.
If the argument is that these corporations have irrevocably stained Common Core through their sponsorship, then we’d need to see evidence of the problem in the finished product. If there is no stain, this problem becomes a philosophical debate.
So where’s the stain? We’ve already looked at the finished product—the Common Core State Standards—and found it good. We like it. We think it leads toward good things. So I’m going to go ahead and say that, whether or not corporations influenced the CCSS development, if we can’t find evidence of it in the final standards, it doesn’t matter.
Corporations influenced the development and adoption of Common Core
This is almost certainly true. So what?
Is that such a bad thing? Let’s suppose the rebuttal goes “yeah, because the curricula suck!”. That’s true, but we allegedly live in a free market society, and eventually someone will make a better curriculum package. The ones available now are really just first drafts; we should expect them to be imperfect. Once someone builds a better package, schools will buy it, and the other companies will innovate, etc.
It’s bound to happen, because that’s how capitalism works. If there’s a niche that’s not being served well, someone will invent a way to serve it. Build a better mousetrap, and the world beats a pathway to your door. So even if the curricula are bad now, they’ll get better—and probably pretty quickly.
(Let me point out that we’ve neatly slipped away from talking about the Common Core standards now and have begun talking about curriculum packages and testing. This form of sleight-of-hand is part and parcel to the narrative of most of the #StopCommonCore crowd, and it’s good to call it what it is: legerdemain.)
To argue against that, you really have to believe both of these things:
- All the textbook companies are in cahoots with each other to collaborate in making bad products. They further agree to never improve them so they can all retain exactly the same market share they have today. All these corporations are satisfied with their current market share, and they will never try to jockey for position or undercut each other.
- Nobody else will ever develop a curriculum that is CCSS-compliant, so there will never be new entries into the market; the current offerings are all we get, forever.
I find it pretty hard to believe in an invisible non-competition agreement so widespread and effective that this could actually happen, and last, while blocking out all disruptive competition, forever.
Getting back to the earlier point, we’re saying:
Corporations spent a ton of money to develop and force us to adopt Common Core, and that makes Common Core bad.
This argument is kind of subsumed in the first, but again, let’s assume that corporations really did spend a boatload of money trying to influence the direction and content of the Common Core standards, and that they did all the disgusting power-brokering we suspect them of.
The thing is, we’ve seen the result—the Common Core State Standards—and we like it. So we end up saying:
Corporations spent a ton of money to develop and force us to adopt Common Core, but we ended up liking it. We’ve looked at it carefully, and it looks great.
Again, I don’t see a huge problem.
So, who knows whether corporations spent a ton of money rigging this thing. Even if they did, the standards are good. The curriculum packages will follow. Tons of smart people are working on it. The high-stakes testing is bad, but that’s not really related to Common Core, and we’ll get rid of it.
Common Core remains a good thing.